Budbreak with emerging Pinot Noir Cluster

There is nothing as hopeful as a vineyard during ‘budbreak’–which is when the dormant buds open and new green growth emerges from the woody, wintery vines. It’s a moment that is perhaps more profound to a Californian, as we are not always engaged in seeing the seasons pass in the same way as someone in Maine or Minnesota.

As Bien Nacido, Solomon Hills and French Camp Vineyards burst into green (the first two being adjacent to my home in Santa Maria, and the third in the Paso Robles Highlands District AVA), the vines remind winemakers that a new vintage is underway.

Winemakers often have a dormant period as well–taking a little time after the ‘crush’ of harvest to spend some time with family for the Holidays and to take a deep breath, assess the young wines, and take stock of our cellars and our barrels.

Great winemakers also know their vineyards. So many of us are beginning to step into the vineyards, assess growth, mildew and botrytis pressure, check the vineyard floor, watch temperatures and frost alarms and even start counting clusters and making rough yield approximations.

Our vineyard managers are doing the first fungicide sprays, doing some shoot thinning, manning the frost protection and lining up labor to complete the multiple hand-farming passes that will be required to manage the canopy, balance and crop and make the best wine possible in 2016!

Quiz question for the week. Correct answers are eligible for a non-wine prize from J. Wilkes!

What are three ways a vineyard can battle crop loss on a frosty night? (Please don’t include Keanu Reeves’ gossamer wings!)

Please answer in comments!

Note the lower leaves have been burned by frost. This shows how close a frost event can come to ruining a cluster–perhaps the fans saved this cluster in 2016!