Bud break has begun in Columbia Valley, Washington’s largest growing region. Brittany Komm, vineyard operations manager at Sagemoor Vineyards, noted bud break in Chardonnay at Weinbau Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope March 25th.

This is an early start to the growing season, though it is not unprecedented. In recent years, some growers in Washington have noted bud break beginning in late March (2021, 2022). The exceedingly warm spring of 2015 even had bud break in mid-March. However, in other recent years, bud break has not started until the end of the first week of April (2018), in the second week (2017), or even the third week (2019, 2023).

The early bud break means several things. First, there is a longer period during which buds are exposed to frost risk. Washington growers generally say that risk subsides after Mother’s Day (May 12th this year).

Second, the starting point of the growing season generally has something to say about when harvest starts. However, as we saw in 2022, bud break can start, stall, and then wind up being delayed despite an early start. Similarly, in 2023, bud break came late but then heat in May advanced bloom, resetting the season.

This year’s bud break is certainly more highly anticipated than in recent years. Many are anxious to see what pushes after the January freeze event that caused damage in a number of areas in Columbia Valley. However, it will be some time before growers are able to fully understand what buds push through and how fruitful those buds might be.

Overall, while the start of the growing season is always cause for excitement, an early bud break adds to what has already been an anxiety-inducing start to the 2024 growing season.

Image of bud break in Weinbau Chardonnay courtesy of Brittany Komm. 

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