Heavy rainfall has spelt an end to California’s five year drought. The torrential rain caused mudslides and fallen trees in the wine regions but, despite the complications caused by the rain, the rainy period came as a great relief to vintners who had been struggling to get enough water for the vineyards in recent years. Amanda Barnes, interviews Ron Rosenbrand, Vineyard Manager at Spring Mountain Vineyard, on the Napa drought and to find out what challenges and benefits the rain has brought to the wine regions.
The interview takes place, in the rain, in the Spring Mountain vineyard in Napa Valley.
Transcript for hearing impaired:
Amanda: So Ron, we are in the middle of your Spring Mountain vineyard, and we are just dodging the rain right now… Can you tell us a bit about what has changed this year and how the rainfall has affected the region?
Ron: We are coming off of five consecutive years of drought and it has been quite dry and below normal rainfall each of those years. And this year we have been inundated with heavy rainfall, closing in on about 200% of normal. So it has been quite wet, and many many days of consecutive rainfall, and with a lot of rain in the hills we worry about things happening like a lot of trees falling, and landslides, and things like that. But it is a blessing because when you have been fighting the drought for a number of years, having more rain than you need is always a really nice luxury to have! So we are excited to have the water!
AB: We can see a little landslide there behind us [in the vineyard]. Have mudslides been a problem in Napa with the rain?
RR: Yeah, there’s been a lot of areas in Napa. The steeper you are, and if you have soils that are somewhat unstable, you are going to have effects like that happen. So, you know, it is happening all around the valley, all around California as a matter of fact.
AB: And is that the biggest risk at the moment with the rain? Or is there anything else that is negatively impacting?
RR: No, that’s the biggest risk really. And the vines are not suffering at all right now, things are really great for them to have nice wet feet and we are going to do really well this season.
AB: Fantastic. And when can you compare a rainfall like this? You say that we have had drought for five years, when have you had another so heavy?
RR: The last year that we had rainfall like this was the winter of 2005/2006, where we had, I believe here on the property we recorded 69 inches of rain, and this year we are already at 72 and we are not done yet! We still have ways to go!
AB: And what about the drought? How serious was the situation last year before we got this rain?
RR: Yeah. The 07 to 09 drought was more intense because the years were drier. We had less pressure in the last five years, but it was still below normal rainfall so it did create some problems with the lack of water. But not really terrible. We managed our way through it, but it is nice to have this! This is a blessing for us!
AB: And you were saying, here in Spring Mountain, your soils in particular are very poor, we have real mountain soils, and so the drought would have been more – had a stronger impact here?
RR: Yeah, true. Our soils are very rocky and very well drained so they are porous and they accept the water and it flows through quite rapidly so we have to irrigate pretty extensively to keep up with the dry conditions. So we focus a lot of attention on making sure our plants have water, and in a drought it is tough. And in a year like this, it is easy!
AB: Super! Well, we will get out of the rain now.