Napa Valley Grapegrowers Outline Plans to Manage Drought - Low Yield, High Quality Anticipated

Napa Valley Grapegrowers outline plans for managing Napa’s 45,200 acres of grapevines in California's current drought conditions. So far in 2014, there has been no rain.

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Napa Valley's drought has left the vines and surrounding countryside very dry.

This year, we’re going to have to be more vigilant than ever – all eyes on the vines at all times – in order to assure a high quality harvest.

Napa, CA (PRWEB) January 29, 2014

In a Tuesday press conference,Napa Valley Grapegrowers outlined plans for managing Napa’s 45,200 acres of grapevines in current drought conditions. During 2013, Napa Valley measured four to eight inches of rain, the driest year on record; so far in 2014, there has been no rain. Typically, annual rainfall is 12-25 inches, with an average of eight inches falling in January.

“The biggest challenge we’re immediately facing is an early bud break – the growing season is starting more than a month early,” said Domenick Bianco, Member, Napa Valley Grapegrowers and Vineyard Manager, Renteria Vineyard Management. “Now we’re forced to adopt vineyard management practices to slow budbreak. This year, we’re going to have to be more vigilant than ever – all eyes on the vines at all times – in order to assure a high quality harvest.”

To watch the press conference, please visit:

Press conference highlights:
Napa Valley Rain
•2013 was the driest year on record.
•Napa Valley is now experiencing a 50-75% drop in rain totals.
•To date, there has been no rain in 2014.
•The wine industry dubs July 1 – January 31 ‘water months’ and Napa Valley Grapegrowers hold out high hopes for drought-ending rain, February – April.
•Recent measurement of ground water shows supplies are stable on the Valley floor and less predictable on the hills. However, the presence of groundwater doesn’t make up for the lack of rain.

The lack of rain is forcing grapegrowers to proactively change their cultivation practices, anticipating a compacted growing season. This includes:
•Annual winter pruning to remove excess canes while the vines are dormant typically takes place January – April; currently pruning is more than 50% complete Valley-wide, substantially ahead of schedule.
•Budbreak, which signals the end of dormancy and the start of the growing season, is already underway in Carneros, Stags Leap and Howell Mountain; mostly on Chardonnay vines, four to six weeks early. Grapegrowers are now delaying pruning schedules to hold back budbreak.
•Cover crops – mustard, cereals and flowers - planted each fall – that grow between the vine rows are nearly non-existent. While beneficial in most years, cover crops compete with grapevines for nutrients and water. Existing cover crops are now being assessed vineyard by vineyard to determine whether cultivation is warranted.
•Due to reduced cover crops, grape growers will be using compost and mulch to provide vital nutrients and increase water-holding capacity of the soil.
•Vines in distress have the potential of attracting more pests – grape growers will be vigilantly looking for mites and leaf hoppers.
•Lack of rain water will result in smaller vines and lower yields, less foliage and fewer protective leaf canopies.
•Managing the vines will include early, aggressive shoot thinning. This may lead to labor shortage issues if all vineyards need to thin shoots at the same time.
•Grape quality and pricing can’t be determined until critical growth stages of the vine have been completed, typically late summer.

More than any other year, technology will be central to helping vineyard managers and supervisors be good stewards of the land and the vines and manage their water resources.
•In-the-field technology allows vineyard managers to precision irrigate – strategically drip irrigating only small blocks of grapes that need water, rather than an entire vineyard.
•Constant monitoring of soil moisture probes and vineyard weather stations allows immediate response to vine needs.
•Most irrigation will take place at night to reduce evaporation.

Press conference speakers
•Hal Huffsmith, Director, Napa Valley Grapegrowers and Director of Vineyard Operations, Trinchero Family Estates
•Domenick Bianco, Member, Napa Valley Grapegrowers and Vineyard Manager, Renteria Vineyard Management
•Jennifer Putnam, Executive Director and CEO, Napa Valley Grapegrowers

About Napa Valley Grapegrowers (NVG)

The Napa Valley Grapegrowers is a non-profit trade organization that has played a vital role in strengthening Napa Valley's reputation as a world-class viticultural region for over 39 years. NVG represents over 670 Napa County grapegrowers and associated businesses. For more information, visit Follow Napa Valley Grapegrowers on Facebook and Twitter.


  • Judy Rowcliffe
    Rowcliffe Communications Grp
    +1 (415) 456-4131


Credit Napa Valley Grapegrowers Cover crops - barley and mustard - didn't grow between Napa Valley's vines this year due to the drought.

Vineyard cover crops that grow between the vines providing vital nutrients. Due to the Napa Valley drought, vineyard managers will have to use mulch and compost.