After what has been an interesting last 12 months [probably the understatement of the year], was it really that unexpected that bud break would occur 3 weeks earlier than it normally does? Do not get me wrong, I love 80 degree days in March, but from a vineyard managers point of view, that was just putting the foot on the accelerator.
Bud break at Keswick Vineyards normally occurs around the 10th of April, but this year we had Chardonnay break on March 23rd. WOW!
The growth cycle of a vine and vineyard begins with bud break in the spring and finishes with harvest in Autumn, leaf fall and then winter dormancy. It is during these winter months that we prune and regulate the buds, and therefore the crop levels, for the following growing season. The time the vine spends in these phases depends on a number of factors, but most importantly on the climate and the prevailing temperature.
The start of the cycle begins when the vine starts to bleed, when we see water being expelled from pruning cuts we make on the vine. An interesting fact is that a vine can bleed over 5 Liters of water!
Buds that have been protected during the winter start swelling and eventually open up, giving birth to new growth and shoots that will bear the fruit of the coming vintage.
The energy for the plant to do this is taken from carbohydrates that are stored in the roots and wood of the vine from the previous year.
Once shoots start to develop and the temperatures really start warming up, these shoots can grow 3cm in length per day!
Not all varieties bud at the same time though, so while our Chardonnay and Viognier are way advanced, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Verdot are taking their sweet time and are in no rush.
Admittedly, there is renewed optimism for the growing season following the challenging 2011, but with premature bud break comes the increased risk for spring time frost damage. This past Monday morning saw us touch temperatures of 31 degrees, which meant a very early start to the day turning on wind machines, running frost dragons and monitoring temperatures throughout our 43 acres. In Virginia, we can get a spring frost right up the second week of May, so we need to be on our toes and use all means necessary to prevent that from happening should it occur.
40-80 days post bud break, we will start seeing flowering, whereby pollination and fertilization of the grapevine takes place, followed immediately by fruit set. At that point we will be able to determine the crop size we can expect for 2012.
This is one of the most beautiful times of the year in the vineyard bus sometimes also the most stressful, protecting your vineyard against everything that mother nature can throw your way. To be honest, she kicked my backside last year – but I am determined not to let that happen again!
In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this wonderful weather and I look forward to seeing you at the winery. Back to the vineyard to finish my favorite varietal NORTON! BLAH
If you would like to learn more about viticulture, and our vineyard in particular, join me for our Earth Day Vineyard Tour April 22nd!
I will take you on a 1 1/2 mile educational walk through the vineyard to explain how soil types and elevations affect the flavor development of the vines, the different types of trellis systems and why we chose ours, frost dangers and how we handle that, pruning, diseases, discussion on varietals like Viognier and Norton and much more, all while you enjoy a taste of the wines made from blocks on the vineyard that you are standing in!
Lunch will be provided under our beautiful event tent where you will have a chance to meet the owners, Al & Cindy Schornberg, and learn about the history of Edgewood Estate.
Space is limited so reservations are required. From 11am – 1pm. The cost is $40 for Wine Club members, $50 for non-members. Rain date is scheduled for May 12th.