New Vit Advisor for Central Valley

Lindsay Jordan steps in for Madera, Merced and Mariposa counties in California

by Jane Firstenfeld
Lindsay Jordan is the new viticulture advisor for Merced, Madera and Mariposa counties in California.
Madera, Calif.—With a freshly minted master’s degree from New York’s Cornell University, a bachelor’s from the University of California, Davis, and a season spent in New Zealand vineyards, California native Lindsay Jordan is taking over as viticulture extension advisor for Merced, Madera and Mariposa counties in California’s Central Valley.

“We consider her a star,” said Maxwell Norton, who steps down in July after decades as Merced County viticulture extension advisor.

Jordan estimates that the three counties in her charge contain some 90,000 acres of vineyards, the majority planted to wine grape varieties. The Madera County vit advisor slot has been vacant for several years, since George Levitt retired, Norton noted. Jordan started the job Feb. 17.

The University of California Cooperative Extension program brings advice, instruction and best practices to commercial and home agriculture producers.

Jordan (no relation to the Sonoma winemaking family), told Wines & Vines yesterday that she’s still new on the job, but predicted that water use, conservation and irrigation issues will remain a major problem in her territory, as they are throughout California.

Jordan enjoys getting her boots dirty in the vineyard and envisions her new position as a division of labor, “ultimately determined by what best serves the growers.”

Her mandate, she said, is to become a resource for her clients. “People can call in or email. They may be directed to me by another extension agent. Sometimes they will require a farm visit, or it may involve connecting them with an industry-based organization. I’ll be the available source of information, the person who’s aware of how to serve the growers in these counties,” she said.

Norton chimes in
Maxwell Norton has seen vast changes in California’s Central Valley wine industry since he became the Merced viticulture advisor in 1979. Although he’s stepping down from that position, he’s not exactly retiring, he told Wines & Vines. He’ll continue his pomology (tree fruit/nut) assignment and serve as administrator for the Merced office until July 1. “I have a couple of grants with my name on them that are running a couple of years. The fun part of the job is teaching and helping people,” he said.

He agreed with Jordan that water issues remain a challenge: “Like everyone else in the state, we are learning how to manage with very little water.”

But, he emphasized, water issues are also leading to soil-salinity problems. “These are starting to drive decision-making by farmers,” he said. Reports that some grapegrowers are pulling vines to replace them with nut crops do not represent a major trend, he said, although “we have seen some removed,” due to rising demand and prices for nuts.

But like grapevines, orchards are a long-term investment in land. “Smart farmers must consider their alternatives in terms of other crops,” whether almonds or sweet potatoes.

Jordan added, “You can’t fallow your vineyard or orchard,” when water dries to a trickle or salinity changes.

Valley grape prices have been “very good” during the past three to four years, Norton noted. He has seen few changes in grape variety plantings, although the recent popularity of Moscato wines has surprised him, as it created more interest than in the past 30-40 years.

“My mother’s favorite wine was Muscat, so I always grew a few vines for her in my backyard vineyard,” he said.

For her part, Jordan said, she’s delighted that Norton will still be around, if in an emeritus status. “I’m lucky for the overlap,” she said. Contact Jordan at (559) 675-7879, ext. 7209. 

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