It's Official - We Have Budbreak!
The first sign of life in the vineyard makes such a contrasting visual – the tiny, tender bits of pinky-green new growth emerging from the gnarled, woody vine. But, that makes it official – we have bud break! We noticed it early this week and, by now, all of the vines are noticeably leafing out. We’ve got nice, warm weather to urge them on, too!
If you’ve visited the valley recently, you may have noticed bud break on the valley floor in late March and early April. The vines have an internal clock but a number of things can influence them to either get up and get going or hit the snooze button – the variety, weather conditions, the site, vineyard practices…
Here at Dyer, we tend to bud out later than most. Being on the west side, Diamond Mountain spends the last hours of the afternoon in shadow, so the soils are slow to warm up. Warm soil is a pretty good alarm clock. Plus, we prune as late as we can, which delays the onset of the growing season.
Most years, it’s to our advantage if the vines push out a little late. We’re at risk for frost until mid May and the late start shortens our frost season.
The frost is the most dangerous to valley-floor vineyards. A clear, warm spring day warms up the soil, and the heat is released in the cold, cloudless night that follows. Unless there’s a good wind, it creates an inversion layer, trapping the cold air in the vineyard. The coldest air likes to settle into the low spots, like water, and if the temperature drops below freezing, damage begins.
So, here on the mountain, we’re lucky that we don’t have to worry as much as some of our friends on the valley floor. But, we have take care with a section of the vineyard with a little swale that catches the cold air. We saw serious damage in the persistently frosty spring of 2008 and a small amount of damage in 2005.
There were some freezing nights earlier this month, we did a sort of fire drill for frost in the wee hours. The vines were still dormant, so we didn’t have to worry, and it was a great way to make sure our frost-protection system is ready for the challenge when and if it comes. We use micro sprinklers in the swale area, and the icy coating keeps the buds insulated at 32 degrees.
Valley-floor growers can use sprinklers, too, if they have enough water. Many of them use the large propellers you see all over the place when you visit the valley. The fans mix the warm air, above, with the cold air that’s settling. Some growers use the old-fashioned smudge pots - little heaters - like the ones youl see in citrus orchards.
The only downside to a relatively late start to the growing season is that it can push the harvest back, which increases the chance of getting caught in the rain before all the crop is in. We’ve had to battle with rain in mid-October these last few vintages.
But let’s not worry about that now… Most years we have beautiful weather right through October, which means through harvest, and why not be optimistic that we’ll return to our normal weather pattern in 2012?
The weather is certainly gorgeous now! Temperatures in the 80s and more of the same predicted. And so begins the 2012 vintage at Dyer Vineyards! Cheers!
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