It's not nearly time for bud break yet, but I think my baby vines are alive because the buds are starting to "push". Once daily temperatures regularly hit 50°F, and they have been, grapevines start to come out of dormancy. Left is an ultra-closeup of a bud that is enlarged and fuzzy. 5 of the vines look pretty good, which is the good news. The last one, one of the Pinot Noirs, has fewer, and smaller, buds but still shows signs of life so it'll hopefully catch up with a little extra TLC.
While I'm waiting for some exciting mini-vineyard action to happen, I'm reading From Vines to Wines by Jeff Cox. No, I won't be making wine, but there's a lot about viticulture as well as dealing with the juice, which I will be doing. I think it would be an interesting read even if you don't intend to grow vines, both because Jeff has an engaging writing style and because wine -- even if you don't personally imbibe -- plays a role in modern as well as ancient society. There are other interesting tidbits, as well: for example, I was not aware that the juice from red grapes comes out nearly clear, so the grapes are first crushed and the skins are allowed to stew with the juice for about a day so that the colors can bleed into the juice. Much of the complex flavors of wine come from the skins as well -- wines from grapes picked and directly pressed without crushing are (at least, according to Jeff, as I have no personal experience in this area) "light" and "clean" tasting, but lacking in depth of flavor. Even white grapes are sometimes often crushed and allowed to sit for 8-16 hours before pressing to enhance flavor, though like apples, white grape juice can actually turn brown from oxidation if left exposed to air for too long. For vintners (winemakers) this is not a problem as the subsequent fermentation by the yeast generally clears it up, but it will be a potential issue I will need to avoid.
In short, this whole business turns out to be a bit more complex than I anticipated, but I'm still looking forward to everything from cultivating to bottling. If anything I now appreciate the high prices for vitis vinifera juice... perhaps they really aren't gouging after all.