“Water isn’t as plentiful as it once was,” noted Mike Sangiacomo referring to his family’s 1,600 acres of vineyards, first established one hundred years ago by his grandfather in Sonoma Valley. “But we have learned to use water as efficiently as possible.” Mike Sangiacomo grew up working on his family’s farm, and along with his brother and sister is a partner of Sangiacomo Family Vineyards.
Growing premium quality pinot noir and chardonnay grapes through years of drought has required constant monitoring of environmental conditions. Each year Mike has learned more about how to maintain the health of the plants while using water efficiently. New technologies for forecasting weather and for measuring moisture in the ground and the air have been essential during this prolonged drought. Mike says they are always willing to try a new tool or application to see if it can help save water. “At this point I feel like it’s getting harder to improve on what we’re already doing. What we’ve learned over the years is that you can do more with less.”
While much of California had extreme heat conditions last summer, the temperatures were milder here in Sonoma County, which helped the Sangiacomos irrigate less overall. Some of their vineyards had to be dry farmed. They got a lower yield overall, but the harvest’s quality was very good. Noting that these new approaches are not without risk, they are watching closely to learn the long-range impact these changes have made on health of their vines.
Mike says the recent heavy rains will be helpful for recharging the aquifer. He noted that if the drought persists, the best thing that can happen is a late spring rain, which will delay the date they need to start watering their vines. “Delaying irrigation is one of the best ways to save water.”
Mike brings his knowledge and experience in service to the community as a current board member of the Sonoma Valley Groundwater Sustainability Agency and the North Bay Water District and as a Commissioner of the Fiscal Oversight Commission of the Sonoma County Agricultural and Open Space District.