According to KSBY Channel 6 News, the Central Coast is now in their 4th year of drought and most estimates are that there is about 1 year left in above ground water supply and that ground water is being used far too quickly. So rain is good. Rain is needed. Rain is welcomed. BUT MAYBE NOT NOW.
The Central Coast got an unexpected rainfall yesterday. According to officials from the National Weather Service, Santa Maria got about .08 inches of rain, Lompoc, got about .04 inches of rain, while Paso Robles got .05 inches of rain measured Monday afternoon.
In reality, how much is .05 inches of rain going to do for the drought? Nothing. I know that sounds extremely horrible of me. I know that every little bit helps and please understand that I am all for rain. California needs it badly and I would love for the drought to be over. Hey Donald [bctt tweet=”Trump- figure out how to transfer water to needed areas”] from the areas that have way too much and I will vote for you! Use your business sense for that and you’ll be remembered forever.
But see, Harvest 15 has started. It is super early and it is fast and furious. Many of the wineries are getting ready to pick their fruit. When we pick is all dependent on Mother Nature. During this summer the temperature has been bouncing around between the 90s in Paso Robles. At warm temperatures the fruit ripens. It gets full of all that wonderful sugar and the acids lower. All is right with the grapevine. However, this past week, the temperature dropped and is currently in the 70’s to 80’s which is also ok, just not when paired with rain. Cooler temperatures allows the fruit to stay on the vine longer. It gets to take its time developing its sugars and allow those wonderfully intense flavors that we love to come into their own. It’s a beautiful thing, however, when there are high temperatures followed by a rapid drop combined with rain it can cause serious issues.
Winemakers like sunny days during harvest. Overcast or even worse rainy days, doesn’t always equal disaster, but it definitely is a step in that direction and leads to restless nights. Let’s start off with the lack of sunshine. The sun and its warmth are needed for photosynthesis. The process of converting light energy to chemical energy and storing it in the bonds of sugar. No sun equals no sugar development which means the fruit will have difficulty ripening. This in turn means they linger on the vine longer. Rain at this time of year can lead to bloat, or worse burst berries and the lack of sun and heat after a rain can cause the wine to taste thin or even diluted.
The splitting of the berry makes it susceptible to attack by other spoilage organisms, especially molds and acetic acid bacteria. Other problems may also occur when it rains during this time of year. Mildew, rot and other fungi love the wet conditions. This can lead to off flavors and/or aromas in the wine. Berries damaged by the pre-harvest expansion due to rain, cause injury sites that allow Botrytis to attack. This fungus known as Botrytis cinerea, is lurking in the vineyard waiting for these wet conditions. Botrytis attacks the grape clusters and causes them to shrivel. The organism gets into the grapes themselves and effects their flavor. This is known as vulgar rot or sour bunch rot.
Yes, I am being quite the pessimist here. A little rain most likely isn’t going to go to the extreme of causing Botrytis in our beautifully developing fruit, but it sure does make me age a bit faster. Mother Nature is tough. She does what she wants to do and running a winery from 3,000 miles away leads to additional worries. I wish that I could go out today and see our fruit. You know the feeling you get when you know your family members are safe. Well, these are our babies and we want them to stay safe and develop into nice, [bctt tweet=” healthy full-fledged fruit so that we can then crush them and squeeze them into an amazing wine.”] (ok, maybe using your children is not the best analogy) So when I hear that it is “pouring” in Paso Robles, I get a little harried. The good news is that apparently, “pouring” in California is a bit different from “pouring” here in New Jersey. And after frantically tweeting social media friends in the area, I was able to go to sleep last night, although I would sleep a lot easier if the temperature would just rise a bit! So Mother Nature, if you are listening, can you please hold off on the rain until Harvest is over and please ask your son the heat miser to do a little dance in Paso. We don’t need the 100+ temperatures, but high 80s wouldn’t be too bad.