Wednesday, May 7, 2014


St. Helena, CA

The Napa Valley, only 30 miles long, lies in the embrace of the Mayacamas Mountains to the west, and the Vaca Mountains to the east. At its southernmost tip, just above Vallejo, the valley is five miles wide, large enough to contain the city of Napa with a population of almost 77,000. As the valley meanders northwest, the mountains begin to crowd in, and the valley narrows.

Up north here in St. Helena, population 5,909, the valley's so snug that the mountains are in spitting distance on both sides. Something about a valley tucked between mountains summons a primal sense of safety from whatever enemy lurks on the other side.

For the grapevines, that enemy is the scorching heat of the Central Valley to the east and the cooler marine influences to the west, and the mountains serve as a time-honored barrier to keep them at bay. For the humans, this means stunningly beautiful 360º vistas with our crowning peak, St. Helena, just to the north. The valley's charm is not lost on the clouds. Many mornings, they try to creep down the mountains and dwell among us, and who could blame them?

Millions of years of grinding tectonic plates and robust volcanic activity have left the Napa Valley with a diverse topography and a wide variety of climatic conditions, all things that happen to make grapes extremely happy. 

Once again, grapes and I seem to have a lot in common.

Today, I'm grateful for: the fruit of the vine.

MORE: wine country

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