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Jon-Mark Chappellet, Director of Operations
February 28, 2019 | Jon-Mark Chappellet, Director of Operations

Can Grapevines Swim?

To say that we’ve had a lot of rain in February is a bit of an understatement! Our total rainfall for this month is over 16 inches which equals of ½ inch per day for the entire month. Actually ½ inch of rain in a day is fairly reasonable but some of our storms have delivered 3-4 inches in one day. That causes problems, especially for those close to the Napa River. Here at the winery we escaped the worst of the flooding but vineyards just to the south of us were submerged in the swollen expanse of the river.

At the height of the flooding, huge areas of the valley floor looked like a lake with only the tops of the vine trellises poking through the muddy water. It’s wild, if not a little scary, to see mother-nature and geology in action. The rich alluvial soils which make up the valley floor come from the surrounding hills that can’t hold a 4 inch rain event when the ground is already saturated. In drier times it often seems like just another burdensome government regulation but our appreciation for the work that goes into vineyard erosion control plans increases during times like this.

flooded napa valley vineyards

With the most recent storms now behind us and with the return of sunny weather it’s amazing to see everything still here. Besides some debris caught in the vine wires and trellises it’s hard to even imagine that thousands of acres of vineyards were underwater only yesterday. The nice weather will allow the winter vineyard work to resume but it will be several weeks before anyone dares test out the soggy soils with a tractor or anything heavier than a work boot.

So far this has been a cool and wet winter but the buckeyes, Acacias and ubiquitous yellow mustard flowers remind us that spring is on its way and the grapevines will soon be waking up.


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