The severe drought that San Diego and much of California is experiencing might have a happy side effect: more good wine.
How we’ll get there takes a bit of a detour through our local farmlands. Here are some fun facts from the San Diego County Farm Bureau:
- Farming is a $5.1 billion industry
- It’s the 12th largest county for agriculture in the US
- San Diego County has more farms than any other county in the US
- The county is the #1 producer of nursery crops
- The county is the #1 producer of avocados
That last number is feeling the heat so to speak from a lack of water.
Avocados are a very water-intensive crop. It takes 74 gallons of water to grow a pound of avocados. Faced with water shortages, many farmers have fallowed or replaced their avocado groves. The 2013 San Diego County crop report shows a 21 percent decline in avocado acreage in just five years.
So, how does all this lead to wine?
Some farmers are planting grape vines in place of avocados. A few, like Chris Broomell, are dry farming their grapes, which means they aren’t using any irrigation at all.
We read this article in UT San Diego about how Broomell and his wife, Alysha Stehly, were helping to adapt their family farms to the drought by growing grapes. Then, we read this article in the San Francisco Chronicle about how they were winemakers to watch in 2014.
We had to pay their Vesper Vineyards winery a visit.
Their urban tasting room is located in Escondido, just north of San Diego. We arrived shortly after they opened on a Sunday morning and were lucky enough to have Alysha Stehly as our host.
It quickly became apparent that Alysha and her husband are mad scientists at Vesper Vineyards. They sell wine in refillable growlers. They use acacia casks to ferment some of their wine. They make California wine with minimal manipulation.
It also turns out to be some pretty good wine. We are currently on a strict no wine purchases embargo due to some space limitations (that’s an entirely different story), but we still wound up buying a few bottles.