Bud break has arrived in the vineyards Atlas farms, announcing the start of the grapegrowing season. (See “What is Bud Break?”) Development in our vineyards is averaging seven to 10 days ahead of average, according to Francisco “The Professor” Araujo, Director of Quality Control and Technological Winegrowing Operations for Atlas Vineyard Management.
Even though the grapes are just now making their appearance in West Coast vineyards, the vines have been working on Vintage 2014 for some time now. The number of shoots and clusters on each vine was determined by farming decisions made in 2013. What hasn’t been determined is what the final size of the clusters will be.
“If we had rough weather, cool and wet during bloom time this year, then we might see some impact on the number of berries that are set per cluster,” Francisco says. “So the number of clusters is predetermined, but the conditions this season will have some impact on final cluster weight.”
Once bud break occurs, shoots grow longer and leaves begin unfolding to reveal tiny clusters. The next vine development milestone is bloom, when flowers appear. In California this usually happens mid- to late May. In Oregon bloom often comes in early June.
Pruning was finished during the winter, and we are mowing and discing between vineyard rows to keep cover crops and other vegetation from competing with the grapevines for water.
In a few weeks it will be time to shoot thin and sucker the vines so that buds that developed double shoots won’t spend undue energy supporting extra clusters. (Check out this video of suckering and shoot thinning) “We like to eliminate one shoot and do some cleaning so the remaining shoots are absorbing all the energy. The vine will grow better, and so will the fruit.”
Bud Break in Oregon and California
Atlas farms properties in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and California’s Central Coast and North Coast growing regions. In California’s Santa Maria Valley, Francisco says it’s not unheard of for bud break to begin in February. In Napa and Sonoma Counties, bud break for white varieties starts in March. In Oregon, Chardonnay doesn’t usually start bud break until April, and Pinot Noir is even later.
Francisco says vineyards in California’s coastal regions are averaging about seven days ahead of schedule this season, and Oregon is about 10 days ahead. In spite of the difference in bud break timing, all three regions harvest around the same time.
Vineyards on the valley floor often experience bud break earlier than those in the neighboring hills, putting the valley floor fruit at risk of frost damage. (Read about valley fruit vs. mountain fruit)