While we have a pleasant gap in the rains we thought that it is a good time to take stock of the water situation and answer some of the questions we have been getting in our Yountville Tasting Room. Water is, of course, of vital importance to agriculture. Crops do not thrive without it. And, should they go too long without it, they will die. On the other hand, too much water can be a problem as well. So, without further ado, let us dive into “Water…the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”

The Good. 

Fortunately the last round of atmospheric rivers ended before getting into the last two categories. For us in Napa Valley, this water has been all about the Good. We need it after two straight years of drought. Without adequate rain, winegrowers must irrigate, and, as the reservoirs get lower and lower, this means tapping into the aquifers. Subterranean water is a godsend, but it is also a finite resource. The more we pump out, the lower the supply underground.

So, when we get a generous helping of rain, we smile big smiles, as our reservoirs fill up, and water trickles through the soil to replenish our precious aquifers. While we might want to grow some of our grapes at a slight water deficit to concentrate flavor, we want to have full control over that and not have to worry about whether or not our wells will run dry. Additionally, water from heavy rains can help reverse sodium penetration into the soil, and allow excess salt in the soil to drain away.

The Bad. 

Of course the worst aspect of heavy rains is the prospect of flooding, landslides and coastal erosion. When these reach particularly high levels, the human consequence can be tragic. Unfortunately some communities in California did suffer from these effects of rain, but the Napa Valley was spared this sort of destruction this round. We were watching creek and river levels with baited breath, seeing the water come right up to the bridges and levees, but we were fortunate in that all of the carefully planned flood control engineering did exactly what it was supposed to do, and excess water was directed away into catch basins and allowed to flow into the bay.

The Ugly.

The ugly side of heavy rain is that some of the vines, particularly in clay-heavy soils such as what is found in Los Carneros, can become waterlogged. When the roots are bound in such waterlogged soil and are deprived of air, they can die, taking the vines with them. Again, we did not have this happen in this last round of weather, and we have had a good two weeks to dry out. Forecasted rains in the next few weeks should not be of too much concern to us.

All in all, these recent rains were of benefit to us. The only down side is that we had visitors who canceled or postponed their trips to the Napa Valley because of the news coverage of the storms. We want to assure anyone who was concerned about the flood situation, that all is well and dry, and the beautiful, sparkling blue skies we have had for the last two weeks are particularly good at highlighting the physical beauty of our region. We would like to reiterate our invitation to you to come to our tasting room in Yountville and taste some of the best wines in the Napa Valley!