Winter’s Dread In Napa Valley
These very short days that we find ourselves in now cast something of a pall over wine country. A dark or tinted light tends to predominate. It's quieter too it seems, though surely it really isn't.
There is a loneliness to the vineyards this time of year. The carcass of the vine is exposed as the leaves fall and the shadows cast by the vines are often longer. Drive by or walk through the Napa vineyards on a day like this and each vine takes on a separateness, rather than the community feel you get when the leaves are full and green and mask the vines' singularities.
The chill adds to the quiet and dormant feel. It's not a cheery or vibrant temperature now. It's very cool. The stillness of the breeze now lets the chill settle around you and the motion of the vineyards is gone, leaving them to carry frost in the mornings that just sits until the sun creeps over the eastern hills and cleans them up.
This time of year always put a certain dread in my mind, despite the real and undeniable beauty that surrounds me in Napa Valley. It's a dread that really only is left behind when the days start to elongate and the buds form on the vines and then finally push as the days become warmer and the sap flows.
This is a good time of year to surround oneself with family, friends and lovers. They keep out the cold and the chill and the dread. This is a good time of year to linger in a restaurant that is warm and dimly lit and to play with the wine in your glass and think long and hard about the cassoulet or the beef bourguignon.Thankfully we have many fine places to linger here in the Valley.
The saving grace is that today is the winter solstice. This is a good day despite the dread and the chill and the loneliness in the vineyards. The days will start to get longer now. More sun.
Sounds like it must have been quite the day at work Tom. Love the post though, I feel the same way. It really is a great time for friends, family, good wine, and good food.
“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” – Albert Camus
I guess I see it differently. The Valley is most green now and as rains come in will be even greener, and the de-leafed vines reveal rhe skill with which they are caretaken and the different options available. I love to drive and see vineyard next to vineyard next to vineyard, displaying the artistry of the choices made. Cold cellars, too, bring their own attractions as white wines finish fermentation and reds get barreled down while blending begins in anticipation of Spring bottling. Yes, it’s great to hunker down with good food and family and warmth, but the Valley is re-charging, and that’s a very good thing.
Happy holidays to you and yours!
Personally, as a transplanted New Englander, I find it hard to complain about California winters. I love that I can go outside without bundling up for an arctic expedition and without having to shovel snow from the drive. The hills are a beautiful emerald green and the sky is a brilliant blue (fog not with standing). But the shorter days and cooler temperatures are a great reason to stay in with a hot toddy and bond with my family and friends. Cheers!
One of the bare winter vine features which even the casual passer-by may notice is the bloc of reds all have reddish tinged canes. Sometimes in summer a hasty glance can fail to reveal what sort of grapes a field contains.
Earlier in winter back to some time in autumn, the grower can study the fall colors of grapevine foliage. The spread of some pests and diseases clearly each have unique patterns; fanleaf, mosaics, mites. The brightest red leafed vine probably has virus problems. The drying leaves in fall are good indicators of vine health in both reds and white varietals.
Besides plant shaping, other cultural practices are much more evident after the leaves all have dehisced.
And, yes, it is nice not to have the bus swoop alongside the curb or the cab zip thru the yellow light where the street has a tendency to be deep and ponding, tossing a wave of slush at the none-too-agile pedestrian patiently waiting for the traffic signal to change; then having to trudge back to the house for a change into non-slush permeated clothes.
Merry Christmas, John. Thank you for all the marvelous comments and best to you and yours!
Hey John and Tom belated Merry Christmas to both of you and advanced happy new year to all of us. I hope next will be a great year for all wine enthusiast out there.
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