Stop What You Are Doing and Pray To the Wine Gods—NOW!
There’s very nifty golf course here in Napa called Chardonnay Golf Club. As you might imagine, there are LOTS of grapevines strewn about the property and it’s really a beautiful sight and beautiful set up.
So, I’m out there playing the other day with a buddy. It’ about 11:30am and it’s 65 degrees outside. The sun is shinning. In fact, by 3pm the temperature will get up to about 71 degrees. It’s January. The dead of winter. Clearly, the Golf Gods are granting favor to the golfers of Northern California, providing us with an impeccable, warm, dry winter. We golfers have been playing non-stop since last spring and the weather forecast shows no let down coming our way. It’s clear, warm skies right through to spring.
So, anyway. We are on the tee box on the sixth hole and my golf buddy behind me says, “Come here and look at this.” He’s standing by the edge of vineyard. “Look,” he says. I look down at the grape vine and look up at him and look down again. He says to me, “Bud Break!”
He’s right. The vineyards next to the sixth hole and likely all across the North Coast are responding to this amazingly warm, dry winter by getting ready to push out new growth real quickly here. The thing is, if the vines were at the point they are now, a month from now, they’d still be progressing on an early growth curve.
Of course here’s the problem. By the middle of February, there is going to be real, new growth coming out of the vines in the form of little, tiny green bundles. These little leafy buds are very susceptible to frost. And if a bad frost comes, these little buds simply shrivel up and die from the cold. The problem with that is without these little buds maturing and producing clusters, you get no grapes. Now, when frost kills the buds, you usually will get secondary buds pushing up through the vine that will produce grape clusters, but you’ll still be looking at a severely reduced harvest.
Bud break usually happens in Napa and Sonoma sometime around the first of March, not too much earlier. It’s entirely possible we will have advanced bud break in some vineyards in Napa and Sonoma by the end of January.
This could lead to a few things:
1) Growers dodge a bullet, no frost events happen before the buds leaf out (what are the odds?), and you get a REALLY early harvest
2) Frost descends on the vineyards, killing the buds, and the harvest is reduced in size by 30-50% (or more!) in some locations—leading to VERY unhappy consequences.
Here’s my point: Even I pray to gods—Imaginary Golf Gods they may be. And if I can, so can you. Say a little prayer to your god of choice and ask him, her or them to be nice to our vines, to spare them, to bring us a little rain and to slow down the season. Right now, it’s all about what the gods ordain. So, if you are wine lover, get your prayer on.