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Drought Has North Coast Grape Growers on Alert

Published:  January 28, 2014

Grape growers throughout the North Coast are seeing signs that the drought could result in a smaller crop this year, and are taking precautions to mitigate the damage that could occur if the dry weather persists.

The lack of rainfall impacts growers' ability to irrigate their vineyards and protect the tender buds now beginning to sprout on the vines. In response, many grape growers and wineries are scrambling to max out on crop insurance and install wind machines to battle frost without using water.

“It is a really, really scary situation,” said Tony Linegar, agriculture commissioner for Sonoma County. “And it looks like the rain that is coming is not even enough.”

Because of the dry weather, grape growers are beginning to see bud activity earlier than normal. While buds typically “break” through the vines in March, grape growers in Carneros and parts of the Napa Valley floor are starting to see early signs of activity in chardonnay vines, said Dominic Bianco, vineyard manager at Renteria Vineyard Management.

That puts the vines at earlier risk for frost, which can devastate a crop. And without water to spray on the vines, it's more difficult to protect the region's vineyards from frost.

“If we continue to see drought conditions in 2014 we will see a small crop,” Bianco said.

Read the full article in the Press Democrat

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