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Wineries Worry About California Drought’s Impact On Grape Growers

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SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — California’s drought has winemakers from across the state worried about how it will impact the industry.

Coming off consecutive record years for grape growers, another record could drastically impact how 2014 turns out.

Vineyards up and down the state haven’t had this little rain in decades. It worries boutique winery owners like Sue Rueger from Calaveras County.

“As far as there not being enough grapes, because we are a small winery and there may not be enough to go around,” she said.

That’s also a worry for Tom Nye, who owns Blind Horse Winery in Wisconsin. He buys all of his grapes in California.

“What I am hearing is that less grapes, they will be more expensive,” he said.

Nye is in Sacramento for the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, and worries the drought could price him out.

“If that is the case, I am going to start to lock in orders on 2013 bulk wines to protect myself a little bit,” he said.

Bogle Winery from Clarksburg crushes more grapes than anybody in the region. The Winery of The Year honoree at this year’s symposium will likely look to the warehouse to make up for any shortcomings this fall.

“We had two long seasons in a row. [2012 and 2013] had pretty big crops so there is a lot of us sitting on pretty decent inventory,” Eric Aafedt said.

While there may be fewer grapes, he says it doesn’t necessarily mean a quality drop.

“Sometimes a shorter crop makes for a better wine. It just depends on the balance,” he said.

But the quality will be jeopardized if it doesn’t rain. Most worry the vines will begin to flower or bloom too early, which means the grapes would be lost.

“Once we have bud break, we are always worried about frost and if it happens real early we will have the rest of the winter to worry about frost damage,” he said.

But in an industry that depends on Mother Nature, wineries say they will weather the storms, or lack thereof.

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