Despite a solid rainfall season in 2017 and last year’s late storms known as the “March miracle,” the specter of drought continued to linger here on the Central Coast heading into 2019. But now that specter is gone, chased away by a season of abundant winter rainfall—resulting in California being declared “drought free” for the first time in seven years.

Here at Santa Margarita Ranch, we received anywhere from 28 to 35 inches of rain, depending on the exact location. “In a solid rain year like this, natural salts get flushed from the soils, which makes for a healthier root zone,” says co-founder and viticulturist Doug Filipponi. “It really helps with overall vine health all the way through harvest.”

For example, in drought years, the dryness and salt buildup can cause the vine leaves to become brittle and the fruit to have trouble ripening come fall. In wetter years, everything remains naturally vigorous throughout the growing season. “The aquifers are recharged, and the vines are really looking invigorated right now,” Doug says.

Another blessing of the wet winter is an abundant vineyard environment, which promotes the proliferation of beneficial insects such as ladybugs. These insects thrive amid the early cover crops, and then move up into the vine canopies as they begin leafing out. “It’s like miniature biological warfare,” Doug says. “These beneficial insects help keep out the bad guys that like to latch onto the vine leaves. It keeps everything naturally in balance.”

The 2019 harvest may still be a ways off, but the blessings of the wet winter will endure until the last grape is picked.