It is no secret that California is gasping in the second year of a severe drought. The Golden People have ticked off Mother Nature, or maybe she is just distracted. Whatever the reason, we have received only a third of her usual attention in terms of precipitation. Some of our reservoirs hold a muddy 20 percent of capacity. According to the National Weather Service, Sacramento should be swollen with nearly 13 inches of rain by now. We have measured and measured again, and can count barely five.
And things were nearly as bad last year. We are in dire straits. There will be no vegetable gardens. There will be filthy cars and crackling brown lawns. There will be wildfires.
But we are grateful. We are celebrating. Because there is good news.
Also for the second year in a row, California harvested a bumper crop of wine grapes. The same dry conditions that have rivers shrinking and cowering in their beds are perfect for wine grapes. Cabernet and Zinfandel, those big, beautiful masochists, embrace barren, rocky soil and harsh sun. They hunker right down and yield for their suffering lush velvet and opulent fruit on the tongue. Who needs any other crop?
Wine grapes are, of course, one of California’s top commodities. Last year’s crop rang in at $3.16 billion, according to the California Association of Winegrape Growers. The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s preliminary figures show that the crop of red and white varieties combined weighed in at 4.23 million tons in 2013, up 5 percent from 4.02 million tons in 2012. Even more good news: 2012 was also a bumper crop year. So, though we are in a water crisis, we see before us a wine glut.
And, because Mother Nature has her priorities straight, experts say there is still enough water left in the soil for the grapes this season. For now.
So don’t feel sorry for California. We are fine. We live in the state where waiters automatically bring glasses of wine to your table with the menus, and then ask if you’d like to order water.
Sure we’re taking fewer showers, but who cares? Everyone knows it’s very hard to drink wine in the shower.
Do not pity us as we lurch around, pinched of skin and purple of teeth, our empty swimming pools converted to wine cellars.
We aren’t thirsty, my friends. We are complex and fruity.