How many times have I said that the word “agriculture” comes from the original Greek that roughly translates to “O God, you screwed me again!”
Spring 2023 is before us and the word on the street is “O God, things can hardly be better!”
The grape is an incredible fruit, and like other fruits, they benefit from dormancy during the winter. The challenge for the Russian River Valley grape growing is that winter is usually quite mild. Mild temperatures and three years of drought have posed confusion for the vines as they start their springtime rebirth the last three vintages. Not 2023!
A series of atmospheric rivers hit Northern California this January. What we used to call “Pineapple Expresses” dumped more than 25 inches of rain in about fourteen days. Lake Sonoma went from 44% of its Water Supply Pool in October to 100% at the end of February. Lake Mendocino (serving Alexander Valley) is at 117% of its Water Supply Pool! While it is too soon to say that the drought is over, it is safe to say that the water supply is much improved.
With all this rain, the area was impacted by localized flooding and the damage it caused. The Russian River never overflowed its banks in Guerneville. Vineyards flooded but they were dormant and there was no harm to the vines. There was a loss of time as the vineyards dried out, but the sun shined and the vineyard workers were able to get in and finish trimming.
Winter did come to Sonoma County in 2023. Night temperatures routinely fell below freezing in many inland valleys. The days were mild, but the cold nights are just what is needed for the grapevines. We even got snow in Sonoma County! Not just the hills over 1,500 feet but down as low as 500 feet. Of course, it did not last during the day but what a thrill for people accustomed to driving three hours to the Sierra ski areas.
All this weather news bodes well for the grape harvest of 2023. The pessimist in me acknowledges that there is potential for frost and heat spikes to screw things up. The optimist, however, sees an incredible bounty about to unfold in Sonoma County.
How better to celebrate the rebirth that Spring brings than a glass of Taft Street’s 2022 Russian River Valley Rose of Pinot Noir. We are really excited by this Rose that was released on Valentine’s Day. It received a Gold Medal at the 2023 Chronicle Tasting and is my personal favorite of over ten vintages that we have produced a Rose! It goes especially well with New Jersey Crumb Buns.
It used to be that you needed to be in North Jersey to find these treats but I recently found them on an episode of America’s Test Kitchen. Follow along via their video on YouTube.