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Napa Valley facing grapevine root shortage for replanting effort

  • In this photo taken Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 Chief Operating Officer Jon Ruel looks over a pile of old Riesling vines that were pulled up in October at Trefethen Family Vineyards in Napa, Calif. Napa Valley, one of California's premier wine growing regions, has an uncommon problem these days: Not enough new grape root stock to go around. Commercial nurseries were caught short by a trifecta of developments: aging vines planted after a deadly phylloxera outbreak of the 80s, the demand created by an improving economy and move toward grape plantings that allow some mechanization. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

SAN FRANCISCO — Napa Valley, one of the world's premier wine growing regions, has an uncommon problem these days: not enough new grapevine root stock is available to supply the massive replanting that's under way there.

A trifecta of developments has created the critical shortage:

Aging cabernet vines planted after a deadly phylloxera outbreak in the 1980s are due for replacement that was deferred for years as sales of premium wines slumped in the recession.

With demand again strong, growers are taking the opportunity to replace old vines with varieties and clones better suited for their microclimates. Others are reconfiguring rows to prevent erosion into sensitive streams, or to allow mechanical harvesting machinery to access vines.

All of this activity caught commercial nurseries across California short of supply. Some are sold out for 2013 and are taking orders for 2014 and beyond.


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