The big trucks are beginning to appear in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County, hauling hoppers which will soon be filled with grapes. In the lower and hotter Napa Valley the harvest, or crush, has already begun, Narrow country road but here only the earliest grapes -- chardonnays and sauvignon blancs -- will be rushed from the vineyards to the wineries. On the beautiful but narrow and twisting valley roads, everyone keeps a sharp eye for trucks.
Despite the appearance of calm in the tasting room, the winery is filled with workers right now, the barrels have been assembled and are ready, the pickers are checking the vines (most grapes will be picked as early White wine grapes in the mornings as possible -- sometimes even at night). They are rushed to the winery, where they are sorted to remove unripe or moldy grapes, rocks or sticks or other unwanted stuff. After they are dumped into a de-stemmer crusher the process of becoming wine really begins.
Before picking begins In this valley the harvest will continue till early November when the last of the cabernet sauvignon grapes will be picked. The vineyards in the area contain grapes of many varieties, including chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, viognier, zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir. Some specialize in one or two varietals, while others may have a half-dozen or more different kinds. The worst threat to these ripe, plump grapes is a hard rain, because the skins of wine grapes are much thnner than table grapes: pounding raindrops can split a grape apart. Right now rain seems unlikely, although heat lightning is forecast; this extra-hot weather has hastened the first picking. Merlot grapes
It turns out that the different varietals vary in appearance as well as taste -- from the tightly bunched pinot pinot noir to the strong local zinfandel, from old rootstock to newly planted vines, and with many different shapes and colors
In Windsor, at the Kendall-Jackson winery, the Santa Rosa Community College has established a demonstration vineyard, with about 26 different grapes displayed in several different pruning styles. We photographed some samples. We were Gewurtztraminer grapes interested to see that these wine grapes seem generally smaller, with thinner skin, than table grapes. The white wine grapes are typically pale green when ready for harvest, while the reds range from a soft crimson to almost black. Some are a combination, like the gewurtstraminer grapes, yellow brown in the demonstration vineyard.
Moneybox at Tomato Heaven It's not only grape harvest time. Farmstands are selling apples and other orchard fruits, as well as melons and lettuce and onions and squashes. Even though our tomato plants are still producing nicely, we were tempted by Tomato Heaven. This stand specializes in heirloom tomatoes, which seem to be this season's most favorite food, and has several varieties for sale.
We purchased a couple of Costoluto Florentino and a couple Black Zebra tomatoes. At least, we think we did -- the stand was completely unattended, but the money box was so cunningly constructed that it made paying money a treat!