If LoMac Winery had to pick one word to set it aside from other wineries, that word would be “local”: Locally-grown grapes, locally-produced wine, internships and jobs to local students.
As a fourth-generation grape grower and wine maker, Eric Engelman takes pride in the fact that all of his wine is made with grapes from the area. If he doesn’t grow it, it’s a good bet one of his neighbors did. With all the grapes so local, the question of California’s water issue comes to mind. How are the wineries affected?
Here’s what Eric had to say:
“Most of the farming process can be described as protecting the crop. That’s what we're doing right now. For the last 2 months, we were watching out for mildew, heat stress and water stress. Now our concern is really water stress. The temperatures are ideal for vine growth, but we can't allow the vines to go short of water while at the same time not over-watering.
Dry years in the valley tend to have warmer springtime temps. This means the vines will have an early budbreak, and with the warmer weather, they will grow and ripen at earlier dates. Last year, harvest was two weeks earlier than average. This year appears to be another week earlier than last. I have a bunch of harvest equipment to get ready in a hurry.
Many tasting room visitors often ask how the drought affects my operation. It was a “challenge” in 2013, now it's just plain scary. Water tables are dropping and the electric utility has jumped the rates up very high. I'm fortunate that when Great Grandpa started farming in 1900, he chose ground that had a very good groundwater supply. This wasn't on accident. There is no farming without water, and he knew it.
We have irrigation pumps, but on normal years we may not even use them. We always thought of them as insurance for problem years. Well, here we are. Our irrigation water is supplied from the reservoirs in the mountains through that canal system you see around town. While some see that there is potential to be “wasting” water with surface irrigation, I can tell you no one is more aware of conserving our water than a farmer. The fact is, according to my Fresno Irrigation Superintendent, surface irrigation is the number one recharge for our aquifer. There is not enough money and available land to build recharge basins to offset the benefits of snow-supplied surface irrigation.
Frustration sets in when you realize that our reservoirs were designed to completely supply the cities and agriculture through a four-year drought, which is our average length for drought. With this original design, and the efficiencies farming and municipalities have implemented, we shouldn't even be using ground water yet.
That's why I support the building of more water storage. Save the water from the wet years for the years like we are living in now. Water was supplied for ag and cities three to four generations ago. The new reservoirs wouldn't be for ag, we already had that covered. They would be there to supply the newest allocations on our system.”