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Unseasonable Rain in Napa Valley Threatens Chardonnay Grape Yield

ST. HELENA (KPIX) -- For Northern California vintners, the rainy season may be stretching on a bit too long. These May storms could threaten varietals that ideally bloom in dry weather.

After a particularly wet winter the ground in Napa is still soaked, which has the vines growing as fast as an inch a day.

That would ordinarily be great news for Tom Davies, president of V. Sattui Winery. But rain this late in the season complicates things.

"You want no rain, no wind, not too hot, not too cold," Davies explained. "You want it just perfect."

This is a delicate time for the Chardonnay vines. They are flowering and the tiny, fragile little flowers are what translate directly into grapes.

"So if we get some heavy rain," Davies says, "Those rains will interfere with the pollination. These are self-pollinating."

Fewer flowers means fewer grapes and less wine. Rains during bloom can cut yields in half in fields that aren't just famous for their quality.

"This is the most expensive agricultural land in America," Davies noted. While a bad "shatter' can limit yields, it does not affect the flavor.

"So this (rain) doesn't impact -- at all -- the quality. It's just how much we're going to get," Davies said.

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