Bud Break. Seems Early. It Isn’t.
Wines and Vines had a story this week about bud break having happened already in Fresno.
As you might expect, Fresno is consistently the earliest part of the state to experience bud break and while this “feels” early, it isn’t. Last year, bud break in the same set of vineyards happened about a week earlier.
I’ve talked about some of the issues that can come up with an early bud break, but largely there is concern that once bud break occurs, frost can decimate a vintage. There was some loss in Fresno over last weekend and there are concerns about more happening as weather conditions locally, have been unpredictable at best. As an example, for the first time in 5 years, we had hail at my house yesterday. It’s been a weird, rainy el nino for us in the Bay Area.
Speaking of the rain, I keep asking winemakers about what happens now. We had a pretty severe drought for the past handful of years. Now it rained a LOT. Santa Rosa, in many ways the central town of Sonoma got 52 inches of rain this past year, the most they’ve received in a 12 month span, since they’ve counted it back into the 1880’s.
It’s interesting, but no one knows. This literally has never happened before. Winemakers seem to think that we’ll see a decent crop this vintage and then likely a MASSIVE crop next year. Grapes largely depend on ground water, at least the type of high end grapes we’re searching for in order to fill wine club subscriptions at over $20 per bottle and those type of wines are planted in well draining, rocky soils that don’t hold water for long. So yeah, at least during this first vintage, no one is really clear how a vine is going to respond. In the entirety of winemaking history, we have perfect records over the past hundred or so years and it doesn’t seem like the huge swing between drought and monsoon has happened before. How a plant might respond to something completely unexpected-is to be determined. Does it see the bounty of water and produce tons of fruit? Does it remember the rough past few years and conserves some of its energy?
Nobody knows and bud break is here, so we’ll start finding out sooner rather than later. Quite a few people are interested in finding out.