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Napa River 2 9 17 Flood Prediction This February has me feeling like Alice in Wonderland floating in her river of tears. While last year we were happy to see normal rainfall levels return to Napa Valley, this year has brought us too much of a good thing. Annual rainfall totals are measured from July to July and we are only just entering into what has historically been known as our wettest month. So you might understand my concern over our 120% year-to-date rainfall total and a back parking lot full of the Napa River...again!

On January 8th, we knew that a wet November and wetter December meant it was time to prepare and sandbag the winery. While we weren’t totally surprised that the ground was already saturated, it is never fun to see our back parking lot become one with the Napa River as it floods its banks. It had been since the winter of 2007 that we saw so much water, but Markham Vineyards sits in a flood plain. Our architects planned for such events when redesigning the winery, our production cellar sits a full foot above the 100 year flood line and gradually slopes to the front of the winery.

Recently I spoke with Tracy Byrne, the host of Wine on the Street, who asked me about how the rain affects the grapevines at this time of the year (read it here). And while luckily we do not have any vineyards planted around the winery, the truth is the vines are dormant this time of the year so long as they don’t stay submerged they tend to fare OK. The water receded from our back parking lot quickly with river being under the tidal influence of the San Francisco Bay. The bigger problem for us was the loss of power for two days here at the winery as we were readying to bottle our 2016 Markham Sauvignon Blanc.

Markham 2-7-17 Back Parking Lot 001

Markham 2-7-17 Back Parking Lot 002

And as fate might have it, on the last day of that bottling run we awoke to over 2” of overnight rain and an unexpected repeat flood in our parking lot. Some of our crew made it in early as they were sanitizing the bottling line. But as the water rose, our cellar master knew that it was time to cancel bottling, sandbag the winery and get home to the safety of his family. Only two days later, yet another call to arms was narrowly missed here at the winery as the river threatened to flood its banks for the third time in 2017. Rain in the vineyards can be both a blessing and a curse depending upon the time of the year. If I had to choose, then I will take my serving now regardless how generous.

To see how crazy things got, check out our Facebook page for some video evidence.

2017 Yountville Winter

The winter weather has wreaked havoc on our local roads and made some of the vineyards look more like bogs. Everyone’s reservoirs are full; some reservoirs have needed to release water to keep them from overflowing. And while I hate to complain about the rain, I am hoping that Punxsutawney Phil was wrong this year and a sunny spring will be here soon. Pruning has just begun in our vineyards. We are fortunate that we utilize alternate row cultivation, or have well-drained gravel soils, allowing us to walk the vine row growing the cover crop to accomplish this task. Fingers crossed that we have seen the last of the torrential rain that causes flooding. Once the vines come out of dormancy sometime in March, we will still worry about chilly weather that could cause frost damage until Mother’s Day when the threat has passed. However, rain during bloom is never welcome, as the tender little pips don’t yet possess the strength they will need to hold tightly to their cluster. Plus dreary weather can ultimately cause uneven ripening during the harvest months. But there will most certainly be plenty of ground water for the vines to grow successfully without supplemental watering well into summer this year, which is always a good thing. And as long any harvest rain is minimal, we will all consider the vintage a success!

Winter Rainbow 004