Vint­ners stay pos­i­tive de­spite set­backs

Lodi News-Sentinel - - Front Page - By Danielle Vaughn NEWS-SEN­TINEL STAFF WRITER

This year, Mother Na­ture has given lo­cal grape grow­ers a run for their money, but de­spite the cir­cum­stances grow­ers con­tinue to push through the sea­son and re­main pos­i­tive.

“We’ve still got a ways to go be­fore har­vest, so a lot of things can hap­pen be­tween now and then,” said Ja­son Eells, board pres­i­dent of the Lodi District Grape Grow­ers As­so­ci­a­tion. “Grape grow­ers are pretty re­silient. Ev­ery year is dif­fer­ent and you roll with the punches.”

Due the heavy rains the area ex­pe­ri­enced this year dur­ing the win­ter sea­son, sev­eral grow­ers lost their en­tire crops to flood­ing, Eells said.

From the be­gin­ning of the sea­son on July 31, 2016 un­til Wed­nes­day, the Lodi area re­ceived 32.22 inches of rain, ac­cord­ing to pri­vate weather mon­i­tor­ing ser­vice Weather Un­der­ground. The nor­mal amount of rain­fall for the area is 17.5 inches.

“We haven’t had a win­ter like this in a long, long time. It’s new for some of the newer grow­ers, and for the older grow­ers, they’ve seen it be­fore,” Eells said.

Tom Hoff­man, owner of Her­itage Oaks Win­ery in Lodi, is still deal­ing with the af­ter­math of one of his vine­yards flood­ing.

Ap­prox­i­mately 10 acres of his grape vines along the Mokelumne River were flooded ear­lier this win­ter af­ter a levee fail­ure. While the wa­ter has fi­nally gone down, the vines are now filled with mildew and are fruit­less.

Hoff­man’s not sure ex­actly how to sal­vage his vines for next sea­son, but he is con­sid­er­ing cut­ting the vines off at the trunk to re­train them. In all his years of grape grow­ing, Hoff­man said, he has never had this ex­pe­ri­ence be­fore.

“We’re deal­ing with it. It is stress­ful. It will be ex­pen­sive, but you just do what you have to do, I guess,” he said.

An­other lo­cal grower, Stan­ton Lange, said one of the vine­yards he man­ages for his client was flooded. His vines had been par­tially submerged in about 3 feet of wa­ter since Jan­uary; the wa­ter just went down three weeks ago, he said.

“It’s flooded be­fore, but not nearly as long of a time pe­riod as this year,” he said.

Be­cause of the flood­ing, Lange said, the 10-acre vine­yard will have no crop this year. They were un­able to prune the vines un­til the end of May due to the high wa­ter. The late prun­ing ended the crop for this year.

In ad­di­tion to late prun­ing, the vine­yard lost 15 per­cent of its vines. Luck­ily, the vines that did sur­vive weren’t fully submerged so they were able to con­tinue grow­ing with­out prun­ing.

Once the wa­ter went down enough, Lange said, they pumped the rest out and pruned what hadn’t been submerged.

“We’ll see what hap­pens as far as the rest of the year is con­cerned,” he said.

Like Hoff­man, Lange ex­pects there to be some mildew on his vines, but since there is no crop he is not too wor­ried. He plans to spray the vines next week, but there is a chance the wa­ter may rise again if flows from Ca­manche Reser­voir into the Mokelumne in­crease.

The loss of a crop will have an af­fect on his client’s in­come for the year, Lange said.

“That’s kind of the way farm­ing is. You ex­pe­ri­ence Mother Na­ture and do things you don’t like, and this is one of them,” he said.

Nu­mer­ous grow­ers up and down the Mokelumne River are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the same sit­u­a­tion, he said.

Eells isn’t sure how the flood will af­fect next year’s grow­ing sea­son. In an ef­fort to pro­tect crops from flood­ing in the fu­ture, he ad­vises grow­ers and other farm­ers along the water­ways to do what they can to shore up the lev­ees.

“Some­times there is noth­ing you can do — it’s pretty hard to con­trol na­ture,” he said.

If heavy rain­fall and flood­ing wasn’t enough, Eells said, the heat waves, hail storms and la­bor short­ages in re­cent weeks have also thrown a wrench in the works for the grape grow­ing sea­son.

“It’s been pretty chal­leng­ing so far,” Eells said.

The la­bor short­age es­pe­cially has hin­dered the grow­ers from get­ting their work done in a timely man­ner, he said.

Due to the var­i­ous hur­dles grow­ers have faced this year, the crop is ex­pected to be be­tween av­er­age and be­low av­er­age, Eells said.

“Lodi is an up­com­ing area for other out­side winer­ies to buy fruit, so I think, at the end of the day, we should be OK,” he said. “I would say the big­gest con­cern is la­bor, and then we’re com­ing into the har­vest in an­other month or so. It’s go­ing to be in­ter­est­ing.”

BEA AHBECK/NEWS-SEN­TINEL

Her­itage Oak owner Tom Hoff­man points to a white film which cov­ers some of his grapes, as he talks about the dam­age caused by the flood­ing, which submerged parts of his vine­yard for sev­eral months, in Acampo on Wed­nes­day.

NEWS-SEN­TINEL PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY BEA AHBECK

Her­itage Oak owner Tom Hoff­man finds spots on the leaves of his grapevines as he talks about the dam­age to his vine­yard caused by the flood­ing, which submerged parts of his vine­yard for sev­eral months, in Acampo on Wed­nes­day.

Her­itage Oak owner Tom Hoff­man points to a white film which cov­ers some of his grapes, as he talks about the dam­age to his vine­yard caused by the flood­ing, which submerged parts of his vine­yard for sev­eral months, in Acampo on Wed­nes­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.