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Drought cutting into wine grape production

The summer sizzle is helping wine grapes rapidly mature in central California vineyards.
Thursday, July 10, 2014
The summer sizzle is helping wine grapes rapidly mature in central California vineyards.

Despite the drought experts say the vines will produce a good crop in an area the wine industry heavily relies on.

Peter Vallis, executive director of the San Joaquin Valley Winegrowers Association, said, "100% of all the grape concentrate made in California comes from within about 100 miles of Fresno."

But not all of the concentrate becomes wine.

Vallis explained, "Most of the red concentrate goes to wine. It's a coloring additive. It's a great product. Perfectly natural but a lot of it goes into fruit juices as a sweetener."

Valley wine growers gathered in Fresno to hear how grape production will be down slightly from the past two years but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

John Aguirre is president of the California Association of Winegrowers. He said, "The grapes are a little smaller I think because of the lack of water. That does tend to have an effect on the quality of the winemakers are looking for. They like slightly smaller berries."

Some growers though are scrambling to secure enough water to bring their grapes into production.

Aguirre said, "It's the nature of producing a quality wine grape that you really want to stress the wine grape vine to enhance the quality."

But the high heat is putting too much stress on the vines.

Many wells have gone dry around the Valley but going deeper isn't always the best answer because of compacted soil and poor water quality.

Hydrogeologist Richard Casias said, "Deepening old wells is very costly and it may not yield the kind of results you're looking for."

Grape growers who can't pump groundwater face a painful summer.

Vallis said, "Without any relief it's going to have a major effect on the physiology of the vine and will cause major permanent damage going forward."

John Aguirre added some growers have thinned their crop this year because of the uncertainty over their irrigation supply.



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