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Calif. drought could have silver lining for wine grape growers

Grapes from the Old Ranch Vineyard in Sonoma, CA.
Grapes from the Old Ranch Vineyard in Sonoma, CA.
Old Hill Ranch Vineyard

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For the most part, California's drought has been nothing but bad news for everyone from pool builders to almond farmers.

But for a very select few, the drier weather may actually be a boon.

These warm days and cool nights are wonderful for some types of grapes.

Will Bucklin, owner of the Old Hill Ranch Vineyard and Bucklin Winery in Sonoma Valley, says that dry, hot weather is actually ideal for growing wine grapes.

When the vines are exposed to drought stress, Bucklin explains, "what happens is the grapes themselves don't grow as big as they would when they have more moisture, or when it's cooler."

The smaller berries have less juice and more skin, "and the skin is where the flavor is, and where the aroma is, and the color as well. So if you have smaller berries, you generally have higher quality."

Too much rain at the wrong time can lead to rot and bad-tasting fruit, and that's bad for wine.

But that's not to say Bucklin isn't hoping the drought will end soon. Because he doesn't irrigate his fields (a practice known as "dry farming"), rain is extremely important.

What would be ideal, he says, is "as we would call it, a 'normal' season in California, with rain in the winter and spring, and even in the fall, but dry during the summer."