As I drove through Napa Valley last week, I couldn’t help but marvel at the new leafing vines. The color of the leaves--a brilliant lime-greenish hue--was amazing.
I also couldn’t help but notice that every single vineyard seemed to be trained and trellised and positioned in a different manner. Some vines were cropped close to the ground, about knee high, facing east to west. Other vines were positioned higher, with a north-south arrangement.
While plenty of different grapes are grown on the valley floor, once you get into the Oakville-Rutherford corridor on Hwy. 29, most of the vineyards are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon. So while nearly everyone agrees this is Cabernet country, there is little consensus about the best way to grow the grapes.
Then my thoughts turned to my own farming endeavors, which are limited to a half-dozen tomato plants in my backyard.
Each year, as the vegetables begin to develop, I tell myself that I’m going to do like the winemakers do and thin my crop for optimal ripeness and to avoid having an excess crop of green, unripe tomatoes when the season ends. Trouble is, I somehow lose sight of that strategy. I hate dropping “fruit,” even though I know it will lead to a better crop and the vines won’t struggle to ripen fruit that will never be picked.
It’s times like this that I realize how agonizing it must be for farmers to thin their crops. Grape growers say that vineyards in Napa and Sonoma are already showing signs of producing a big crop. That means that in the next few months, many growers will be agonizing about leaving half their fruit on the ground, too.
Think about that as you plant your summer gardens in the next few weeks and watch the bounty ripen.
Amy Gardner — Sacramento, CA — April 23, 2007 6:35pm ET
Randy Sloan — St. Helena, CA — April 24, 2007 1:48am ET
John B Vlahos — Cupertino Ca. — April 24, 2007 1:49pm ET
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