Pollock & Vaughn in Carneros

There is no time of year better than this moment (mid to late October) when the vineyardlands of California are more beautiful. What makes them so compelling right now is a rich combination of order and chaos.

Driving though Carneros today I witnessed that annual display of orderly rows of vines cascading up and down knolls and hills all painted by a chaotic wash of greens, yellows and the occasional disease-inspired red leaves.

It is nothing less than stunning.Srvhao_2

Let’s face it, summer in the vineyards is somewhat monotonous from an aesthetic perspective: long rows of near identically green colored vines. Winter, while more interesting in the vineyards with the display of naked vines and their undercarriage exposed, still is not up to duplicating the torrent of beauty this small window in October brings on.

This time of year might be my favorite. I’m also partial to Spring because it delivers both baseball and a fitting climate for the resumption of Rose consumption. But in wine country, Spring can’t match fall for the explosion of beauty that seems to arrive so all-of-a-sudden.

The difference between this season’s vineyard displays and those we find in the late spring to early fall months always strikes me as the difference between Pollock’s most famous works and those of the monochromatic modern artists that emerged in the late 19th century and became most rampant in the early part of the 20th century.

If your inclination is toward music, think jazz vs. Broadway musicals. Digging down further, think Oscar Peterson vs. Bernadette Peters or Stevie Ray Vaughn & Double Trouble vs. Hall & Oates.

Pick your comparison. You get the idea. Better yet, if you are in the region of Northern California get out on the road right now and find a wine valley filled with hills, knolls and moderate to older vineyards. You’ll be inspired.

Posted In: Terroir, Wine Places


2 Responses

  1. Anneliese - October 18, 2007

    It’s true, there is no other time than Autumn to view the vineyards. A total photographic opportunity. Plus, the weather is ideal, especially later in October when fog lays low.
    I didn’t know “red” was considered “disease inspired?” I love those deep dark rich red leaves!

  2. John Lopresti - October 21, 2007

    The red varietals have several autumn tints indicative of virus, but also in the brown color spectrum part of red tinted leaves, coloration as the leaves dry is natural and healthy. Examining leaves closely can reveal a lot about the pruning practices and cropload specific to each branch as well as to each vine. Often a walk thru the vinerows just as leaves are turning can give away the secrets of the tractor implement damage and excessively exhuberant harvesters. I suspect this level of minutia documentation is precisely what the French did with row books for years, where the history of each vine was recorded by the vineyard workers. I doubt the winner of a pruning contest would have a moment to pause and read the individual rowbook so the vines approached would be more individualized, and their seasonal manicures better adapted to each vine’s history, resources, and requirements, as well as responsive to the winemaker’s desires, but that is the panoply of concepts I experience when examining the redvine canopy this time of year. Whites similarly will show by the bright mosaic of red tints in near dehiscing leaves which plants have fanleaf or some other malady. One of the neat aspects of the finally leafless canes is that from the avenue viewed obliquely it becomes easy to distinguish whites from reds as even though leafless and berryless the plants viewed as a bloc have very different hues, the whites’ canes beheld from this perspective seem tan, the red canes’ bark definitely reflecting burgundy colors.

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