Fog in the Vineyard
February 18, 2009
It's not foggy out at Tablas Creek very often. Our elevation (1500 feet) and the barrier of the Santa Lucia Mountains mean that neither the Salinas Valley fog that settles in areas close to town on summer mornings nor the Pacific fog that comes through the Templeton Gap in the afternoons when we have onshore flow tends to make it out to Tablas Creek. [For a cool photo of what summer fog patterns look like in Paso Robles, check out this animated satellite image of fog retreating up the Salinas Valley.]
What we do occasionally get is ground fog in the winter, nearly always shortly after it has rained. This morning, it was clear in town but when I arrived at the vineyard, the winery was shrouded in fog (though the blue sky was visible through the fog). The effect was cool, so I grabbed the camera and drove up to the top of our highest hill expecting to come out the top of the fog, but it was actually thicker up there than down lower. So I took a handful of shots of the vineyard, several of which I'm pleased with. I've posted the best here; you can look at the complete Fog in the Vineyard album on Facebook.
The first three photos are all in our Grenache blocks up near the top of the tallest hill in the vineyard. First, a photo looking up and west through our oldest section of Grenache. The vines are starting to look mature as they approach 20 years old.
The second photo looks east through a slightly younger Grenache section on the back of what we call Mount Mourvedre.
The third photo shows how variable the fog cover was. It was taken less than a minute after the previous photo, but looks north through the Grenache block rather than east. It also show how much the cover crop has grown even in the last two weeks as we've gotten our first consistently rainy weather of the winter.
Speaking of cover crops, I got a nice shot of a sweet pea, one of the most useful of our cover crop components.
As is often the case, most of the best shots of the fog were taken into the sun. This photo below looks south-east, down the old Grenache block. To orient you, the first three photos were taken from more or less where the road exits the left-hand edge of the frame.
As I was standing at the top of the hill, the fog was rising up to meet me. This photo looks east toward Halter Ranch, and you can see the fog approaching from the south.
The next photo looks north, down through our Viognier block, and shows how thin the veil of fog was, with the hillsides no more obscured than vines twenty yards down the hill. It also shows the two long "kicker" canes that we leave when we prune early-sprouting varietals. These kicker canes sprout first, and delay the sprouting of the buds closer to the cordon by a week or so. It doesn't sound like much, but getting an extra week of frost protection can mean a lot. (We later come through and prune off the kicker canes so they don't sap too much of the vine's vigor.)
Finally, with the fog fully rolled in, the Grenache blocks disappeared, giving a terrific ghostly feel.