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Mendocino County, Calif., grape growers and winery owners Martha and Charlie Barra say JIT – just-in-time – is a concept more premium wine grape growers must embrace to survive the rough-and-tumble world of wine globalization.
A grape growing innovator
Charlie has always been an innovator. He was the first to use overhead sprinklers for frost protection after reading about Israelis protecting vegetables from frost by coating the plants with ice.
“People thought I was crazy … icicles hanging off the vines,” he remarked. He built reservoirs to hold water for the sprinklers. He learned as long as the water stayed frozen, frost would not damage the vines in the spring. “People said, ‘What if you run out of water?’ I built reservoirs to hold twice as much as I would need to protect the vines.”
The reservoirs are refilled each day to be ready for the early morning frost the next day.
Before Barra discovered ice would protect vines against frost, he and his neighbors relied on wind machines to stir the air and prevent frost from settling.
Barra sold most of the wine machines. There is at least one left. An osprey tried to use it several years ago to rear her young. They fell out of the nest one year and died. Charlie had his shop build a wire basket and hoisted it atop the wind machine frame. “The osprey returned the next year,” said Barra.
Charlie is adamant about protecting the osprey and other wildlife around his vineyards. For years he has avoided harsh chemistry.