SANTA MARIA VALLEY, Calif. - "These vines are in a couple different stages of bud break, this is a swollen bud and there's no green tissue yet", says longtime Central Coast wine grape grower Jim Stollberg as he points to one of the many grape vines he oversees in the Santa Maria Valley, "these buds have opened up and you can see a little bit of pink and green in there that would be official bud break."
Stollberg says the dry, warm winter weather has lulled grape vines into a false sense of Spring.
"We're seeing that definitely in the grapes", Stollberg says, "we're seeing early bud break, we're two to three weeks early depending on the variety."
"Our biggest concern with that is definitely a longer growing season, which increases our input costs, fertilizer, irrigation, all of those things", Stollberg says, "it also increases our potential for damaging frosts."
Right now the forecast calls for steady rain on the Central Coast later in the week.
Growers like Stollberg say too much rain will wash away critically important top soils now languishing on bone dry farm land.
"It doesn't look like it's a damaging storm as far as whether we're going to have erosion issues that sort of thing", Stollberg says, "this looks like it going to be a nice rain with very little runoff and water penetrating which is what we need for the grapes."
Stollberg says because most wine grape vines are more drought tolerant, he does not expect the extremely dry conditions to adversely impact the quality of wine grapes in the upcoming 2014 harvest.Slideshow: Grape Growers Welcome Forecasted Rain