Tuesday , May 28 2024

Taking advantage of “dry farming” during the drought

California’s drought has some winemakers resorting to an old farming technique.

Dry farming allows grapes to grow, without water and with new flavor. These grape vines are thriving in the hot California sun, without getting water.

"I mean, these are big substantial trunks at this point!" Jason Haas said.  

At Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles, Haas says he’s now dry farming at least a third of the vineyard’s grapes.

"Dry farming is just a common way of saying farming without irrigation," he said.

American winemakers began irrigating in the seventies to increase productivity and help create super ripe flavor that many critics and consumers crave, but with a long drought making water scarce in the region, Tablas Creek is weathering the conditions using a technique that’s proven successful elsewhere.

In most of the top wine regions in Europe, you’re required to dry farm. The grape vines rely solely on moisture in the ground from very limited rain.  The vine roots dig deep in search of water.

"It’s good," winemaker Neil Collins said. He thinks it’s improving his product. "There’s more intracacies. It’s more complex I think, and it’s just a more intriguing flavor."

Tablas Creek says the vines that are being starved are thriving through the drought. Doing better than the ones that are getting water. Haas says dry farming produces about 30% less fruit to make into wine, but at a higher quality.

Chris Martinez, reporting.

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