The Art of the Vineyard


We like to think, perhaps too often, of wine being an "art". It could be fairly said that this comparison is often overused. However, what you don’t hear all that often, but which strikes me even more as having true qualities of art, is the vineyard.
I was up early today running errands. On my way to Santa Rosa in Sonoma County I drove past Matanzas Creek Winery in Bennett Valley, a sub-appellation of Sonoma Valley (and really a world apart). I noticed that Matanzas had finally gotten around to replanting a vineyard that had held the same vines since around 1980. It had mainly been Chardonnay and Merlot. I suspect at least more Merlot was planted given that winery’s reputation.

The vines were small, recently planted, laid out in perfectly straight rows, enclosed in milk-carton like boxes with the top of their shoots poking up through the milk cartons that protected them. There were acres and acres of new vines. The vertical steadfastness of the stakes, the splash of identical white splotches of the milk cartons and the spike of green, covering acres, delivered a really entrancing geometric design…it was artful.
The geometric quality of the vineyard, with it’s straight rows and even spacing between them, makes this a familiar sight in wine country. Each vineyard is somewhat different however, with some rows reaching up over hills, some with wider spacing, some with different trellising, and in some vineyards seeing rows going on at different angles.

Then you have the seasons. In the winter it is the bare bones of the vines that make up the spines of the vineyards, giving the geometry of the spaces a somewhat morbid quality. Yet in the fall, many of these well aligned pieces of art take on amazing splashes of gold, red, yellow and crimson, particularly among the older vines.
In my view, it is far easier to see art within the vines than in a glass. The art of the vineyard seems truer to me; more literal, more mathematical than the art in the glass.

If you are around Sonoma County, take a drive out Bennett Valley road and grab glance at the new Matanzas Creek vineyards. And keep your eye out for the art of the vineyard whenever in Wine Country. It is, perhaps the basis of the beauty that is Wine Country

Posted In: Culture and Wine


2 Responses

  1. A Fool in the Forest - July 27, 2005

    Wine Wins Poll Position in Beverage Derby

    The Los Angeles Times on Monday reported on a Gallup poll in which wine finally edges out beer as the drink that American drinkers most frequently drink. In proper Times fashion, the story is burdened with an inexplicably arch tone

  2. Cork Tease - August 4, 2005

    Grapes As Poetry

    This is a really lovely description of the way a vineyard can be turned into a work of art. Read it for inspiration and also for appreciation of all the hard work that is going into that bottle!

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