Vineyards hit hard by rain

  • Grape grower Jim Murphy, of Murphy Vineyards, walks past growing clusters of Chardonnay grapes on Friday, June 10, 2011.

Grape growers are basking in the sunny weather — at least emotionally.

Physically, they are sweat soaked and tired from working long days to catch up on rain-delayed tasks and assess the damage from an unseasonably wet spring.

"This weather is just ideal," said Nick Frey, president of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission. "Things are now growing rapidly."

It is a sharp contrast to the cool spring that has plagued growers, who are anxiously awaiting the first signs of grape formation to determine the extent of crop damage from the wet weather.

The late-spring storm that dropped up to 2 inches of rain during the first weekend of June likely cost Sonoma County growers tens of millions of dollars.

"We likely lost 10 to 15 percent of our crop due to the rain," said veteran grower Jim Murphy. "There is nothing I can do about it."

The torrential rain hit vineyards at a critical time of the growing season, when many vines had opened their flowers to begin the delicate process of self-fertilization that usually results in grapes.

Late-season rain can wash away pollen, or prevent the flowers from fully opening. As a result, even though the weather is now perfect for growing, fewer grapes are likely being formed.

"In two or three weeks we should have a good idea of where it is at," Frey said.

By then, clusters of BB-sized grapes in the earliest stages of formation will start becoming visible if fertilization has occurred.

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