Sonoma County vineyard workers have tough time in heat

HEALDSBURG, Calif. (KGO) -- Thursday was a good day to be in the water to get some relief from the heat. But it was a hard one to be working in the vineyards.

It has to do with vines and the people tending them. The hotter it gets, the better for the vines but tougher on the workers. This is where state laws enter the picture.

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In downtown Healdsburg, where earlier this week temperatures hit 110 degrees, it's no wonder people weren't moving fast on Thursday.

Compare that scene with what we found in the Dry Creek Valley, just a couple of miles away. Leaf clearing on Zinfandel vines took place beneath that same hot sun in rising temperatures.

"You get used to it. You wake up for it," vineyard safety coordinator Ray Sanchez said.

Lately, vineyard workers have raced not only the clock but also thermometers. "It's a company, we hit 95, we go home," Sanchez said.

"The policies that are currently in place right now probably began the revolution and development from in the early 1970s," said Duff Bevill, who owns and manages this vineyard, following state guidelines for sanitation and water -- 2.5 gallons per worker, per day.

The state also has specific shade requirements. "Measured by square footage per person on the job," Bevill said.

This year, it was an unusual balancing act. The hotter it gets, the better for the vines, which have been growing too fast after a season of heavy rains.

"The reality is, every year is the same because every year is different," Bevill said.

So during the heat wave, workers have begun and knocked off earlier. If you think you had it hard in the heat, try doing this for just one hour.

When asked if they ever complain about the heat, Sanchez said, "They do not."

They're acclimated to it, just like the vines and unlike the rest of us.

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