Every year, there's one day where all of a sudden it feels like spring. This year, that day is today. After a week of storms, and a month and a half of cloudy, wet, cool and often cold weather, today the sun is out, the air is soft and warm, and it feels like the cold rain of this past weekend was weeks ago. The vineyard is still almost entirely dormant, but with all the water in the ground, the long sunny days, and temperatures which are forecast to hit 80 degrees this week, it won't be for long.
But the recent wet, cold weather has done its job of setting the vineyard back by a few weeks. This means a shorter frost season, though we'll still be sweating the next six weeks. By contrast, in 2009, the vineyard was at a similar stage on March 3rd... nearly four weeks ahead of this year. And it was 2009 when we saw our most damaging frosts since 2001.
I decided to take a walk in the vineyard, and I was blown away with how beautiful it was. All the rain we've received this winter (nearly 35 inches, 125% of normal) has produced a terrific wildflower season, and the cover crop is knee-high and growing fast thanks to the ground positively oozing water and the long hours of sunlight. The scents of the wildflowers provided a wonderful background to the vineyard walk, like fresh honey with every step. I wish I could have bottled that sensory experience.
Barring that ability (when will they invent scratch-and-sniff computing, anyway?) these photos will have to do. First, my favorite photo that I took, with the soft blue sky, the yellow-green of the cover crop and the explosions of wildflowers:
The ground was so wet that springs were seeping out of hillsides everywhere. One of the biggest is below, just west of the winery in the Chardonnay block:
The mustard is out in force. Hillsides that are entirely native grasses are yellow blankets at this points, and even in the sections where we've seeded with a cover crop, plenty of the mustard sneaks in. Two photos, first a closeup in a section we did seed:
And next from an unseeded block:
We're a little early for the California poppy (our state flower) but there were a few, blazing like orange neon in the sun:
The other major native wildflower is a pretty purple one we've been seeing more and more of in the vineyard over recent years. It's lower-lying, often obscured by taller grasses and mustard but covering the ground in areas where those don't grow well:
The contours of the hillsides are emphasized at this time of year, since the vines are still dormant and in neat rows:
The wildflowers aren't the only thing in bloom. I leave you with a photo of the flowerbursts from one of the cherries that we planted on the terraces above the winery, bright white against the blue sky: