After Budbreak: Shoots In The Vineyard

We’ve been treated to some great weather here in Sonoma County over the past couple of weeks.  It truly feels like Spring is here at last.  There have still been some harrowing nights and more frost damage on the Central Coast, but in the North we’ve been spared so far (knock on wood).

I leave my house every morning at around 5:30 am to swim or exercise before the work day starts, and each morning I’ve been paying attention to the sky.  We’ve been lucky; we’ve had many mornings with cloud cover (no frost when it’s overcast) or wind (also keeps the frost at bay).

I have been spending some time in the vineyards lately, looking at how the vines are emerging.  We can see the young inflorescence (flowers that will be pollinated and become grapes) begin to elongate and start to show their architecture.  With the nice weather we have seen great shoot growth.  The new shoots are out now at least 6-8 inches in many places.  It feels as if overnight we’ve come full swing, and I can start to feel the pull of another harvest coming.

So what is next you might ask?  In a few short weeks, the flowers will open and we will enter the bloom period.  Remember, grapes flowers are self-pollinating hermaphrodites.  There is some cross-pollination by insect or wind vectors, but unlike almonds, stone fruit citrus or many other crops, this is not necessary for grapes.  We’ll be hoping for good weather to ensure successful fruit set.  More on that later.

Other things happening in the vineyard are the routine sprays we apply to protect the vines from fungal diseases.  Botrytis and powdery mildew are the main concerns for crop damage here in California.  We are applying different treatments to the vines on regular intervals to keep these fungi at bay.  These treatments consist of mostly of sulfur, copper and different oils that are all antifungal agents.  These applications, especially sulfur and copper, have been used in the vineyards for eons.  Sulfur has always been an important vineyard application.  So far, no organism has developed resistance to its antimicrobial activity.

Spring is upon us and what a welcome spring it is after a long winter of cold and rain.  The lupine has started to come out on the hills.  This is one of the most beautiful times of the year in Sonoma County.  Truly glorious.