Spring storms impact foothill grape growers

It’s always dicey in April for foothill grape growers. Storms can turn cold. Buds can freeze. Sometimes they improvise to stay ahead of the game.

“I do a pre-pruning, so I leave about 10 to 12 inches of cane,” says Matt Hatcher with Hatcher Vineyard and Winery in Murphys, Calif. “When the buds come out I prune again usually in late April. I’ve seen more and more people doing that because of frost problems we’ve had. It’s a little extra work, but not that much.”

“I had concerns about water for the year a month ago,” Hatcher says. “I don’t have concerns today. Finally in the last week we’re starting to see some runoff in the hills and even down Hwy 4 toward the Valley. I didn’t see that up until a week or so ago. It seems like we’ve finally reached a saturation point.”

Price is still a concern. “A lot of inputs into the vineyard increased in price last year and none of those came down, except fuel,” Hatcher says. “You can’t sell a bottle of wine for what you used to, so it’s a real Catch-22 for a small to medium size winery. You have to adjust. It means spending a lot less money on barrels and equipment for the short term. In the long term, we’ll get back to a better balance.”

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