The Aroma of Industry

I’ve actually lived in a number of locations where you could actually smell the industry that drives the economy. When the right combination of wind patterns and industrial output comes together you know what kind of industry is driving the local economy.

I lived in Arcata, California for a few years when I was getting a bachelor’s degree in History at Humboldt State University. Arcata is located in Northern California just north of Eureka. When everything came together just right, the aroma of the pulp mills were inescapable. You knew that the milling and logging industries were up and running full speed.

I had a similar experience today. I was in Yountville in the middle of Napa Valley for an early morning meeting. Upon exiting my car the unmistakable aroma of fermenting grapes smacked me. And I was not at a winery. Actually, I wasn’t next to a winery. In fact, there was no winery in sight. However, that yeasty, grapy aroma that is grape fermentation was in the air.

The harvest in Napa is nearly finished. There are probably some Cab vines up in the eastern hills of Napa that still have grapes hanging on them looking for that extra boost of sugar and flavor. But for the most part the grapes are in the tank. Napa Valley is also awash in fall color. The patchwork of yellow, orange, red, light greens and brown is checkerboxed across the valley now. It’s a beautiful sight. But combine that intense visual experience with the aromas of fermenting grapes and you have no question  what drives the economy of that Valley. You’d know if you couldn’t see the vineyards.

Now’s a great time to visit Napa or Sonoma and drive the backroads, letting the vineyards rush by, watching the shades of fall fade from one hue to the next.


2 Responses

  1. Derrick Schneider - November 1, 2006

    Paper mills wouldn’t be the first aroma that comes to mind when thinking of Humboldt’s economy.

  2. tom - November 1, 2006

    You need to keep in mind that the pulp mill aroma is what one experienced when walking outside. What one experienced indoors, particularly in the dorms….was, well, an altogether more mellow aroma.

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