Matt Buoncristiani
March 19, 2021 | Matt Buoncristiani

Spring in the Vineyards

This week has proven very cold for Napa Valley, but not unusual with night temperatures dipping into the 20s F. It is mustard seed season here which means not only gorgeous flowing bright yellow waves amongst the dark gnarly vines, but also many of those vines going through bud break and awakening from their long-dormant slumber.

I was woken this week many nights in a row with the sound of what seemed to be a continuous helicopter at three in the morning hovering close to my home and lasting until sunrise.   Military invasion?   Not exactly!  The sound is normal this time of year as the forty-foot tall steel poles supporting the sharp propeller blades from helicopters lay a continuous watch over its bounty of future grape clusters. These devices are peppered strategically around certain vineyards, running through the dark of night until first light with a sound mimicking a helicopter or small plane.   Why? The cold temperatures (anything below 32 degrees) will basically kill most of the newly formed green growth shoots emerging from the buds. This proven preventative measure pushes the warm inversion layer air down to replace the cold air settling near the precious vines. When the sun rises, the warm rays take over and the machines rest until called upon again at night.  Note: Sprinklers are also used to form ice around the buds thus preventing any temp from dipping below 32 degrees F protecting against severe wilting. Grape buds do not grow back until the next season so it is imperative to protect against cold weather, deer, bear, and wild boar who also like to feast on these tasty sprouts!


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