Today’s Wine Word: Bud Break!


It’s happening. Mostly in the southern part of Napa Valley at this point, but it’s happening. The vines are emerging from their long winter slumber.

Every year I kind of worry because the vines look so very dead, especially once they’ve been pruned. I’m afraid that March will go by and they’ll still look like they’re dead – that they’ll never push out that very lovely little bit of pinky-green new growth. 

But, this marks the beginning of the 2012 growing season – may it be a MUCH, MUCH better and easier one than 2011! After what the vineyard managers have been through in 2010 and 2011 I think they deserve a frost-free spring and perfect weather from there on. 

What’s perfect? Around here, from April through October, we’re looking for warm, sunny days (maybe even a few hot ones) and cool, foggy nights – and no rain. Oh, it’s okay if Mother Nature wants to sprinkle a bit to dust off the grapes now and then, but no heavy rain, especially not during harvest!!

The reason the vines in the southern end of the valley are showing signs of life where, up here in Saint Helena the buds aren’t even swollen is that the southern part of the valley is generally viewed as the best place to grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. And they like to wake up early. So does Sauvignon Blanc, which is grown all over the valley, but I haven’t seen any budding out yet. 

Merlot and Cabernet Franc should follow and then Cabernet is the way it usually goes. 

Budding out now is pretty much on time so if Mother Nature is in a good mood, we’ll do the first shoot thinning in April, the vines will flower and set the crop in mid to late May and harvest will begin mid-August, with sparkling wine and will go on and on through most of October. Early budders tend to be early ripeners so Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay should come in first, in about that order, depending upon the vineyard location, and so on and so on…

So, here’s to the 2012 vintage! May it be a great crop and lots of it!! Cheers! 

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