It’s always dicey in April for foothill grape growers. Storms can turn cold. Buds can freeze. Sometimes they improvise to stay ahead of the game.

“I do a pre-pruning, so I leave about 10 to 12 inches of cane,” says Matt Hatcher with Hatcher Vineyard and Winery in Murphys, Calif. “When the buds come out I prune again usually in late April. I’ve seen more and more people doing that because of frost problems we’ve had. It’s a little extra work, but not that much.”

“I had concerns about water for the year a month ago,” Hatcher says. “I don’t have concerns today. Finally in the last week we’re starting to see some runoff in the hills and even down Hwy 4 toward the Valley. I didn’t see that up until a week or so ago. It seems like we’ve finally reached a saturation point.”

Price is still a concern. “A lot of inputs into the vineyard increased in price last year and none of those came down, except fuel,” Hatcher says. “You can’t sell a bottle of wine for what you used to, so it’s a real Catch-22 for a small to medium size winery. You have to adjust. It means spending a lot less money on barrels and equipment for the short term. In the long term, we’ll get back to a better balance.”