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!
The Wiens Family Cellars Vineyard, located on the property of our main Tasting Room is located in the Buck Mesa area of Temecula Valley sitting at 1,350 feet elevation right off Rancho California Rd in the heart of Temecula Valley Wine Country. After searching for a place in Southern California to move the original winery location in Lockeford, CA down to, the family purchased the vineyard in April 2003. It is an ideal location- approximately 30 miles from the ocean with warm days and cool nights that provide a great environment for grape growing. Afternoon and evening ocean breezes flow through the Rainbow Gap causing a large diurnal shift which our grape vines flourish in. We receive an average of 12” of rain a year and the vines are deep irrigated using domestic water. The soil is a sandy loam soil which is great for the vines.
Originally, nine of the ten acres were planted with Chardonnay vines in the mid 1970’s. We decreased the acres planted to 6.3 acres when we built the main tasting room in 2003. In 2010, we doubled the vine density by adding new rows of vines between existing rows. The varieties we grow at the Wiens Family Cellars Vineyard are:
Chardonnay: The original Chardonnay vines planted here in the mid 1970’s are still producing quality grapes today. Our Chardonnay is unique in that we age on oak, while suppressing the secondary (malo-lactic) fermentation. This allows us to accentuate the natural flavors in the wine with oak, rather than the buttery notes present in a “ML” chardonnay. The French oak used lends some creamy vanilla notes, that balance nicely against crisp, green apple notes, making our Chardonnay a little lighter bodied than most California Chardonnays, while retaining good typicity.
Montepulciano: Our 2018 Montepulciano is estate grown. We typically don’t get enough fruit to make a stand-alone Montepulciano, but 2018 was an exception. This is estate grown fruit, and produces a medium bodied red, with floral, and red fruit notes, and nice ageing acidity. The 2018 vintage is scheduled to be released around March of 2021.
Mourvedre: Our Estate Mourvedre is used in many of our blended wine like our Domestique, which is a GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre blend). GSM blends originated in the Côtes du Rhône region of France but are made all around the world today. GSM blends are known for their vivid fruit, strong aromas of ripe fruit, some herbs, and a pepper finish.
Petit Verdot: Our Estate Petite Verdot is blended into our blends like our Crowded. Petite Verdot Is known for high tannins, deep color, and black fruit flavor and aroma.
Syrah: Syrah tends to be a difficult variety, with its proclivity toward producing funky, smoky notes during fermentation and ageing. While this tendency can be a bad thing, we respect this as part of the variety, while simultaneously working to incorporate these aromas and flavors into a more cohesive, balanced wine. We will intentionally add more oxygen during, and after fermentation, keeping the yeast, and lees healthy and happy, and use lighter toast French oak, which tends to impart less of the smoky notes typical in heavier toast American oak. This allows a touch of the smoky, gamey character to interplay with the fruity, herbal notes, giving the finished wine a complex and clean, yet unmistakably “Syrah” profile.
Next time you’re here for a visit take a walk out into the vineyard and see the vines up close in person. You can tell which vines are the oldest Chardonnay vines by their size- their trunks are much larger than the newer vines.
Our San Ignacio Vineyard is located 9 miles Northeast of the winery and sits at an elevation of 2,300-2,350ft, approximately 900’ higher than the winery. We chose this property because of its proximity next to a ridgetop that has a consistent breeze which helps to lessen frost danger in the spring. It has similar daytime temperatures as Temecula valley floor, but without morning fog, and a slightly dryer climate. The sandy loam soil allows for good drainage, has the preferred PH range, and contains a good amount of natural nutritious organic material. We planted four Bordeaux grape varieties in 2013- Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Merlot, with the intent to create big, bold, age worthy red wines. The clones we selected were for their deep color, intense fruit flavors and aroma.
One of the challenges with this vineyard is there is very little well water available, so vines are as close to dry farmed as possible. Because of the dry conditions, the vines produce pea sized berries with concentrated flavor that create rich intense wines. Although the yields are low, and we have to work harder to get them, the fruit we harvest is incredible and consistently produces Reserve quality wine. Our Reserve blend Unforgiving, a blend using 100% San Ignacio grown grapes, is named after these challenging and “unforgiving” conditions.
The four varieties planted at San Ignacio are:
Carmenere: Our San Ignacio vineyard is our first vineyard we planted an Italian clone of Carmenere, known for its red and black black berry flavors, crimson color, and herbaceous green peppercorn notes in. Used in our “Unforgiving” blend and other future blends the Carmenere adds color and “pepper spice”.
Cabernet Sauvignon: Our San Ignacio Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon produces high intensity fruit that is used in our blends like our 2017 Grand Rouge and in future releases like the 2018 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. The San Ignacio Cabernet Sauvignon fruit has shown Reserve potential each harvest.
Malbec: Also used in the Unforgiving blend, the San Ignacio Malbec adds to this Bordeaux style blend that showcases ample concentration, body, and age worthiness as a delicious reward for all of the hard work.
Merlot: The 2018 Reserve San Ignacio Merlot is scheduled to be released in January 2021. Expect Red fruit and peppers, with incredibly smooth tannins, making it a big red that can still appeal to a wide audience.
Do you know we farm a total of 110 acres of vineyards all throughout the Temecula area? They are located East of us in Sage, West of us in La Cresta and De Luz, and right here in the Valley- including the 10 acres our Tasting Room sits on. Although our vineyard’s locations are relatively close (within 20 miles of the winery), they were strategically chosen based on the differences in their soil composition, climate, and elevation. These differences allow us to grow many different grape varietals in locations that suite each varietal best, including wines like the Cabernet Franc grown at our Sage Vineyard.
Our Sage Vineyard is located 12 miles Northeast of the winery in Sage. At an elevation of 2,500-2,550, it sits about 1,000 feet higher than the winery. This additional elevation creates a slightly different climate with a higher day to night temperature shift than here at the winery. Although there are similar daytime temperatures, and an afternoon breeze like the valley floor, there is generally no morning fog. Since the Sage area is drier, and has less soil nutrients in its primarily sandy loam soil, vines produce smaller quantities of intense fruit giving our Cabernet Franc its concentrated strength and elegance unique to this property. This smaller quantity, yet intense fruit from the Sage Vineyard has become some of our most popular reserve wines.
In addition to the Cabernet Franc grown at our Sage Vineyard, we also have nine other varietals planted including:
Alicante Boushcet- A semi-rare variety that was cultivated in France in 1866 by Henri Bouschet as a cross of Petit Bouschet and Grenache. It was heavily planted in California in the 1920’s for export to the East Coast because of its thick skin and its resistance to rot during transport. We grow a small quantity of it because of its deep and intense red color. We field blend it with our Barbera and/or Sangiovese to add color.
Chardonnay- Chardonnay does well in most of our Temecula vineyards including Sage. Our 2019 Reserve Chardonnay is made from 48% Sage Chardonnay which provides boasting elements of mineral, tangerine and honeysuckle, complemented by lush cream notes and toasted oak derived from barrel aging. Our 2019 Reserve Chardonnay is the perfect balance of full oak body and flavors, countered by lean acidity to provide a crisp, clean finish.
Barbera- Our Sage Vineyard produces Barbera fruit with good acidity, making this wine a perfect accompaniment for more acidic dishes, such as Italian tomato-based dishes. The 2016 Reserve Barbera is 76% Sage Barbera blended with 18% Sage Petite Sirah and 6% Sage Alicante Bouschet making it a 100% Sage Vineyard designate. The 2016 Reserve Barbera has intense flavors of blackberry pie, rosemary, and graham crackers.
Cabernet Sauvignon- Sage vineyard regularly produces some of our best reserve wines, including Cabernet Sauvignon. The rocky, well-drained soil and bigger diurnal shifts (difference between day temperature and night) produce much less fruit, yet much higher quality with balanced sugar and acidity. The berries are small and allow more skin to juice ratio making these wines highly concentrated and full bodied.
Petit Sirah- The arid, rocky granite terrain at the Sage Vineyard makes for a Petite Sirah with incredible concentration and depth. Our 2014 Reserve Petite Sirah was made with 100% Sage Vineyard fruit and showcased aromas of white pepper and roasted rosemary that lead into a dense palate of ripe blackberry, blueberry and French vanilla, with bold, age-worthy tannins on the finish.
Sangiovese- Our Sage Vineyard Sangiovese is used in our popular blends such as our red Crowded and Reflection. Our 2015 Sangiovese is a blend of Temecula Valley and Sage Vineyard Sangiovese and shines with notes of black plum, mulberry and fresh herbs building into a generous palate of crème de cassis, earth notes and warm spice, making this vintage a true crowd pleaser.
Sauvignon Blanc: The aromatics of our Sage Sauvignon Blanc in particular change significantly throughout the ripening process, so in order to attempt to capture the full range of aromatic potential, we harvest our Sauvignon Blanc in two lots. The first is harvested slightly under-ripe at 19 brix, fermenting out to give top notes of lemon grass and green pepper, while the second lot is harvested a little over-ripe at 24 brix, giving us notes of ripe apricot and pineapple. When the two lots are blended back together, they balance each other out perfectly. Lightly oaking enhances the nose by adding some creamy vanilla notes, while rounding out the palate, giving the finished wine a little more weight.
Viognier: Viognier has a tendency to become rich, viscous, and overpowering if left on the vine too long, so we intentionally harvest our Sage Vineyard Viognier a little earlier than most. This allows us to retain enough acidity to cut through, and balance out some of the richness, and gives us a wider spectrum of flavors and aromas that may get “cooked out” if left to over ripen.
Zinfandel: The Sage Vineyard Zinfandel is used in a few of our blends and was a Reserve single variety in 2015. Notes of rose petal potpourri, cinnamon bark, raspberry purée, and balanced acidity are present with most Sage Vineyard Zinfandel vintages.