Rain, Rain Go Away!
But Thank You for coming this Winter in a Massive Way!
By Rob Jensen, Founder/Proprietor
Wow! If you live in California you have just experienced nothing short of a miracle. If you don’t live in the “Soggy State” then this was a great Winter to miss. In just the last 12 weeks, California’s worst drought in 1,200 years is, for all practical purposes, over. Our reservoirs are full, ski areas are buried in record snow, and rivers that haven’t seen water flowing in several years are full.
But not all is good news. With the reservoirs filling so fast, scheduled water releases designed to prevent flooding were not enough. Atmospheric Rivers pounded the state once or twice a week for more than two months. Many communities, including parts of the Capital of Silicon Valley, San Jose, flooded. California’s second largest reservoir (with the nation’s tallest dam) was suddenly in danger of collapsing due to a damaged main spillway and unexpected erosion below the dam’s emergency spillway.
Locally, the Santa Cruz Mountains, which separates our historic winery from Monterey Bay, 16 miles away, and the city of Santa Cruz, suffered massive landslides, down trees and power poles, and in some areas, the roads just disappeared. Check out the youtube drone footage of Skyline Blvd just 3 miles from the winery. Almost 1/3 of the winery’s full time employees live in Santa Cruz County. For a large part of the last two months, many of them couldn’t make it to work because of road closures, or, if they did make it, they were rewarded with road closures on their way home that added two to three hours to their normal commute.
Many club members have asked how so much rain has affected the grapes and the winery. Fortunately, grape vines are dormant during the winter, so there has been no adverse effect. Small amounts of erosion were reported in some vineyards, but nothing beyond repair. What all this rain does is help freshen the soil, washing out natural salts that accumulate when so much of the water the vines have been receiving has come from well water through the drip irrigation systems. Reservoirs along the Central Coast, the last area to be declared over with the drought, are now at high levels we have not seen in more than a decade. Ground water levels are starting to recover as well. Wells that had run dry because the water table sank so low during the drought, are now starting to see water again.
Many of us were worried that the five-year drought could be the beginning of a mega-drought, which over the last 10,000 years, have lasted for not just years, but for decades. Not long ago, Australia’s Millennium drought lasted 17 years (1995 to 2012). The prospect of a near two decades long drought in California was terrifying. For now, the worrying is over.
At the winery in Los Gatos, we are more fortunate than the other smaller wineries near us, high up in the Santa Cruz Mountains, many of which have become inaccessible due to all of the road closures. Being just ½ mile from Main Street here in downtown Los Gatos, we have not had any long-term road closures (though a tree did fall on College Avenue near our gate completely blocking the road for a couple of hours before it was cut up and cleared). With the addition of Cellar 6’s conversion into our Winter Wine Bar, we had our strongest Wine Bar attendance in January in history. Most of you know that the Wine Bar 107 Courtyard is a great place to enjoy a sunny afternoon/evening. Now you know that Wine Bar is open, rain or shine year round.
With our new Tasting Room in Carmel Valley just 1/8th of a mile from the Carmel River, we were worried about flooding, but were fortunate that the river did not hit flood stage in Carmel Valley Village.
With all the rain, the grape vines are going to have a very nice and healthy start to the new growing season. With so much moisture in the soil, mildew and mold pressure will certainly be higher than normal, but this is a problem the growers know how to handle, and are happy to do so if it means that the drought is finally over!
World of Pinot Noir (Santa Barbara)
March 16 - 19
Relais & Chateau Gourmetfest (Carmel)
Cupertino Educational Endowment Foundation Gala (San Jose)
March 30 - April 2
Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival (Anaheim)
Birk's Restaurant & Testarossa Winery Dinner