Spring Season In The Oak Knoll District

posted in: Biale Buzz | 0

March 2019

Hard not to talk about the weather these days. I’m really enjoying this big, fat, drought-buster sandwich – with lots of sprouted greens and extra mustard! And, it all tastes even better with this hefty pour of the freshly-bottled, bubble gum-shaded ’18 Rosato of Sangiovese! Nice job, Tres! Perfect match.

(David Collier Photography)

You can just feel and listen to the valley coming alive again, nourished by life-giving rains that kept on giving—like a generous bartender pouring refills. After half the decade feeling like it wasn’t going to ever rain again, things have completely turned around with two successive years of heavy winter precipitation–just like the good old winter days I remember growing up in Napa: stuck indoors for an eternity not being able to ride bikes, shoot baskets, play catch and do all that back yard, mayhem boys stuff that Bob and I used to do in an era free of social media and digital virtual warfare.

The valley floor vineyards are deeply carpeted in cover crops of beans, green grasses and the strikingly brilliant yellow mustard rise as high as the vines themselves. Mountainsides that only a year and a half ago were scorched grey and black by wild land fires have now morphed back to emerald. Old vines look their best among the colors with thick, weathered trunks and gnarly arms on full display for us to marvel at their longevity and history.

Locals take the drive up to Lake Hennessey to see the spillway surging with white water then to Lake Berryessa to gawk at the mesmerizing Glory Hole–the ominous huge drain by Monticello Dam that keeps the water from rising too high. Teams of pruners have descended upon the vineyards across the valley and up the mountains to perform the peaceful and purposeful task of cutting back last year’s growth. The beauty, fertility, and resilience of this incredibly gifted and abundant place on Earth the natives called Land of Plenty long before the settlers got here never ceases to amaze us.

The rains not only put on a springtime show, but with all the spectacular above ground beauty, vineyard people’s thoughts return to dirt as the soils are the cradle of great wines. The soil is a hidden universe of bacteria, fungi, root systems, and a crazy zoo of critters invisible and crawling that play together and feed off each other to contribute nourishment to grapevines—and our gardens. A single teaspoon of healthy soil is known to contain a billion bacteria! Our cover crops and the wild mustard grab nitrogen from the atmosphere sequestering natural fertilizer. Enzymes wake up as the soil begins to warm, sap starts to rise in vines, tiny buds begin to swell and soon tender new growth emerges.

Rainfall is the catalyst of it all.

2019 is off to a spectacular and healthy start and the vintage has begun. Time to go outside, ride bikes, revel in nature’s gifts and wonders. As for us, we’re sharpening pruning shears and readying the tractor, time to get back to work making memorable wines!

-Dave Pramuk

(David Collier Photography)