Nearly 800,000 PG&E customers in northern California were without electricity for a number of days last week, including many Napa wineries. Many winemakers in the Napa region have gone to significant lengths to better prepare for interruptions in electricity services after wildfires recently swept through the area leaving many without power for weeks.
“We have worked with our members on scores of disaster preparedness, educational seminars, programs, and resources,” said Cate Conniff, Communications Manager for Napa Valley Vintners. “So, we have a very strong foundation of dealing with issues related to natural disasters, unfortunately, and our members were well prepared for this outage.”
Because of previous regional disasters and the impact that they have had on production, the vast majority of wineries in the Napa area have developed contingency plans. Most winemaking operations have some kind of generator supply, in some cases, wineries have implemented a multi-generator system. The spirit of cooperation among Napa wineries also helped to ease some of the strains caused by the lack of electricity.
“We have our vintners already working very collaboratively together during harvest – sharing tank space, sharing equipment – people were sharing generators,” said Conniff. “That collaborative comradery that exists within our winemaking community is something that serves us well every day and especially during difficult times such as the power outages.”
The weather during the power outage was also fortunate, in that it did not make a difficult situation even worse for grape growers. Moderate temperatures allowed fruit still in the vineyards to stay in the fields. Approximately 95 percent of the wineries in the Napa region are small, family-owned wineries, which also lends itself to the ability to overcome production challenges.
“Those small wineries have a lot of adaptability to changing dynamics, whether they be climactic, weather-related, or other environmental issues including power outages,” Conniff noted. “And in the end, it’s agriculture and farmers are adaptable, resilient people.”