Seasons of the Vineyard No. 2 - Bud Break on Vogelzang Vineyards
by Mary Beth Vogelzang
Wow!! Gorgeous, the sun is warm and breezes soft. Could it be more beautiful? In the vineyard, the tiniest of pale pink leaves begin to emerge from the maroon hard shells. It is bud break! It's the beginning of the beginning. The vine, pruned in January, has looked pretty desolate out there with its cordon/s (arms) outstretched to the sky. But now the most enchanting pink, orange and spring green poms shake above those arms.
To understand this importance one needs a bit of context, pruning time in January. On each naked arm (cordon) you will see small stubs of a branch left attached by the pruner. This is called a spur. The spur position on the arm was determined when the vine was about two years old. The pruner would find healthy branches that were facing upward and try to find a position that would then cause each spur to be approximately a man's fist measurement apart. We have approximately 8-9 spurs per cordon. The spur length (1-1/2 inch) is measured to allow either 1 or 2 buds to develop, depending on the crop desired. Each bud holds the potential for 1-3 grape clusters. You can do the math. It is along the arm, at the base where spur and bud meet cordon that the grapes will form and mature.
So, welcome to this time of year called bud break. These are exciting times. One can literally watch the leaves open up to the warm sun. There is intense hope in the air as we now wait and watch over the wee cluster buds to appear. The pace picks up and the care and manipulation of the vine becomes the major focus in order to produce a premium crop.
However, before we become too bewitched by the beauty and warmth, we need to tell you of the nemesis to our sweet and fragile buds/leaves: frost. As soon as the sap is running and the buds breaking, a cold snap could end it all.
Our frost protection system may seem mundane but it is oh so important: rain bird sprinklers. In the old days it consisted of burning smudge pot and fans that blew the warm air around. Now, with the brilliance of science, we cover the vineyard in a continual fine spray of water. As each molecule that lands on the vine begins to freeze, it emits one degree of energy, or heat, that keeps the molecule perpetually unable to freeze. One must marvel, how very splendid is nature.
So as these buds do their work to break we will continue to watch and protect with the hope that these little buds will, once again, build up to a mature grapes.