Buds have begun popping all around Santa Barbara County vineyards and the delicate, young shoots are being protected from the morning chill. Continued warmth this week should speed bud break throughout the area. Bud break marks the annual spring season when dormant vines spring back to life, and when grape growers roll out their frost-protection measures as evening and daytime temperatures vary greatly. Last year was a gnarly one for frost and most of the growers are being extra cautious this season. Opening of the buds varies by grape and by climate and location, so Chardonnay in a warmer area will be out way before a late ripener like Cabernet, even more so in a cooler area. Growers use overhead irrigation to coat the plants with a protective layer of water that freezes into ice when the temperature drops, keeping the bud inside the icicle from freezing - think igloo. They also draw warm air out of the atmosphere with wind machines to fend off a freeze. Hopefully this season shapes up to be less punishing than last year, however, a big vintage means lots of supply in a softening market, so let's hope that it is not too big of a harvest. In short, all I am asking for is perfect weather for the next six months and not too little of a crop to keep the growers happy, and not too big of a crop to keep the winemakers happy. Not too much to ask!