The Winegrowing Season Has Begun
It’s budbreak time in most of California vineyards. It’ marks the beginning of the growing season, which is both exciting for the winemaker and the source of much dread as the potential for severe frost damage now exists.
Yet budbreak is also a great time to hang out in wine country. It’s often difficult for visitors to wine country to look at a vineyard and discern much difference from one vineyard to the next. Bud break makes that easier. Different varietals bud out at different times. So you may have a chardonnay vineyard next to a cabernet vineyard where the Chardonny is showing green sparks emerge from vines’ canes, while the cabernet vineyard still appears completely dormant.
Budbreak usually occurs in March in California, but depending on the winter weather patterns it can be earlier or later. We’ve had a fairly moderate winter here in the North Coast which has led to a slightly early bud break. There really is no problem with this beyond the extended amount of time that frost can be a risk and damage the potential crop.
During budbreak small great shoots emerge from the buds on the canes. If you are driving by a vineyard that his just entered budbreak you note the slightest hint of light green spotting on the vines. Depending on the weather, these new spots of green can transform into full fledged new leaves fairly quickly and what once was just a hint of green in the vineyards becomes something of an explosion of spot color throughout the vineyard.
This is one of my favorite times to live among the vines here in Sonoma Valley. While Fall can be a spectacular wash of reds, greens, golds and yellows, this show is also the heralding of winter just around the corner. Budbreak reminds me of the message that comes with the arrival of the daffodil here in Sonoma County: a perfect reminder that winter is on the way, that spring is just around the corner and that a new vintage of wine is in development.