Here's an interesting article in the SF Chronicle on dry farming. I'm weighing options on the question of watering. Should I install irrigation?
In Europe, dry farming is the general practice. They believe that the variation in weather from year to year and from region to region is one quality that makes different wines and vintages unique. In California, where it can be drier than many parts of Europe, irrigation is much more common: it creates reliable quality and profit in the wildly variegated practice of growing grapes.
This is a key decision that I will eventually have to make. We have enough rainfall in our region that I could forsake irrigation in favor of allowing the terroir to do its work. But I could place myself at an advantage over other growers in quality and consistency if I wisely use irrigation. If I approach the question as a winemaker, I may embrace the romantic notion of variability, of distinct vintages that are flavored by the weather patterns of our terrior. If I approach it as a grower, I'd sure like to have a regular harvest and predictable income. As I'm something of an impractical romantic of limited funds, I'm leaning toward dry farming. I know this goes against the best recommendations of the helpful and knowledgable folks over at the ICCVE.