It’s hard to believe, but bud break is already here! We always get a bit excited for bud break because it signals the start of another season, and it’s just so cool to watch nature in action. Sometimes the farming aspect of making wine is forgotten or not thought about often, but it is the most important piece of making good wine. Without the ability to grow good fruit, there cannot be good wine, and it all starts with these tiny little buds each year.
What is Bud Break?
Bud break is the magical moment in the vineyard each Spring when new shoots emerge from the buds on the vines. It is the start of a new season, the first stage of the new cycle of the growing process. After storing energy in their roots and trunks all winter, the vines erupt with little green leaves, which will resume photosynthesis to sustain the energy needed to grow new shoots that support the grapes that will be harvested in the Fall. These tiny leaves make their debut when the temperatures are warmer and the days are longer- usually mid-March. This year, we have had many unseasonably warm days, so an early bud break isn’t a surprise.
Bud break happens at different times for each vineyard depending on the varietal and the location based on the temperature. We see the first bud breaks with our Estate Chardonnay vines because we are at a lower elevation with warmer temperatures here at the winery. The higher elevation vineyards, like Sage Vineyard, will have bud break later- possibly up to three weeks later. Bud break will also happen earlier on certain varieties that have a lower base temperature threshold. Chardonnay vines have a lower base temperature threshold than a varietal like Cabernet Sauvignon, which has a higher base temperature threshold. Base Temperature Threshold is basically the temperature threshold below which grapevines will not grow roughly 46°-50°F. Some other factors influence bud break, such as soil/root temperature, number of buds and position left after pruning, and vine age.
With bud break being a little early, it does put the tiny buds at risk of freezing if we have a frost. The buds are very delicate and can be destroyed with even just one night of below-freezing weather. As exciting as it is, we will also let out a sigh of relief as soon as we know we do not need to worry about frost damage to the buds. So, fingers crossed, we don’t have any frosty nights in any of the budding vineyards!
If you get the chance to come in person for a visit within the next two weeks, make sure to take a look at the vines and the little buds. You’ll get to witness the very beginning of the 2021 vintage!