Out, Out, Damn Drought!

Spoiler Alert: Ain’t No Rain.

But David Gates and Ridge Vineyards are working to manage the challenges, with conservation and sustainability front & center in our collective minds.

For more about our approaches to water management and more, please visit: Ridge Vineyards/Sustainability


The vineyard is a place of contrast. Birth and Death toil side by side; decay and renewal.

The Past, Present, and Future waltz in timeless three-steps, up and down the rows.

Vines young & old, vines envisioned, vines removed; there is no present, all is present.

Even as we see the first new signs of growth …


Beneficial Crop Cover, Monte Bello

… we toil in drought.


David Gates, our Vice President of Vineyard Operations here at Ridge Vineyards, took some time recently to share his thoughts on water, and the current challenges we’re facing:

With this little rain, what is the potential impact on next year’s crop?

This drought, if it continues much longer, will definitely impact our crop in 2014, making it smaller.  How much smaller is hard to tell; it all depends on what we get for precipitation this winter, spring, and (hopefully) summer.

If we continue to see smaller amounts of rain in the coming years, what are the medium to long-term implication?

Droughts are usually cyclical in nature.  There aren’t any long-term climate projections that can reliably predict if Northern California is going to receive more or less precipitation in the future.  There are forecasts of more extreme weather, which could mean that periodic droughts could become more severe, followed by higher intensity rain events.  That has happened recently in Australia.  But no one really knows, although we are planning on having less water available via rain or irrigation in the future.

What are we at Ridge doing to address this issue?

A few things that we are doing to help conserve what water we use:

Increasing organic matter in our soils by reducing our tillage, adding more compost to our soils, and using cover crops as needed to supply nutrients and organic matter to our vines (things that we have been practicing for a long time, and that are slowly gaining popularity in the industry)

Recycling/reusing our winery grey water by putting it back out on the land.  We have been doing this at Lytton for 10+ years, and we made a significant investment at Monte Bello to condition our waste water so that we can irrigate vines with it.

Continue to monitor our vines with the latest vine-based technology to make sure that any irrigations we do are necessary.  We continue to work with sap flow sensors from Fruition Sciences and we are going to look at another plant-based sensor that looks at the diurnal diameter changes in petioles (the small stem that attaches the leaf to the cane) and can give insight on the water status of vines.

Continue to be involved with groups looking at weather, water, and agriculture, including the University of California (both Davis and Berkeley campuses), Community Alliance of Family Farms, California Climate and Agriculture Network, California Land Stewardship Institute/Fish Friendly Farming, California Association of Winegrape Growers/Wine Institute, etc…


Make it rain.

Categories: RIDGE Staff, Vineyards, Viticultural Salmagundi, Wine & Philosophy, Winemaking

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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