While bud break was earlier in the San Joaquin, it was as much as two weeks later than last year in the Central Coast vineyards of Laetitia Vineyard and Winery near Arroyo Grande, Calif. By the third week of March, the shoots of Chardonnay vines on lighter textured soils had pushed out an inch or less.
“The first signs of clusters are just becoming visible,” says Lino Bozzano, vice president of operations. “The bud break has been pretty even and the vines look great.”
He’s responsible for 620 acres of vines at two locations – one in the Arroyo Grande Valley in the coastal foothills of southwestern San Luis Obispo County and the Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard in Santa Barbara County.
Although Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are his two main varieties, Bozzano also grows 18 other varietals.
With warm weather towards the end of March, buds on his latest-budding variety, Cabernet Sauvignon, could begin opening in the second week of April, Bozzano notes.
Like many others, he has applied a dormant irrigation to fill up the soil profiles. Typically, the vineyards receive rain from October through April, with most of it falling in December, January and February. This winter, however, rainfall totaled only about half the usual amount, he reports.
Bozanno and his crews have turned their attention to frost protection. To augment the wind machines, they’ve been mowing cover crops in the more frost-prone areas of the vineyards much shorter this year than they have been.
“We used to let the cover crop grow much higher in the spring to produce more biomass,” he says. “Now we’re doing more mowing to reduce the frost risk.”
With his semi-permanent cover crop program, he incorporates the vegetation as green manure and re-seeds every four years. In some areas, he complements the legume-grass stands by seeding a wildflower mix in every 10th row. “The wildflower species are designed to attract beneficial insects, such as green lace wings, lady bugs and mealybug destroyers,” Bozanno says. “We’ve had a lot of success attracting predators like these to help control harmful insects.”
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