FAIRFIELD — Ron Lanza of Wooden Valley Winery should get a little help from nature this week in making certain that the winery’s vineyards experience winter.
The valley as of Tuesday had gone since early December without significant rainfall. What are usually muddy vineyard grounds at this time of year are dry.
Wooden Valley Winery recently did something extremely rare for late January – it irrigated its vineyards. Lanza said the goal is to make conditions seem more normal, so the plants don’t do anything out of the ordinary.
A warm February could lead to the vines budding early. That could be a problem if frost follows, Lanza said.
“We definitely want some rain,” Lanza said.
Rain is likely coming over the next few days, but it won’t be a drought-buster, not even close. Mike Pechner, a Cordelia Villages resident and owner of Golden West Meteorology, predicted “light rain.”
“If the forecasts are right, this is a one-hit wonder,” Pechner said.
As the showers dissipate by the weekend, high pressure returns, Pechner said. High pressure is what has kept storms away from Solano County virtually all winter.
Even with upcoming rain, Pechner said Solano County will wrap up the driest January on record, with the highest average high temperatures on record.
High pressure building up after the rain should be different from the high pressure that sat over the area for much of January. Pechner said high pressure this time will likely be farther offshore, resulting in cooler temperatures.
“It will be cool, Canadian air,” Pechner said. “It will be dry, but it will be near to below-normal temperatures.”
One of the most notorious droughts in California’s recorded weather history was in 1975-76 and 1976-77, with Fairfield each year getting about 9 inches, less than half its normal amount. Those totals suddenly look like deluges. The county since the rain year began July 1 has received 2.63 inches at Travis Air Force Base.
The state earlier this month included Solano County in a drought disaster designation for agriculture. County Agricultural Commissioner Jim Allan said that if Congress passes a farm bill, this will make farmers eligible for emergency farm loans.
Some almonds and pluots may be blooming a bit early. Rain can affect their pollination, but they also need water, Allan said.
“On balance, any precipitation we get is going to do us far more good than harm,” Allan said Tuesday.
The soil is dry all the way to groundwater in many places, Allan said. He doesn’t expect the rain expected this week to make a substantial difference.
“It’s too little too late to solve our drought problems, that’s for sure,” Allan said.
The drought is so bad that ranchers are selling off livestock, Allan said. He cited the cost and lack of availability of hay at a time when there is no feed growing in the hills.
Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this month called a drought state of emergency for the state. He called on residents to voluntarily conserve water in every possible way. Some cities have imposed mandatory water restrictions as their water supplies dry up.
Local cities won’t be forced to impose mandatory rationing this summer because Lake Berryessa reservoir is still about 68 percent full. But Supervisor Jim Spering is concerned.
“We’re very blessed to have Lake Berryessa, but we don’t know if the drought will go into next year,” he said at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. “I don’t think all of our citizens have this awareness of how dire this could be.”
He wants the county and its cities to make a conservation public awareness effort.
Pechner said a wet March and wet April are still possible. But even if the county got normal rainfall from this point out, it would still get only half of its normal rainfall for the season.
For now, there’s no sign of big storms rolling in day-after-day to launch a spring rainfall rally.
“Right now, it looks grim, but stranger things have happened,” Pechner said.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.