As you may know, California is in the midst of a major drought. We have been seeing some of the driest conditions our state has seen in the last 500 years. As you drive up highway 154 you will drive past Santa Barbara’s water reservoir, Lake Cachuma. The lake is so low it looks as though you could walk right across the middle of it.
The winter in California is when we get all of our water for the year. The snowpack is usually up to 60 feet in the Sierra Nevadas, which happens to be the source of water for nearly all of California’s residents and farmers. The last two year’s snowpack has been down about 50% of where it normally is and this winter is not looking any better.
The good thing is that grape vines do not need a lot of water to survive and they produce better wine when stressed. With these dry conditions and warm days we can excect to see an early bud break. This would mean that our frost season will be about three weeks longer this year. Farmers use overhead sprinklers for frost protection, spraying the vines with water during the early mornings so that frost can’t freeze the vines. With limited water supply in some vineyards a long frost season will be hard to manage. Last year we saw early bud break and made it through the frost season with no bad frosts. Send the vines your warm thoughts as we move into the spring of 2014.
Santa Barbara has not been affected as badly as some other areas in California. Our water table is still high so the wells are still producing. We have been lucky enough to get just enough rain to continue producing some great crops the last few years, but with no rain in site we will have to conserve as much water as we can and keep a close eye on the wells.