March 22, 2013 § 1 Comment
This time of year, we are waiting for our vines to wake up from their winter sleep. Although it is very exciting to see the start of a brand new vintage, the vines are in a very vulnerable state at this early stage, which we refer to as bud break. It starts when the buds get swollen and “cottony.” Then, out pop the first pale leaves of our new vintage. At this stage in the game all eyes are on the weather channel — like all other times of the year. Now, we are looking for night temperatures to stay above the magic number of 32 degrees. This week looked to be the first threat of having buds exposed to the those types of temperatures.
What does that mean for growers? A trip out to the vineyard at 2am to start your frost protection program. The two most common methods are overhead sprinklers and/ or wind machines. Overhead sprinklers work in a way that encapsulates the tender new growth in ice, which remains just above freezing just beneath the frozen ice. (Very cool!) Wind machines, however, stir up the air by sucking it in from the back and pushing it forward and spinning in a 360 degree motion around the area of the vineyard. This stirs up the warmer air on top with the colder air on the bottom. This movement works well with temperatures down to about 29 degrees. For the folks that live in the valley, these wind machines can be heard throughout the night , and sound like a helicopter hovering over the vineyard. The last major frost year was 2009, and we hope that this year is not another one of those years.
If the buds do get frost-bitten, the result could be a complete loss of a vintage. If not a complete loss, the quality of the grapes produced will certainly be second rate. This is just another one of the elements of farming where we like to think we are in complete control, but our Mother Earth continually lets us know who is really in charge!