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Bud break is taking place on chardonnay, sangiovese, and primitivo varieties at Garré. Pictured is the Reserve Chardonnay. (Photo - Tami Kelly)

Vineyards all over the Livermore Valley are bursting forth with the beauty of spring, and the first sign of life returning to dormant vines. Bud break is typically first seen in Chardonnay, that harbinger of spring, that promises us a golden reward come fall.

Among the first to check in with Tami Kelly at the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association was Amanda Smith, who handles social media for Crooked Vine & Stony Ridge Winery. She reported that the Sangiovese vineyard in front of the tasting room was bursting forth with the pretty pink-tinged greenery of first leaf. The buds are not unlike pussy willows, as they swell and suddenly unfurl the tiny leaves waiting inside.

Garré Winery also chimed in early, with reports of Chardonnay in the estate vineyard leafing out, as did Dane Stark of Page Mill Winery, who saw bud break in the Chardonnay at Chandler Vineyards.

Rick Corbett of Crooked Vine/Stony Ridge says it’s always exciting to see that Sangiovese vineyard waking up. A couple of longtime club members make wine from it, and he says it’s really good. Rick’s son, Eric, who manages the Del Arroyo Vineyard, reports that several other varieties are joining in the party there, including Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Nothing much is happening in the Ghielmetti Vineyard as of yet.

At Concannon Vineyard, winemaker James Foster, reports the Chardonnay and the Viognier are leafing out. Things are running about two weeks behind last year, says Foster, due to the cold weather in March and the early spring rains.

Aaron Luna, General Manager/Winemaker at Fenestra Winery reports the first Rhones to be bursting forth at their estate vineyard, with Grenache and Syrah leading the charge. They are leafing out a few days later than last year, but compared to 2017 and previous drought vintages, says Luna, they are 2-3 weeks later. Fortunately, they had finished all their pruning prior to bud break.

At Wente Vineyards, Niki Wente says, “We are seeing bud break mostly in Chardonnay and a few other varieties, but it’s pretty scattered. Last year we were about two weeks later than average, this year is not quite as late but still about a week later than average. All pruning was finished before bud break. We purposefully prune varieties and blocks that are prone to early bud first.”

Pat Heineman of Bent Creek Winery observes that bud break is a little late for them this year. “Only our Syrah has some buds.”

Farmed organically from the very start, Retzlaff Estate Vineyards reports bud break in both the Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Salome Garau-Taylor says this is later than last year by a week or so.

Out at Galles Vineyards, Harry Galles notes, “Bud break has started in most all the white varietals. It is just beginning in the red varietals. Bud break in the red varietals is a little like when they are ready for harvest: some break earlier and are harvested earlier, but it depends on specific location, temperature and weather. Red bud break is one to two weeks later this year than last. Not sure about whites. I believe everyone was pruned before bud break.”

Sblend Sblendorio of Sblendorio Estate & Vineyard, observes, “Bud break in our Chard is barely underway, about three weeks behind last year. No break yet in our Zin.”

With all the rain this week, one wonders what the rest of April will bring. One thing is for certain, the sheep grazing in the Page Mill Vineyard right now, will have lots of fresh grass, clover and other cover crops to munch on for the next couple of months. One hopes that the weather during vine flowering will be conducive to decent fruit set. Time will tell. For now, get out and experience the spectacular wild flowers that grace the hillsides.

Wildflower & Wine Walk at Charles R Vineyards

Saturday, April 13, 11:00 am to 2:00 pm

Join Charles R family member, Karen Bartlett McLeod, for a Wildflower and Wine Hilltop Walk this Spring. The tour will start in the Charles R Tasting Room with a food and wine pairing, then walk the trail up the hillside where Karen will share family stories. View wildlife, flora, fauna and the incredible views from the top of the hill. There will be three more wine and food pairing stations as you walk around the hill top, and the hike will end back at the tasting room with some Port and decadent bites. Club Members $25, Public, $35. Buy your tickets today at www.brownpapertickets.com or call 800-838-3006. 8195 Crane Ridge Road, Livermore, www.charlesrvineyards.com.

14th Annual Bras for the Cause

Tri-Valley SOCKs Breast Cancer Walk

Saturday, April 13

Join Charles R in support of Bras for the Cause, Quest for the Cure. The Charles R Team will walk in support of their Wine Tasting Associate, Barbara Roudebush, a breast cancer survivor, with Team Captain Jean Krahulec. For information about joining the team, contact Jean at jeankrahulec@gmail.com. There's a Bra Decorating Contest. Categories include Best Brozier, Best Electric Light Show, Most Creative Team Safari, Most Inspirational, Best Show Stopper and more.

Support Tri-Valley SOCKs in other ways. Charles R will be supporting the Cause in the tasting room on April 13th, and will donate $5 for every bottle of wine purchased. A donation jar will also be available in the tasting room. There will be a display of decorated bras from previous walks. To join or sponsor the Charles R Team go to www.trivalleysocks.org.

Congratulations to Brent Amos of Las Positas!

In recognition of their fine performance at the recent San Francisco Chronicle Competition, Las Positas Vineyards was presented an award on the state capital's Senate floor by Senator Steve Glazer, followed by a reception celebrating the SF Chronicle Red Wine Sweepstakes winner, the Las Positas 2016 Malbec.