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Dry Farming

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Posted: Sunday, July 11, 2010 6:48 pm

One of my treasured readers, Bill, emailed me at wineguy@lodinews.com to ask for a list of dry farmed wines.

"Dry farming" means that no irrigation water is used during the growing season.

Older vines that need no irrigation have a good balance between deep roots, the grapes they ripen and the leaves they grow, giving them a better chance at producing a higher quality wine than vines that require more human intervention.

Winegrape grower Joe Cotta, then Cindy Harris, from Peirano chimed in on my group at Facebook.LodiWineGuy.com to let me know that Lance Randolph, Peirano's owner, typically dry-farms his Old Vine Zin, and often his Tempranillo and Malbec.

The only other example I knew of was Ridge Vineyards with their mountain-top Monte Bello Vineyard in Cupertino which had no irrigation system for years. Then a particularly hot and dry season snuck up on them and they lost a number of vines. The next year they installed a drip system as "insurance."

Many Lodi winegrowers practice "deficit irrigation," supplying water only when necessary, based on readings from a sophisticated suitcase-sized "pressure Baum" that measures moisture in the portion of a leaf that attaches to the vine (the "petiole").

Some vineyards that don't appear to be supplied with water have a buried drip line, purposely located several feet underground to encourage roots to go deep, rather than lazily gather the easy water within a few inches of the surface.



If you are really paying attention, as Jeff from Turner Road Vintners was, you will have noticed that my original version of this story mentioned "pressure Baum" as the device to measure the amount of water in a leaf petiole.

Well, I had heard and read that term used somewhat interchangeably as pressure bomb and pressure Baum, which lead me to think that over the years the wine industry corrupted some inventor's name. (It didn't help that blood pressure bulbs are called Baum bulbs.)

So after finding that the science for the instrument was published by P.F. Scholander, et. al. of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, in the April 16, 1965 issue of Science (Volume 148: 339-346) and shortly thereafter referred to as pressure bomb, and after noting that the chief manufacturer of the instruments is PMS, which also uses "bomb," I'm going to henceforth stop using "Baum."

The proper term is actually "pressure chamber" as I've discovered, though that just doesn't sound half as exciting.



Also, Tim Holdener, all around nice guy and owner/winemaker at http://www.macchiawines.com/macchia/index.jsp" target= "_blank">Macchia sent me this Facebook message:

"Macchia makes several dry farmed Zins both from Lodi Appellation &

the Sierra Foothills. Almost all the major quality Zin producers farm their old vine Zinfandel that way. Try some Turley. I think all of theirs are done that way."

Remember that you can get in on my fact-finding and fact-checking early through http://facebook.lodiwineguy.com/" target= "_blank">Facebook.LodiWineGuy.com. Join up!