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Hilliard Bruce Vineyards

Our Blog

Elena Salcido
January 17, 2019 | Elena Salcido

What Does Rain Do to a Vineyard?

Fog in the Sta. Rita Hills

Just another foggy day in paradise...

Good News

Rain water is the purest water than can be applied to the vines. Irrigation water is typically of low quality and high salinity, adding salts to the root zone. This free, clean water helps the vineyards that rely on drip irrigation to cut back on water usage, and provides much-needed water to the vineyards that dry farm. 

Arid climates like California tend to have soils with high salinity and, much like human beings drinking seawater, vines can become dehydrated from salty soil. When salt levels get too high in vines, it can cause ‘leaf burn’ or browning. Rainfall benefits the vineyard by pushing the salt through the soil, allowing the vines to take up more water and absorb more nutrients.

A wet winter can also help condition the vines and assist in a more traditional cycle of grape growth. When a season of warmer weather arrives in the vineyard after a wet winter, it can help the vine transition naturally to growth and bud break. A warm, dry winter runs the risk of early bud break, and if it is followed by a cool, wet spring there is a risk that frost will damage the crop.

(Potentially) Bad News

Winter rains are great for the soil and vines, but there is the risk of runoff and erosion if the rain falls at a high rate per hour, which can remove the top soil around the vines where cover crops aren’t grown. Alternatively, if the rain stays stagnant and drenches the soil too much, it can ‘drown’ vines that are not on well-drained soil. Rainfall can also cause soil compaction, which can have an adverse effect on vineyard production by reducing oxygen levels in the soil and making root growth more difficult.

That said, rain during winter has more potential to be beneficial than other times in the year. Prolonged damp conditions can lead to mold, mildew, and other diseases in any season, however there are additional concerns during the spring and fall.

Grapes are formed from flowers, and heavy rain can reduce crop sizes by knocking the blooms off of the plant in the spring. Grapes also need sunlight in order to ripen, and rain and a thick blanket of fog can delay harvest if the vines aren’t able to effectively photosynthesize. When rain falls on mature, fruit-bearing vines, the fruit takes up water, which can dilute flavor and throw off the sugar/acid balance, and if there is too much rain, the grapes may start to swell and split, which can cause spoilage and the increase the danger of mold and mildew.

What It Means for Hilliard Bruce

Our vineyard is on a drip irrigation system and is monitored through in-soil sensors that measure the exact deficit of each vine so that no water is given unless necessary, and this rainfall allows us to extend the time between watering.

Like so many arid climates, our soils also contain a decent amount of salinity, and this rain has washed away the build-up, allowing the vines to drink more deeply and gain the nutrients they will need for the spring.

While the soil is sandy silt and we will need to water again before too long, the fast-draining soil mitigates the risk of flooding. We also have well-established cover crops, which slow the velocity of run-off and reduce erosion. They also help reduce the soil compaction caused by the rains, as the roots help keep the soils relatively soft and loose. (Keep an eye out for a future blog post to hear about the many benefits of Hilliard Bruce’s cover crop program!).

What would we have done if there was no rain?

If we don’t get 1 inch of rain per month in the winter, then we will supplement by applying 1 inch of irrigation water via the sprinkler system. Sprinklers in the winter are better than drip because it covers the entire rooting zone rather than just that found directly under the emitters.

Irrigation management is very important in viticulture, and this just scratches the surface. What would you like to hear more about? Leave a comment or send us an email – we love learning, talking, and sharing information about our sustainable programs!

See you next month as we explore another aspect of our SIP Certified vineyard and LEED Silver winery!

Time Posted: Jan 17, 2019 at 1:00 PM
Elena Salcido
January 14, 2019 | Elena Salcido

Cooking Class: Grapes & Wine

Lots of fun and laughter in the kitchenA view of the cooking class from upstairsA picture of the menuPreparing the stuffed pork tenderloin

We welcomed Private Chef Robin Goldstein back into the gorgeous green kitchen for the first cooking class of the new year. She demonstrated how to cook with grapes and wine, and prepared a delicious California-Mediterranean inspired wine country meal. Our students learned tips & tricks and took away beautiful, versatile recipes that will be a beautiful addition to their homecooking repertoire.

When was it? Sunday, January 13 2019 from 1:00pm - 4:00pm

Where was it? In our kitchen at the winery! Hilliard Bruce Winery | 2075 Vineyard View Ln, Lompoc, CA 93436

What did you make?

Warm Mulled Wine
Crab Beignets with Garlic Aioli
Blue Cheese and Pear Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
Cauliflower with Roasted Grapes and Warm Bacon Dressing
Grape Crostata with Ricotta Cream

Who is Chef Robin?

Chef Robin Goldstein specializes and brings in home-cooked experiences with unique flavors and contemporary style to your home. She is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York, and the author of multiple seasonal California-Mediterranean cuisine cookbooks including: A Taste of Santa Barbara and Simply Delicious Wine Country Recipes. Along with being an accomplished chef, she is a food stylist and creator of signature salt and spice blends. Check out her website and instagram for more information.

When's the next class?

Watch our event page and on our social media accounts (FacebookTwitterInstagram) for future cooking class announcements!

Time Posted: Jan 14, 2019 at 12:00 PM