Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Wine and Your Own Back Yard

This is the Sea Ranch airport, a tiny airstrip on the northern Sonoma coast. When I'm not in LA, I walk around this airport at least once a day with the dogs, or to get my morning coffee from the Two Fish Baking Company, and thought I knew the place pretty well. I know where the poison oak grows, where the deer are likely to jump out at you from behind a stand of coffee-berry trees, and where not to stand on the rare occasions that someone either takes off or lands.

Imagine my surprise when I was prepping for Pinot Days a few weeks ago and heard a discussion of this airport. I was listening to some older podcasts on my iPod and there was the voice of Vanessa Wong of Peay Vineyards explaining its importance during an episode of GrapeRadio that focused on Pinot clones. She explained how the depression at the airport helped to suck cool sea air from the Pacific Ocean and funnel it right up the Annapolis Road to Peay Vineyard grapes. This is what gives Peay Vineyards the right combination of warm days and cool nights to ripen the chardonnay, pinot noir, and syrah varietals that go into their complex and compelling wines. If you look closely at the photo, you will see that the airport is foggy, but that right beyond the airport there are blue skies. That's the ridge, where the Peay Vineyards are located.

Vanessa Wong's remarks were a real eye opener for me. I live in a house without a vineyard in sight. But geography and microclimate are tricky things. For all you know, your housing development is contributing to some far-off vineyard. Do we ever really know how our own back yard is shaping wine all around us? Take the time to find out about vineyards in your area and talk to local growers about the geography and microclimates surrounding where you live. You might just be surprised.

Watching the fog roll in, roll out, roll up to the ridge but not over it--this is one of the major spectator sports at The Sea Ranch. It dictates when you go for your walks, take your swim, drive to town to buy wine, and if you go to the bluff to watch the sunset. Next month, it will determine whether or not we see the Perseid Meteor showers.Now I have a new reason to watch the fog. More important, I will have a new reason to be grateful for it. Every time I round the airport and pull up the collar of my jacket against the chilled, foggy air, I will say a quiet word of thanks as I send it on its way up the road to the Peay Vineyards grapes and into my next bottle of pinot noir.


Orion Slayer said...

This is a cool post! Micro-climates are interesting. What a great way to see the connections between where you live and the grapes you love.

If you want to create your own micro-climate, add a large rock or small hill to your yard. Even that "small" change will cause a micro-climate in your yard as different amounts of sunlight, moisture and wind will be caused.

Gabriella Opaz said...

I agree with Orion. We have created a small garden of succulents on our terrace, and even that has created more moisture. This is also true of the gigantic pool - gigantic may even be an understatement - near our home that when filled has created a completely different micro-climate in our barrio (neighborhood). I love this post and believe we do tend to disconnect from our small world, never quite seeing the interconnection of all things. Fun post!

winedeb said...

I agree with both of you. Just adding water, and a few special plants can bring different life to your yard. You can draw different birds, butterflys, etc. by what you put in feeders and what type of flowers or greenery you add! Thank you Mother Nature!

Dr. Debs said...

Thanks, folks. Knowing that a paved airstrip between me and the ocean helps pinot grapes 3 miles away certainly changed my attitude to it, that's for sure. And the concept of the microclimate is, as you all suggests, confirmation that even small changes lead to big ones.