Cold snap slows foothills grape-growing season, more rain, snow on way

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn’s big chill will continue through at least Friday, slowing down vine growth at local wineries but still not jeopardizing the season. Jim Taylor, of rural Auburn’s family owned Mt. Vernon Winery, said the cold snap has put the growing season back a week or two and the harvest will likely now occur in mid- to late-October. “That’s not all bad but it’s not all good because we have to be concerned about rains coming in at that time,” Taylor said. Unseasonably wet weather this spring has meant other problems for growers. Mt. Vernon Winery hasn’t been able to implement its spraying program because of the rains, Taylor said. But despite the rain and cold, wine lovers are still flocking to Mt. Vernon and other wineries in the area, Taylor said. This weekend, for instance, while it was cold, Saturday was rain-free and Sunday was sunny. Typically, while the rain has hit during weekdays, weekends have been milder. Taylor said that it has helped that directional signs are now up in both the city of Auburn and Placer County for the Winery Trail, which visits four wineries in the Auburn area. “It has been nice on weekends,” Taylor said. “Our business has been booming.” Meteorologist Tom Dang, of the National Weather Service’s Sacramento office, said a major reason for the cold weather in the Sacramento region has to do with a strong ridge of high pressure along the East Coast. “That forces low-pressure systems to sit where they are,” he said. And that means temperatures in the 80s in the Eastern U.S. but cooler-than-normal weather in California. By 4 p.m. today, the temperature had yet to reach 60 degrees in Auburn. The average for this time of year is around 80 degrees, Dang said. Cooler, wet weather is in store for Auburn and the foothills through Friday, the National Weather Service is forecasting. One storm is expected to arrive Tuesday afternoon or evening, bringing as much as a quarter-inch of rain. “The brunt of the system will come through later in week,” Dang said. A winter storm watch has been issued for the Northern Sierra Nevada, including the Interstate 80 and Highway 40 corridors. A foot of new snow is possible above 6,000 feet, Dang said. That will add to the snowpack at Donner Ski Ranch, which is a holdout in staying open this Memorial Day weekend for skiers. Ann Westling, spokesman for the Tahoe National Forest, said that lower-elevation facilities will be opening on the weekend but others will be closed until early or mid-June because of snow that’s still on the ground. In the Foresthill area, Sugar Pine Reservoir campgrounds and picnic areas are open. The Morning Star campground will be open for the Memorial Day weekend. Mosquito Ridge Road is open to the French Meadows Dam, but access to the campgrounds there is blocked due to snow. Placer Big Trees are not accessible. And the Robinson Flat Campground is not expected to be open until later in June due to snow.