By Diane Farina
There is concern all across California wine country about the effects of the state’s record drought as well as the recent Napa earthquake, the largest in the region in 25 years. Outside of wine country, consumers want to know how these problems will affect their bottom line as well.
Joe Votek, winemaker and owner of Loma Del Sol Vineyards, manages over 360 acres of vineyards across the Sonoma and Napa counties. Votek has been in the winemaking industry for over 30 years and has never experienced a drought this significant before. According to The National Drought Mitigation Center, both Sonoma and Napa counties are in an “exceptional drought,” which is the highest drought condition possible. Compared to exactly one year ago, none of California was considered to be experiencing an exceptional drought, meaning California was either abnormally dry, or in a moderate, severe, or extreme drought, sequentially. The good news, according to Votek, is the timing of the rainfall the area did receive this year was perfect. There are no signs that the crops have been negatively impacted because of the drought but harvest has started earlier than previous years because of the combination of late rain added to the early, prolonged heat. The grapes’ size, taste, and appearance are all still the same. This should mean according to Votek, that the bottle cost would remain consistent. Although, there are some worries for harvesting in the future. “It all depends how much rainfall we get this winter,” says Votek. He explains that he is worried about how the drought is affecting ground water. One of his wells is already showing signs of stress, which means there are lower water levels and fewer gallons can be pumped per hour.
The drought is a long-term problem for California winemakers, but there is also another problem that came on recently, suddenly and in the middle of the night. The 6.0 magnitude earthquake rattled vineyards across Napa August 24th, 2014. According to Patsy McGaughy, Communications Director for the Napa Valley Vintners, a non-profit trade association that helps their 500 members, the earthquake damaged businesses but even more dramatically, it impacted individuals in the community. “It really brought the community together,” says McGaughy when speaking about how the earthquake affected Napa. Due to the damage from the earthquake, the Napa Valley Community Relief Fund was recently created by the Napa Valley Vintners. They initially donated $10 million that will go towards local businesses and local residents to help financially support those who were in urgent need. This harvesting season has not been directly impacted by the earthquake, but only caused damage to the wineries that began to process grapes.
As of now, the price per wine bottle will not rise this year. Keeping an eye on next year’s wine is critical, due to the water supply decreasing. That all depends on how much rainfall is received during this winter. Currently, most wineries are up and running so you are still able to go for tastings and tours.