“The mighty drought could not decimate our roots hidden under the soil from years of suffering We were plants; we learnt to survive!” - Avijeet Das
By: Caitlin Pianetta
In case you haven’t been watching the news, we thought we would fill you in on the crazy weather we have been having here on the Central Coast, and California in general! We have gotten to know it as “Rain-mageddon” A series of “atmospheric rivers” both warm and cool have slammed the Central Coast beginning in early January!
Paso Robles traditionally always is a little ahead of us overall in rainfall, but in and around the Central Coast, there is a large variation of rainfall. For example, on the Westside of Paso Robles near Templeton has already received over 33” of rain this year, and in some locations close to 40.” The East side of Paso Robles is also still above average at roughly 19-20” total rainfall. To broaden the scope of variation in rainfall, there are also some areas in southern San Luis Obispo County which have already received over 47” of rain, as well an area near San Simeon called “Rocky Butte” which is at 95” for the year.
Traditionally Paso Robles boasts about a 14.7” “average” rainfall. However, due the huge variations in rainfall, you can understand why there isn’t really ever a “normal.”
The historical data, which is reported from the center of Paso Robles, has received in the last 100 years was in 1969 with 31.25” and then 31” in 1995 (measured from the center of Paso Robles, obviously not on the extreme East or West side).
The lowest rainfall in Paso Robles over the last 100 years was in 1976 with 5.34” total. Needless to say, every year is certainly different, and there can be some VERY large variations.
It is also quite evident that in different sections of the Central Coast, the rainfall totals can vary in vast amounts while still following the overall trends. This unique variation in terroir in such a relatively small area is why we can grow and produce so many different varieties of grapes and styles of wine. It is a thermal rainbow.
Personally, our Estate vineyard in the Indian Valley area of San Miguel, we tend to receive an “average” (I use that term loosely), of roughly 13-13.5” annually, which typically is slightly under the Paso Robles Average.
So what about Pianetta Vineyards…
My dad purchased our vineyard in December of 1995 and planted grapes in 1997. In our own history, our largest rainfall over the last 28 years has been in 1998 with roughly 22” of rain and 2005 with 21.15” of rain. This year, as of December, 31, 2022 we had already received a little over 5” and as I am writing this article, on March 29, 2023 we are already at 19.7.” with more on the radar. We feel that this year will challenge previous years as our highest rainfall yet! Our lowest rainfall year has been 2013 with a total of 4” of rainfall. OUCH!
How does all this heavy rain affect the vineyard?
This is a complicated question and will completely depend on many factors as we move forward through the rest of our growing season. Freezes, winds, early rains before harvest, extreme heat during bloom, verasion, and harvest … the list goes.
If the rest of the season continues in a “regular” manner, it is typical that higher rainfall will definitely create higher yields. The soil and underground aquifers get a fresh flush of water which helps the harsher salts and solids percolate through the soil and below the root system which makes the vines more healthy for the stress of producing a crop. Proper crop management is critical if the rest of the growing season stays cool, as an overloaded vine can just not finish a heavy crop in cooler temperatures. Crop thinning and deficet irrigation may become critical. However, anyone who grows on the Central Coast will definitely say that the rain is certainly always welcome, we will manage any fall out.
For your own reference… some of the notable vintages and rainfall are below:
2014 – Paso Robles Rainfall” - 6.13” - Robert Parker rated this vintage 97/100
2010 – Paso Robles Rainfall - 21.97” - Wine Spectator rated this vintage 97/100
2007 – Paso Robles Rainfall – 6.24” - Wine Spectator rated this vintage 96/100
2005 – Paso Robles Rainfall – 9.07” – Robert Parker rated 94/100
1998 – Paso Robles Rainfall – 27.09” – Robert Parker rated 90/100
So, I suppose, as always, we are in a holding pattern of “wait and see.” But, overall, we are very happy with the rainfall, and so proud of how our vineyard has held up through the storms. Stay tuned as the year progresses!