In-depth: QuadCopter4 tour of wine country after one of wettest winters of the century


CALISTOGA (KRON) — With severe drought turning into one of the wettest winters in a century, things are very different for Bay Area agriculture this spring and summer.

And anytime something affects crops differently, grape growers and winemakers pay attention.

To see what this year’s changes mean for Napa Valley’s most famous export, KRON4 headed north with QuadCopter4 to Castello di Amorosa.

The vineyards at Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga are green and growing. Check out the lush landscape as seen from QuadCopter4.

They’d be doing that even in a dry year, but 2017 has changed the workload and the strategy of those working among the vines.

“If anything, we’re going to have too much growth,” winemaker Peter Velleno said. “That’s one thing you run into in a wet year…is that the vines will tend to grow a little bit too wild.”

Velleno says that can negatively affect the quality of the wine. But don’t go worrying about your vino adventures getting ravaged.

The experts here have ways of getting the vines back into balance.

“What we will do is leave some extra shoots on the vines, and that allows us to fine tune the load on the vine going down the road,” Velleno said.

In a very dry 2015, the individual berries were smaller, had less moisture, but produced more concentrated flavors.

This year, the grape crop will be more “normal,” if you will.

The grape bunches will mature into berries that will produce more juice.

So, the biggest effect the wet winter had on the vineyard was actually the pruning schedule, which already happened. But one thing’s for sure, winemakers don’t want any more rain.

“While it impacts our operations, it doesn’t have as big of an impact on the vine as it would if it were to rain, say, today or closer to harvest,” Velleno said.

While this week’s rain doesn’t come at the best time, vintners could still resort to thinning the grape clusters themselves.

That strategy means while there will be slightly few grapes to harvest, they should be ripening well and on schedule.

Castello di Amorosa’s cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and other crops will lead to about 30,000 cases of wine, which will be sold exclusively inside the 13th century-inspired castle on the grounds.

The wineries in the area will also be filling bottles, helping to bring in an expected $13 billion to Napa County’s economy this year alone.

The harvest is still two or three months out, so it’s still a little early to know much about the taste of the wine.

But “there’s no reason to think it’s going to be a problem at all,” Velleno said.

If Mother Nature keeps everything in line, you may just owe her a big “thank you” later.



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