2016 Bud Break - Earliest Ever?
February 26, 2016
Napa, CA (February 26, 2016) - With the combination of warm temperatures and relatively little recent rain, bud break has begun in Napa Valley, marking the beginning of the winegrape growing season. "Buds on Chardonnay have begun swelling and bursting on a few vines. With this warm weather and no real rain or cold weather in the near forecast, it shouldn't be long before everything takes off," said Brittany Pederson, viticulturist at Silverado Farming Company and a member of the Napa Valley Grapegrowers (NVG). "From what we are seeing throughout the valley, in comparison to last year, we are anticipating possibly about five days to a week ahead of schedule with bud break."
Matt Reid, winemaker at Benessere Vineyards, agreed. "This is much earlier than normal for us, even earlier than last year. I'd say we're a good week to 10 days ahead of last year and about 17-21 days ahead of normal."
As spring approaches and mustard blooms throughout Napa Valley, grapegrowers have been working to prepare the vineyards for the 2016 growing season. "Our cover crop is doing nicely. We are using a mix of oats, fescue, peas and favas, and we have a lot of volunteer mustard providing lovely color. We have no bud break yet, though apical buds are in the "popcorn" stage, which usually proceeds bud break by a handful of days," said Reid. Pruning has also been underway throughout much of the valley and grapegrowers are keeping a close eye on bud development, as they work to complete this year's pruning efforts.
As temperatures warm and soil becomes drier, vines emerge from dormancy and begin to push water up from their root systems. Miniature buds on the vine, developed during the prior year, begin to swell eventually producing shoots from the bud. These shoots will then spring tiny leaves that help accelerate growth, especially as temperatures continue to increase.
With the arrival of bud break, grapegrowers typically keep a close eye on nighttime temperatures and prepare for the threat of frost, which could damage the delicate shoots at their most vulnerable stage. Heavy rain could also be harmful for young shoots. "We are happy with the frost forecasts, but somewhat concerned about heavy rain in the forecast. Similar to last year, we have a full soil moisture profile and our reservoirs in Napa Valley are full. More rain would be great for vineyards and the environment in general, but we'd prefer to see it after the shoots have established themselves a bit more. The long-term forecasts suggest we may get rain in late March and early April. That could help keep the frost risk low." said Reid.
About Napa Valley Grapegrowers
NVG is a non-profit trade organization that has played a vital role in strengthening Napa Valley's reputation as a world-class viticultural region for 41 years. Its mission is to preserve and promote Napa Valley's world-class vineyards. NVG represents over 690 Napa County grapegrowers and associated businesses.