Everyone is hoping for more rain, but no frost.

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (March 8, 2021) – As the March calendar approaches, Sonoma County’s vineyards are beginning to wake up after a long, dry winter. The bud break marks the traditional beginning of a new year for 2021, meaning that every day that passes is filled with a task to ensure a better harvest this year.  Since late winter buds occur in a year when more rain is desired, these winter storms also bring the potential risk of dangerous frosts at a time when vines are most vulnerable.  Yet this is the time of year when farmers should be looking forward to the start of a new season.

This is one of my favorite times of the year because the vineyard is a great place to start a new life and make everyone feel optimistic about the great year ahead, said Carissa Kruse, president of Sonoma County Vineyarders.  She went on to say: Interviews with farmers in the area indicate that budbursts are occurring slightly later in the season, closer to the historical norm.  I hope this is a sign of a normal year after all we’ve been through the last few years.

As always, it’s the white grape varieties like Chardonnay that germinate first and vintners are seeing the first signs of budburst, but it’s still early. While the bright yellow color of daffodils and mustard seems to herald the arrival of spring, gardeners will welcome any rain Mother Nature can provide now that the 2021 season officially begins.

Here is some preliminary information on the first tendrils of our ABA vines:

  • Dry Creek Valley – There have been many reports of early bud bursts, especially with Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer.  The general feeling this year is that budburst is a little early, but not too early.  A dry winter has led to fears that the vines could again become too dry and perhaps limit production, but the prospect of the arrival of spring provides renewed optimism for an exceptional year.
  • Russian River Valley – First reports of budbursts starting a little later than last year, but closer to normal. Now that buds are sprouting in Chardonnay vineyards throughout the ABA, the first reports should indicate that Pinot Noir should start soon.  Here, in the Russian River Valley, fears of a dry winter persist.
  • Alexandra Valley – Since the pruning is just behind us, no budburst is expected in a week or more. Overall, budburst is about two weeks later than last year, which is more in line with the norm of recent years.  Cabernet and other red varieties should not sprout for at least 3 weeks.
  • Green Valley – Buds are starting to form in some Chardonnay vineyards, although you have to look a bit to find them. The general feeling is that the timing is quite normal. In the coming weeks, however, buds will bloom not only in the Chardonnay vineyards, but throughout the Green Valley.  A dry winter is the biggest concern, and rain is the worst.  The local gardeners are quietly waiting and enjoying the daffodil paradise!
  • Fort Ross/View – On the coast in far western Sonoma County, cold temperatures have kept the vines awake this winter. Mid-March is the typical start of budburst, this year’s calendar seems normal.  Like everywhere else in the region, Fort Ross/Sea View is very dry.
  • Sonoma Valley – In this winter of low rainfall, some Sonoma Valley farmers are already considering irrigation, earlier than ever before.  The break of the bourgeoisie is fast approaching, but for the moment there is nothing to report.
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