California's normally vibrant vineyards turn brown from lack of rain

High in the hills above California's Napa Valley, Cain Vineyards usually looks lush in February.

This winter it is exactly the opposite.

 "Dry, dry, dry, dry, dry," said Ashley Bennett, the vineyard manager who has worked in the fields for 16 years. She has never seen the land so dry.

"Right now, this is very scary to have everything look as brown as it does," she said.

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California's wine industry is feeling the toll of the worsening drought
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 The toll from California's drought is already being felt in the state's multi-billion dollar wine industry.

Normally the Cain Vineyards gets about 60 inches of rain, compared to two inches now, Bennett said. The vineyard's reservoir looks like a puddle.

"There's not enough that we could pump," she said.

Last year was the driest on record in California, and the drought has not let up. The state's main water agency announced on Friday that it would be restricting what it supplies to almost nothing.

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The drought might mean fewer grapes but better wine
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A hillside at Doug Shafer's family's winery would normally be vibrant green at the end of January. Not this year.

The winery has weathered droughts before, and after the last one, it built a giant reservoir as an insurance policy. Now Shafer can walk on the bed of that reservoir.

"I'm very concerned," he said.

If there is no more rain, Shafer's vineyard will have to survive on wells and recycled water.

 

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Last year was the driest on record in California
CBS News
 "We get very creative in what we can do," he said. "We will have grapes this year, we will make wine this year, there's just going to be less of it."

In a strange twist, Shafer says fewer grapes might also mean a better quality vintage. 

"That's the name of the game this year," he said.

It may be a silver lining, but vintners in California's wine country would much rather see dark clouds.


  • Carter Evans

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