The third year of California’s drought has growers looking closely at vine crop loads.

“We’re in the third year of water shortages,” says Dana Grande, viticulturist with Jordan Vineyard and Winery, Healdsburg, Calif. “From a grower perspective, we’re being very cautious. We don’t apply a lot of water to begin with, but we’re going to be looking at things differently as a result of this situation — ways to use water in the best possible way and make sure we know where rooting depths are with our lines.

“I think everybody’s going to be watching the loads on each vine,” Grande says. “Our long term plan is that we have a healthy vineyard, not that we hit specific yield targets each and every year.

“We’re more concerned with the quality of wine we’re producing, and how our management practices including water and vine load will impact the vineyard in following years.”

Cold, windy weather and frost have tortured almost all growers this season, and Sonoma County has been no exception, says University of California Cooperative Extenson Farm Advisor Rhonda Smith.

“We definitely had to use water for frost protection, and wind has been a concern because of the potential for damage to canes and shoots. It’s too early to tell how much, if any, damage we’ve incurred.

“Now that the daytime temperatures are warming rapidly, the powdery mildew index has been triggered, and we’ll probably see the index points accruing rapidly.”