Welcome to the Sunstone Vineyards & Winery Winemaker’s Blog. In search for a topic for my first entry, I decided to look to the beginning of the growing season and to bud break as a source of material. The first buds have burst in our upper blocks of Viognier—those blocks ultimately destined for the Linda’s Vineyard bottling.
Bud burst typically occurs in late March or early April at Sunstone, beginning in the Viognier and then moving through the Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon respectively. This order can be influenced somewhat by the timing of pruning, as areas of the vineyard that are pruned early tend to burst bud earlier than might be the case otherwise. At Sunstone, we like to start pruning in the blocks least prone to frost—that means Merlot Blocks A & B. The last varieties to be pruned are the Cabernet Franc and the Cabernet Sauvignon, as they are in a section of the vineyard that is very prone to frost.
Frost, of course, is a constant concern this time of year, when the tender young buds and shoots first emerge from the previously dormant vines and the when the morning temperatures can still be icy cold. Typically, frost season lasts through the month of April, but it is not unheard of to experience frost events as late as mid-May in the Santa Ynez Valley. At Sunstone, we’re fortunate enough to have a vineyard layout that naturally minimizes frost events. Due to the gently sloping topography of our vineyard, cold air literally drains down the hills from the vineyard and towards the Santa Ynez River flood plain below the winery.
So, with bud burst moving quickly through the vineyard and vigilance for frost on our minds, we begin the 2012 growing season—one which we have high hopes for.
- Nick de Luca, Winemaker, April 2, 2012