Budbreak may be late this year, but now that it's started, it's happening in a hurry. After last week's cool, wet weather, it's turned warm and sunny, with the last two days in the 70s and even warmer temperatures forecast for later in the week. As is usually the case, if the vineyard is delayed and then receives a dose of warmth, it feels like the new growth is exploding out of the vines.
To get a sense of where we are, I spent an hour or so yesterday walking around the vineyard surveying budbreak among the different red Rhone varieties. As I would have expected, Grenache was furthest out, followed by Syrah, Mourvedre and Counoise (in that order). I took some photos of each to give you a sense of how things look. First, the Grenache, leaves and tiny clusters already visible:
Next, the Syrah, nearly as advanced (though, to be fair, this was taken toward the top of our Syrah hill and there were lower Syrah blocks that were less advanced; the photo at the end of the blog piece shows some less-advanced Syrah):
The Mourvedre was very even, with the top and the bottom of the vineyard blocks at similar stages:
The Counoise was still dormant in the cooler spots; I had to trek to the top of our Counoise knoll in order to find even the buds I did find:
It's sad that it's the exception rather than the rule, but several of us have noted how wonderful it is seeing the vines sprouting from buds that we intended rather than secondary buds activated due to frost damage on the primary buds. If the weather forecast holds (and there are few words that are more beautiful than those we saw on this morning's agricultural forecast: "no frost threat for the foreseeable future") we're looking at just our second full crop since 2006, with the vines putting forth extra vigor because of last year's low yields.
The vineyard looks vibrantly healthy, with the cover crop and wildflowers exuberant and lush. The late rain that we received means that visitors to Paso Robles in the busy April and May festival season will see a different landscape than they're used to, one full of greens, purples and oranges rather than yellows and browns. It's a different sort of beauty here in the winter and spring, softer and more accessible. I'll leave you with one photo that tries to do justice to the landscape's beauty. It shows one of the wild lupines that bloom each April, with the cover crop's tall grasses and the Syrah block's rolling contours behind.