This past week, I had the pleasure of riding through Rombauer’s Chardonnay vineyards in Carneros alongside our winemaker and native Australian, Richie Allen. Together we experienced a phenomenon taking place right now all over Napa Valley called “bud break.”
The importance of "budburst" (for those of you who are students like myself… which, let’s face it, as wine lovers we are and always will be students!) is the first time that the winemaker and vineyard manager -- and for all intents and purposes, anyone else associated with the development of the vine -- will get to see the fruit set, and start eyeing the crop loads. There are many variables that affect the timing of bud break and when it will begin.
The soil temperature and varietal type both have an impact. Vines grown in warmer soils will begin to bud earlier than those grown in cooler soils. The degree to which the soil type retains heat is also very important. Cooler soils, especially clay, will delay bud break, while rockier, warmer soils will accelerate it. The type of varietal also has an impact on when bud break will occur.
If bud break occurs too early, the young shoots may be vulnerable to frost damage during spring. However, if bud break occurs too late, the grapes may not have enough time to fully ripen. The grower may also be in the uncomfortable position of deciding to let the grapes hang during the fall when frost and rain can damage a crop at the end of the growing season.
Along the ride in Richie's four wheel drive, we tackled four different blocks in the Buchli Vineyard in Carneros, most of which is Chardonnay, including the botrytis section. (Note From the Author: Never forget your boots or your 4x4 when touring vineyards!),
I hope you enjoy these photos documenting our ride and this fabulous part of the special viticulture process here at Rombauer Vineyards. As our token Aussie says, "G'day mate… Cheers!"