Published: 1 years 196 days ago
Richard Samra is passionate about growing winegrapes. “It’s like seeing a miracle happen,” he said, surveying his vineyard that stretches east of the Sacramento River near Clarksburg. Each year brings a unique set of challenges and hard work, so when the harvest is underway and a new crop of fruit is delivered to the wineries, Samra feels a sense of awe. “In winter, we start with pruning and do trellis repair. Spring may bring frost issues, possible water supply problems, and disease pressure. In early summer we may have pest issues. Winegrapes have to be carefully farmed.”
Samra, who was born and raised in the Sacramento Delta, farmed with his father. “There were no winegrapes here,” Samra recalled. “It was wheat, barley, sugar beets, alfalfa, and tomatoes. We planted our first grapes in 1979, and they were French Columbard for Gallo.” By the early 1990s, Samra concentrated solely on winegrapes and now he produces several varieties for various wineries.
“The Delta is still coming into its own, but winemakers from various regions of the state are beginning to appreciate the consistent quality we offer,” he said. “We produce very good quality winegrapes in the Delta because of our temperatures, which may hit 100 degrees during the day and drop by 20 to 30 degrees at night.”
Sustainable winegrape growing is important to Samra, who began evaluating his operation several years ago to find opportunities to move toward more sustainable practices. “I was pleased to find that much of what we were already doing fell into the parameters of the sustainable model. That included the use of soft chemicals and various practices that reflect a basic respect for the land. There were no surprises for us, except that the recommended approach to sustainability was very straight-forward and based on common sense.”
Samra fears that agriculture has gotten a bad rap on environmental protection. “Who’s closer to the land than the farmer?” Samra asked. “A vineyard is a very long-term commitment and you have to take care of the land and water for the future.” He’s seen a growing divide between urban and rural cultures since he was a boy. “Back in the 1950’s and 60’s, a lot of people had relatives in agriculture, which gave them a better understanding of what goes into farming. A switch occurred when farms became larger, older generations passed away, and there were fewer farmers.” But he’s optimistic that a rise in agri-tourism, fueled largely by vineyards and wineries, will improve the connection between producers and consumers.