Very late last fall, we left the already-frigid upstate New York for a weekend in Napa.
During that trip, we visited the Bond-villain-esque Palmaz Vineyards. Almost the entire winery is underground in an 18-story cavern, using gravity to feed grapes and nascent wine from level to level. These enormous fermentation tanks are on a 24-tank rotating rail system so that each can be filled.
Even the dormant vines in “winter” give the setting an idyllic, “classical landscape” look.
I’m very sad to share that my graduate advisor, Prof. Charles B. Harris, passed away yesterday. He discovered the quadruple bond and he taught me how to be a scientist and a mentor. Charles was always so proud of the achievements of his students; we spoke last year after I received tenure and I’m glad I had the opportunity to tell him that he could add yet another successful faculty member to his list of accomplishments. I miss him.
Looking at this picture from the mossy hills of the Bay Area on a misty morning, I’m reminded of his house in hills of Orinda.
Morning outside a classic Airstream camper in California has a lovely glow that reflects off the metal body. As today is Christmas morning, I’ll think of this view as my present.
While the rest of a wine-weekend gang slept in or drank coffee in their pajamas, I climbed the hill behind the house to catch this Saturday morning sunrise over Napa’s dormant vines.
Wine country in the fall is a little slice of heaven. The rain had passed, the last of the fogs and cloud were rolling past the distant hills, and the golden vines are drifting into hibernation for the colder season. Perhaps vineyards are the best combination of the sophisticated and the bucolic. If nothing else, the slightly artificial reality of Napa contrasts starkly with the slightly artificial urbanity of Berkeley.
In between the bouts of rain, we slipped up to wine country this weekend. Autumn is in full swing, and the fields of grape vines have turned to the perfect combination of reds and golds. It’s easy to get lost in those vines, for just a moment, until I popped my head up and took this picture. Across the sea of color, you can catch the hints of other vineyards and hills dotting the countryside.
Today’s shot has some pleasant symmetry to it: the careful lines of the trellises, the interplay between the blue of the sky and the creamy colors of the gravel, and the complete contrast of the curving and unruly hills running behind it all. There’s something personally satisfying about the way humans carve out little areas of neurotically-aligned geometry, but in the end, it’s nothing compared to the scale of the randomness produced by plate tectonics.
Today’s photograph comes from the Spotlight Club tasting room at Robert Mondavi Winery. Everything in wine country seems manufactured to create the faux-rustic, comforting charm; though part of me rebels against being manipulated, I have to admit that there’s a powerful nostalgic feeling summoned when I see big leather arm chairs and maps on the wall and wood-panelled display cases filled with the artifacts of a vintner’s existence. Though the room itself maybe be just as carefully manufactured as some Baroque chamber, the sense of again being a boy in my father’s study is no less potent.