California wine regions : a silver lining to storm clouds

California has been battered by wet winter storms that have brought in addition to flood and landslide damage – including the widely reported collapse of the ancient Pioneer Cabin Tree, better known as the Tunnel Tree – some relief to the water deficit that has accumulated in the dramatic drought conditions that have afflicted the state for the past five years. Although not all areas will see an end to the water shortage problem, as fifty-one percent of the state remain affected by it, the US Drought Monitor predicted as of Jan 12 that the dreaded drought conditions have ended in such wine regions of Northern California such as Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties. Although rivers overflowed their banks and flooded low-lying vineyards in some cases, little damage was reported because the vines are dormant during the winter. Some water-conscious grape growers saw a positive side in that the barrage of rain helped replenish groundwater which would in time relieve stress on the vines. The drought conditions of recent years had indeed resulted in smaller crops. In the more arid sectors of California such as the Central Valley where growers often rely on snowmelt as a water supply for their grape crops, the silver lining of the storm clouds was the blanketing of the Sierra Nevada mountains with snow reaching 163% of normal levels for this date.