Wine grape growers in the Lodi area have benefited from a couple of early May rainy days in more ways than one. The 3/4-inch of rain that Mettler Family Vineyards received during the two-day storm was about triple the amount typically received during this period in the season, says Larry Mettler.
“The rains and the relatively warm weather gave the grapes a nice push, and they’re starting to grow now,” he says.
The rains also helped delay his spring irrigation by about three weeks. What’s more, for the first time in several years, the vineyards, which grow primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Petite Syrah wine grapes, will be getting surface water from the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District to supplement the wells, which provide most of the water.
“That will help recharge our groundwater supplies,” Mettler says.
Meanwhile, Vino Farms’ Lodi-Clarksburg vineyards received an inch over two days from the May storm, says Craig Ledbetter, a partner in the operation.
“After receiving no rain the whole month of March and very little in April, that inch of rain was very good for us,” he says. “Because the clouds associated with the storm kept in warmer air, we didn’t have to worry about frost. Although not common, we can get frost in early May.”
“The rain we received in February did some fantastic things for us,” he says. “They filled our soil profile completely and by keeping the ground warmer, they prevented frost.”
That’s a marked contrast to 2008, Ledbetter notes, when the vineyards received no rain for the first two months of the year and set the stage for the damaging frost.
“That was one of the biggest frosts ever for California’s winery business,” he says. “It’s possible that having all that water in the ground this year prevented possible severe frost damage in mid- to late April. That groundwater will also allow us to start irrigation later, saving money and energy.”
Most of the water for the Lodi-Clarksburg vineyards is pumped from wells. “So far this year, we’ve had close to normal rainfall in our area,” he says. “But, it will take a lot more than normal rains to fill the reservoirs.”