Northern California Wineries Forced to Work Around Power Shut-Offs

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AMADOR COUNTY -- Among the hundreds of businesses affected by PG&E blackouts, it has been an especially bad time for wineries, which are in the middle of their harvest season.

Napa, Sonoma, Amador and El Dorado counties all were without power Wednesday and Thursday and are home to thousands of wineries.
Michael Roser is the winemaker at Cooper Vineyards near Plymouth. Without power, a room filled with Cooper’s 2019 wine must be kept cool by opening the doors at night and shutting them in the day.

“We’re using ice and lids on the bins that we have almost to make them like a cooler to try and keep everything cool until the power comes back,” Roser explained.

Another big problem for wineries is most rely on wells for water. Without electricity, they have no running water.

Sixty percent of his annual crop has been processed but the other 40%, made up mostly of Cooper’s signature barbera, still needs to be crushed.

“That’s my biggest concern right there is we need to get those crushed as soon as possible,” he told FOX40.

The first two days of the power shut-offs were causing delays but Roser and other winemakers worry a third day without power could cause more serious problems.

“You start getting some microbial growth in there or if you have grapes out that are in it, you get some bunch rot that could create some problems,” Roser said.

Other larger wineries do have back-up generators but Cooper has yet to make that investment.

“We’re looking into it,” Roser said. “Believe me, with the way things have gone on for the last couple of years with these power outages, we’re going to get a bid really soon on one. We’ll get it for next year.”

But Roser told FOX40 it has not gotten to the point where he’ll take off his shoes and stomp the grapes with his bare feet -- at least not yet.

“We’ve had some volunteers,” he said with a chuckle.

Whenever the power does come back on, winemakers said they’re going to have to be working 12-hour days because they’re going to have to make up for the lost time.

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