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Stories from the valley

Winter Rain in the Vineyard

Contributed by Tim Johnson

Every season in the vineyard has its mile posts. For us it means pruning the vines and looking for rain. With the pruning coming along well, it’s time to think about the rain. 

There are few things farmers think about more than the weather. As one of my kids non–farming friends said a few years ago, “they talk about the weather – a lot!” Indeed we do. Given that much of what we do and when we do it is dependent on the weather, it is natural it is always top of mind. 

close up of grape vide

This year, there is good news and other news as I like to say. 

First the good news – the snow pack is in better shape. We are not up to seasonal averages yet but there are feet of snow in the Sierras. That’s good news. Also positive is the fact that the storms that missed us the first part of January did drop some good rain in the upper Sacramento Valley, adding precipitation to the watershed that feeds Lake Shasta. Finally, it is important to remember that winter is not over yet. It is very likely that we will get more storms though this month all the way through March. Sometimes late winter provides a lot of the seasons rainfall. If farmers always have an eye to the weather, their hearts always sway to the side of optimism.


grape vine with moisture sensorIn other news, the rainfall here in the foothills outside Sacramento is thin at just 33 percent of normal for this time of year. Our moisture sensors in the vineyard confirm that the deep soil still needs water and the top 12 inches is beginning to dry in the warmer days. 

Talking with water managers and experts, we are far from crisis. It is early and more rain is expected in the upcoming months. Reservoir levels are also in pretty good shape. All note that we will have a better handle on what to expect in February.

So, there you have it from a vineyard perspective and a good sense of what the experts are saying. No doubt we will all be keeping an eye to the heavens.