California Drought Produces Tastier & More Complex Wine Grapes
California has seen drought conditions ranging from abnormally dry to exceptional drought for years and you’d think that would have devastating consequences for all agriculture in the state. But that’s not the case for all crops, including the grapes used to make some of the finest wines in the world.
In one of the most beautiful places in America, Paso Robles, California, Daniel Daou is the winemaker and creator of Daou Vineyards and Winery. Daniel remembers, “Growing up in France my family just loved wine. Wine brings the family together, brings people together. We would have a meal and even at a young age, you know, my dad was always letting me taste the wine.”
And after immigrating to America, Daniel made a lifelong dream come true… “After searching for years and years for the perfect place, I discovered this beautiful paradise.”
A seeming oasis in a drought stricken region, where years of experience and modern science combine to make magic. Danny explains, “Dry farming in France is very easy, because it rains in June, it rains July and it rains in August. Here in California we don’t get train after about May, so it’s hard sometimes to dry farm all the way from March, April… all the way to September and October and letting the vines basically survive without water. If it cannot find water in the ground, the vine is going to go find with water in the berries and if you just have dehydrated berries, then you have raisins and with raisins there’s no way I’m making very good wine!”
But when true dry farming isn’t the right solution for a crop, there’s an alternative.
Danny continues, “That system is called deficit irrigation; it’s a little bit different than dry farming, but it tells the story about trying to figure out what is the point where the the vine is going to shut down or affect the quality of the wine. And when you reach that point, you want to give it a little water.”
“So in order to do that, we use science. We have probes called sap probes, that sit on the vines and measure real time throughout the day for the water deficit index. It basically tells us when the vine is going to reach that point where it’s going to dehydrate the grapes.”
This high-tech solution is expensive, but Daniel says, it’s well worth it for several reasons…
“By doing so we’re able to really reach that point where we only water if it’s absolutely necessary. Since we started to use this process, which is new technology, only a few years old now, we know with certainty when we have to water and now we only water maybe once a year, so we are able to get much better quality wine, conserve water and keep everything ‘happy'”!
And happiness is at the core of Daou’s reason for being. Danny’s brother Georges, explains…
“Wine is art, wine is culture, wine is people, those folks are like-minded that appreciate the earth, that appreciate the effort of keeping the earth the way we found it for those that come after us and enjoy a product – a product of passion, a product of love, a product of family, a product of life!”
So the next time you enjoy the fruit of the vine, think about the science that can work with nature to make it better.
For WeatherNation – John Van Pelt