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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Bud Break in Napa

Bud Break + 1 day.
Bud Break - April 2

Bud Break is always an important event in the Napa Valley, but this year it is particularly important since it is the time that I committed to re-start this blog and keep it up to date during the entire wine-making season.

Do you want to know about growing grapes and making wine?  And what is happening in the vineyard and the winery? Follow us throughout the year and we will keep you up to date on the events, the successes and the non-successes and the issues that we face during the season.  We will also comment from time to time on what is going on in the Napa Valley and our thoughts about it.   

Bud break on April 2 was right on schedule.  While much of the country has been enjoying (or worrying about) substantially above average temperatures and a very early spring, the Napa Valley weather has been very typical.  February was a warm month and everyone was worried, but March was very typical.  As we conduct tours at our winery we tell people that bud-break will happen about April 1, plus or minus only a few days.  And with an "official" bud break in our own vineyard on April 2 we were not disappointed.

Generally the Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay grapes bud first, then Cabernet Franc and Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot are generally last.  And once the buds burst open they grow rapidly.

Five Days after bud-break and growing fast.
Frost is now the big danger.  For the few weeks after bud break frost is our biggest concern.  If the buds freeze, the shoot dies and we will get a smaller crop. We will not be "out of the woods until something close to May 1.

This past week, we had three days in which the temperature got below freezing.  Fortunately it never got below 31 and it only got there for a couple of early morning hours. 28 degrees is the real danger point.

Frost Fans. Many of the vineyard is the valley have frost fans -large propellers, mounted atop large steel poles to circulate the air mix warm upper air with the colder air near the ground. The are propellers like you would see on a large old airplane, powered by and old V-8 car engine running on propane from tanks located in the middle of vineyards.

So on a number of nights this past week we were awakened around 4AM with frost fans all over the valley sounding like an entire squadron of large helicopters circling the valley. Just part of the risk of farming and the Napa Valley life style.

Lake Cynthia a heat-sink. We don't have any frost fans on our property because Lake Cynthia, which sits in the middle of our vineyard has about 15 surface acres.  It warms up during the day and at night as the surrounding cold air sinks to the lake surface it is warmed and circulated substantially reducing our risk of frost damage.  It seems like we made it through the last week just fine and we will keep our fingers crossed for the next couple of weeks.

Dry Winter followed by a wet cool March. We did have a very dry winter and a warm February that had everyone worried, but March was cool and wet.  We received about 8 inches of rain during the month and another inch and a half are scheduled this week. This is the ideal time of the year to get the rain so everything seems to be on track and we are smiling.

Concerto Release Completed.  This last week we also completed the release of our 2008 Concerto Napa Valley To Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. A spectacular wine that we will talk more about later. It is only available direct from the winery so if you are not a wine club member and didn't get any, contact the winery.

Visits, Tours and Tastings are by appointment only.  Schedule an appointment by calling 707-225-2276 or by e-mail at You can visit our winery website here.  And you can take a virtual tour of our vineyards and winery here.  


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