Wednesday, July 27, 2011
This is the same view as above, but zoomed back a bit. Can you see the white cars toward the center right? Then check out the lower vineyard that seems to angle into the Columbia River.
This is a closer view of the lower vineyard.You can really see the basalt in this view.A zoomed back vies of the entire terroir of The Benches Vineyard, with some vines seemingly hanging off the cliffs above the Columbia River.
This is one of the most amazing vineyards I've experienced. The Benches Vineyard on the cliff edge of the Columbia River about 1 hour dusty-road drive from Pasco, Washington. The place is geology exposed raw. See those basalt outcroppings in the detail photos, they are the result of the greatest volcanic event ever on the face of the earth. I read that in some places, the basalt is 2 km deep–which translates to more than 15 American football fields on end.
Then, if that weren't enough, some 15,000 years ago came the Missoula floods. Water more than two American-football-fields-on-end high came gushing through this narrow gap at some 10 million cubic meters per second. That's about 200 oil tanker ships worth per second. I would not be surfing that wave. And those floods happened maybe 40 times.
These benches start at an elevation of 1400 feet and step down 1000 feet to the shore of the Columbia River, providing micro climates at the different elevations (and soils). Thus 15 different grape varieties can be planted. At the top are the cooler white varieties like Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. Midway are the warmer climate grapes like Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. At the lowest and hottest levels are Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Grenache and Malbec. Other more exotic varieties like Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Mourvedre, Dolcetto, Carignane, Barbera and Marsanne are planted in small quantities on various slopes of the vineyard.
Now, that's raw terroir.
Monday, July 25, 2011
The idea didn't sound crazy at 3:04 this morning.
Yesterday I read that plants can distinguish predator insects from pollinators. OK. But get this, plants also give off electrical impulses in response to threats.
To test this, a polygraph expert and former CIA interrogation specialist, hooked up a tropical dracaena–a common household plant–to a polygraph. Then he threatened the plant with a flame. (No water boarding here.) The interrogator reported that the plant displayed the same electrical signals that people do when they lie. Then he tested other plants–from lettuce to bananas. The results were similar.
Initial conclusions for wine lovers:
1) Check out how the vineyard manager and workers treat the vines before buying the wine.
2) Then on a personal note, the next time you walk past a vineyard, don't yell at the vines lest you ruin the future wine.
But wait, there's more.
While researching for my Vineyard Light book, I found that vines and humans have a long history together on earth:
• 130 to 200 million years ago Scientists estimate that Vitis vines first appeared on earth. (That's some serious old vine.)
• 6000 BC Radiocarbon dating of grape pips found near Tbilsi, Geogria. (For Rush Limbau fans, that's not a state in the USA.)
• Ancient Mediterranean cultures believed that the vine sprang from the blood of humans who had fought against the gods. (These predate the Christian Eucharist.)
• 5400-5000 BC Dating of resinated wine in a jar found in northwestern Iran.
• 4100 BC The oldest known complete wine producing facility in a cave outside the Armenian village of Areni.
• 2150-2000 BC The first written accounts of grapes and wine found in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
So if vineyards have coexisted with humans for at least 8000 years, and the CIA-trained interrogator proved that plants respond to stimuli, do the vines then pass on their stimulated responses through their DNA? Is there a collective pool of vineyard DNA response? Is there a collective vineyard conscousness? Have they been watching us humans (with amusement) all those 8000 plus years? Do they have a collective DNA knowledge of the human race?
Finally, can you taste this collective vineyard knowledge/consciousness?
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Some say the deepest insights come during tsunami-sized personal crisis. My wife’s cancer provided that opportunity. A thread of hope pulled a boulder of fear at each step, the suspicious mammogram, the confirming biopsy, the hope-we-get-it-all surgery, waiting in oncology with a room full of dark-eyed women all wearing pull-down caps. We are but small specks in something very immense and mysterious. I wondered how others experienced their pilgrimage through the big unknown.
Inspired, I decided to take a different kind of biopsy. I wanted to take a core sample of humanity from one hundred vineyard workers, winemakers, and winery owners around the world. I hoped this sample could provide an X-ray snapshot of what it means to be human at this moment in history.
Thus every contributor becomes a collective hero, reflecting on his/her personal navigation in minute increments the course of life on spaceship Earth. Vineyard light is a metaphor for the light that shines from the wisdom of travelers who have worked in the vineyard.
But why choose a view from the vineyard? Perhaps rows of vines are to me what Walden Pond was for Henry David Thoreau, a park bench from which to watch life and the universe. Perhaps it’s the same reason that Noah planted a vineyard as soon as the flood subsided. Perhaps the same reason Jesus and Mohammed used the vineyard in their parables. Vineyard roots wander down through at least 7,500 years of human history. What a better perspective on human existence on our planet.
The day is waiting to happen.