Since Thursday night, we've had nearly seven inches of rain at Tablas Creek. We're up over 11 inches for the year, and ahead of what we'd expect on our average 28-inches-per-year pace. Even better, this rain has been spread over four days, giving it time to sink in rather than run off. We're forecast for another dousing tonight, and then it's supposed to be drier though not totally dry through the Christmas weekend.
Looking back through our archives, we don't seem to have a lot of photos of the vineyard in the rain. Apparently, whoever takes the photos (who is that guy, anyway) hasn't wanted to go out and get wet. So I braved the last bits of the storm yesterday to go out and see how the vineyard was faring. First a photo that gives you a feel for the day, from what we call the "New Hill", planted in 2000, looking north down through Grenache Blanc, across head-pruned Tannat and our straw bale barn, and up through our oldest Grenache and Mourvedre blocks:
Though the above photo doesn't show it, our cover crop has been making big strides. The photo below shows it sprouting in the saturated earth:
We've been ripping the earth in our head-pruned blocks to help encouarage the water to drain in rather than run off. The next photo shows how well this worked, with the ripped rows all absorbed and the non-ripped rows with puddles:
The net effect of our efforts -- which include year-long work by Neil, Ryan, David and the vineyard team to limit soil compaction and otherwise encourage healthy, water-absorbent soils -- has been that very little water has drained off. Nearly all of the entire 120-acre vineyard drains into the valley below, at the south-west corner of the property. Even after 6+ inches of rain, the little trickle is all the runoff there was.
I loved the atmospherics of the misty, grey day. I got two photos I particularly liked the feel of. They're below; click on each to get larger even-more-atmospheric versions:
In sections of the vineyard, we've been seeding every other row, and letting the native plants seed the others. At this time of year, the striped pattern that this creates in the vineyard is beautiful. Looking up through the Counoise:
As the weather brightened toward the end of my walk, the areas where the native cover crop has already developed significantly felt like they were glowing. In a Syrah block at the western edge of the property:
I'll leave you with one more photo, of our old vineyard truck parked in front of our straw-bale barn, below the Counoise: