Vineyard tour - a winemaker's treat to herself

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Vineyard tour - a winemaker's treat to herself

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A big treat for me, any time of the year, is to walk around our vineyards and the surrounding landscape. The seasons vary and the time of the day makes a huge difference.  Right now the small embryos of grape clusters have been through bloom but are still hard and green. The leaves are big and plentiful and it is an ocean of green as you walk between the rows. This time of the year the bees are busy and patches of flowers have come alive, each with a humming chorus. Especially the lavender turns the bees just crazy and they seem drunk as they plunge in. On the other side of the upper vineyard I smell the many flowering trees and the blooming cover crop as well.

Early in the morning I encounter wild turkeys, the grey fox and only occasionally a coyote. The Sonoma jack rabbits are all over the place and when I get close to the edge of the forest there are squirrels, woodpeckers and blue jays. Later in summer the grass gets drier, more yellow and almost white.  You have to start early to escape the heat. Suddenly in July the grapes go through veraison and overnight they turn more translucent, turn a light yellow or red color depending on the varietal. Now they really start amassing sugar. This is when I start checking sugar and pH levels and of course taste the grapes. It is a sticky business, squeezing grapes to check the juice. The smell of grapes being picked and fermenting is everywhere and adding the sounds from tractors, grape trucks and people picking, you now have all your senses activated.

One of my favorite times of the day is when the sun is slowly setting over our ridge to the west and the sky to the east above Mount Saint Helena turns pink and purple. In the fall this is the time of the day when the frogs start their concert and seem to have no end in mind. The fall is beautiful when it comes to colors as well. Dry Creek Valley becomes a patchwork of grape leaves in different colors from pale yellow to deep rust red depending on the varietal. And slowly the leaves fall and we get into the rainy winter months interspersed by days of sun when the naked vines look like sculptures of art.

The vines are pruned and the remaining gnarly, twisted trunks look like they are dead. Then, unbelievably, on one of my very early spring hikes I will see the first little buds trying to push through the seemingly dead wood and it starts all over again.

These are just some of the rewards of walking around the vineyard and the surrounding landscape. Coe and join me some time.

Written by Katarina at West Wines
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