How the Flooding Affected Sonoma's 2019 Vintage | Wine Enthusiast
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How the Flooding Affected Sonoma’s 2019 Vintage

Northern California wineries and vineyards continue to clean up and dry out from the unusually heavy rainfall that hit in late February and caused some of the areas’ worst floods in 20 years.

The only good news? The public and private lakes, as well as irrigation ponds, that were flooded help water the vineyards during the coming growing season.

“Our growers were very fortunate, unlike a lot of the 2,000 or so businesses and homes that were affected,” said Karissa Kruse, president of Sonoma County Winegrowers, whose 1,800 members farm nearly 60,000 acres of vines.

Grapevines in those acres were dormant during the flooding and only this week are showing scattered bud burst.

The torrential rains had little or no immediate effect on the 2019 crop, though they did require extra efforts by growers to repair minor erosion sites and clean up debris according to Kruse.

The Damages

Wineries in the path of the heaviest rains in Sonoma County were not so lucky. The Russian River, which flows from Mendocino County through Sonoma County and west to the Pacific Ocean, swelled to 13 feet above the flood stage in the Guerneville area, swamping homes and businesses in low-lying terrain.

Gracianna Winery reported that its cellar and tasting room were under water.

Santa Rosa saw 5.66 inches of rain in one day, breaking a 100-year-old record. A shopping center in Sebastopol that houses Kosta Browne winery’s gallery and a barrel cellar also flooded.

“We did take on some water at the Kosta Browne winery and are working on getting everything back up and running,” said Carol Reber, chief marketing officer of the winery’s parent, Duckhorn Wine Co.

“It will take some time to return our production and hospitality spaces to their prior condition and we have a great team in place to handle this.”

Reber said that patches of several of the company’s Sonoma County vineyards were underwater, which is typical for ranches in low-lying areas in the rainier months.

The Sonoma County Vintners donated $50,000 to the United Way to help flood victims from an emergency relief fund established in the wake of the 2017 wildfires.

Napa County suffered minimal damage in comparison. Road closures included several rural county byways and Napa Valley’s main thoroughfare, Highway 29, which was partially blocked by water.

A major flood control project completed in time to avert a 2017 flooding threat also succeeded this time in diverting and dispersing flood waters from the Napa River that drenched downtown Napa in 1986 and 2005.