A lingering bud break question this year for California grape growers: What will the impact be on this year’s crop from poor weather at last year’s bud differentiation?

Randy and Brad Lange of Lodi, Calif., suspect cold, rainy weather last spring may have disrupted development of this year’s fruit buds.

To compensate, pruning crews left more fruitful buds on the canes this past winter.

“If we have a great berry set when the vines bloom in May, and it turns out that we shouldn’t have left that extra bud wood, we’ll go back in and thin the crop,” Randy Lange says. In the meantime, more bud wood serves as insurance against an otherwise smaller crop.

The Lange twins offered their observations in an electronic newsletter,GrapeLine, produced by Western Farm Press. Mailed twice monthly through September, the enewsletter is sponsored by Chemtura AgroSolutions.

The Langes were featured in a late March edition of GrapeLine. They talked about some of the practices they utilize to produce wine grapes from the 8,000 acres of vineyards in San Joaquin, Sacramento, Yolo, and Solano counties.

Peter Vallis, executive director of the San Joaquin Valley Wine Growers Association, talked about promising marketing prospects for San Joaquin Valley grape growers in the same enewsletter.

Association members produce grapes from 150,000 acres of vineyards stretching from the Tehachapi Mountains in the south to Stockton, Calif., in the north.

Growers are hopeful about 2011. “They’re optimistic and starting to get kind of bullish on the market for their grapes,” Vallis says. “They’re starting to get their swagger back — and that’s good.”

This confidence has been instilled by recent changes in the buying habits of wine consumers. Reacting to the troubled economy, they’re buying lower-priced bottles of wine.

“I’m very optimistic about the strong demand for valley grapes,” Vallis says. “Regardless of the variety, the outlook for all of them looks positive.”

Madera County, Calif., grape grower Carson Smith said bud break was a bit behind due to cold weather, but he expects vines to catch up as the weather warms.

He is also optimistic about this year’s marketing prospects. “Wineries are inquiring about buying grapes earlier in the year than in the past five years,” he says. “Also, some wineries are making long-term planting contracts. They must think things are looking good, at least for the next several years.”

You can read more about what these California grape industry leaders have to say by visiting back issues of GrapeLine at http://subscribe.westernfarmpress.com/subscribe.cfm?tc=NNWEB where you can also subscribe to future, exclusive in depth issues.