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Stories from the valley

Replanting to Save Water and Meet Consumer Demand

Contributed by Tim Johnson

One act – ripping out a 40-year old Zinfandel vine – can provide two important benefits for our vineyard. The first is saving water. The second is using the market downturn to change to varietals more in demand by consumers. 

a row of stakes for new grape vines

The new vines are small, just small twigs really, with a small root system. Encased in a grow tube to promote a good start, they need to be babied for sure. They will also need irrigation in small sips, every few days at first and then weekly. Unlike the mature vines, however, they will not need the deep days–long irrigation of a mature vine. The result will be less water used on the ranch this year. Not an unimportant benefit given that our rain fall here in El Dorado County stands at 65 percent of average. 

The replanting also gives us an opportunity to grow grapes for wines in higher demand. Even before the COVID-19 impact on our winery partners, consumer tastes had begun to shift. Demand for new and interesting wines was replacing sales from the old stalwarts like Zinfandel. We are replanting to Nero d’Avola, an Italian varietal that likes hot dry climates. This ‘black grape’ produces light, juicy, fragrant wines that should be a hit in the local tasting rooms. 

worker placing stakes for new grape vines

So, with one act and a bit of hope we are taking advantage of tow less than favorable conditions and positioning the vineyard for the days when the rains fall all winter and we can get out and enjoy a glass of wine with our family and friends.