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Hoke

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In this season (warning: bad prose; read at your own peril)

by Hoke » Wed Oct 25, 2006 2:51 pm

The overlooked season of the vine…

In the seasonal cycle of the vine, Spring is accompanied by understandable excitement. It’s flowering, it’s bud break, it’s rebirth, when the vine comes out of dormancy and all that’s green is gold (Thank you, Gerard Manley Hopkins). Old gnarled dead and decapitated wood blossoms with life and color and vigor. The force through the green fuse drives the flower (Thanks, Dylan. No, not that one. The other Dylan.)

Early summer is a time of liveliness, when the vine explodes up and out of the earth and reaches for the sky. Then reaches back down to hug the ground, if it can, gravity being what it is, and the vine being what it is. What will be grapes are tiny little green berries, like clusters of buckshot hidden within the burgeoning foliage, uninteresting to anyone as yet, even the vine.

Late summer is the magic of veraison, when the vine shifts from leaves and expansion to fruit and contraction. For the vine, it’s propagation. For the winemaker, it is the final precursor to wine. The hard green berries flush and ripen and take on shape and color. They hang heavy on the vine, with promise of pleasures to come. Pregnant with promises, one might say (groan).

Then it is harvest time, when the supple branches lignify, turning brown and stiff, like old bones, and the leaves begin to curl and thin and droop and wither, and all that’s left of life force goes into those fat and glistening grapes. And it’s dash and fervor in the vineyards. Hurry, hurry, hurry. Get it all in. Quick. Check those sugars. Again, again. When do we pick? Look at the sky; does it feel like rain to you? Is it a good year? So far, I mean? We can’t wait any longer. Can we wait a little longer? Let’s pick.

But when the passion and fury of harvest and crush subsides, when the must is in the tank and barrel, the vineyards are forgotten, an afterthought.

The still, quiet vineyards take on a different beauty though. Silent, shorn of fruit, they are at their most colorful and variegated when their arteries begin to harden, all mustard and russet and pumpkin orange leaves in the last flair of life, bare scabrous vines and forlorn branches with gnarled, arthritic fingers below and spidery, leaf-lorn canes above, rattling in the wind.

It’s a somber time in the vineyards, this time of dormancy and death and winter’s sleep, when the days are shorter and sunlight scarcer, when skies are gray and heavy with the promise of the long rains to come. But even as the vines die their colorful little deaths and the rains come, the ground quickens and greens in contrast, for the long summer drought is over and ‘golden’ California becomes lush again. The dry, dusty soil becomes spongy and resilient again underneath and around the old skeletal vines and earth recharges itself.

And so a new season of the vine begins.
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Howie Hart

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Re: In this season (warning: bad prose; read at your own peril)

by Howie Hart » Wed Oct 25, 2006 3:20 pm

Very well done, Hoke! 8)
Around here one would have to account for the vines being covered with snow drifts. Cab Franc is being harvested locally this week and a large percent of the Vidal and Riesling is still on the vines, waiting for the deep freeze that yields ice wine.
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Steve Edmunds

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Re: In this season (warning: bad prose; read at your own peril)

by Steve Edmunds » Wed Oct 25, 2006 4:35 pm

Here's something from my newsletter in the Fall of 1998:

Wine is a bridge between the two worlds, the living and the dead. Harvest is a story of death, of profound undoing. The grapevines, which began to grow as the winter faded, opened into the morning of Spring and pushed forth green shoots, and the shoots opened into leaf and stem, then into flower and tendril. The flowers opened into fruit, and the shoots grew long and the vines became dense and laden with fruit, and the fruit changed from green to black and swelled with juice and grew sweet in the sun- a pinnacle!
And one cool morning, the fields thrummed and creaked with the labor of pickers, the flash of picking knives, the thumping of cluster into bucket, the snap-cracking of canes, the rumbling of truck engines, the swelling and fading human voices. Then, in silence, the year was cut off, the season spent, the leaves yellow, fallen, the swarms of starlings crying out for the lost fruit, for the dying sun. It was over. So fast. What had taken such a long time to grow and mature, to become--gone! Just like that!
I don't know just how I'm supposed to play this scene, but I ain't afraid to learn...
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Hoke

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Re: In this season (warning: bad prose; read at your own peril)

by Hoke » Wed Oct 25, 2006 4:47 pm

See, yours is way better, Steve.

Fewer words, better and more concrete images, less episodic and more unified and flowing. And beter choice and reliance on powerful active verbs too.

And you caught the death-in-life theme waaay better than I did...by starting with the winter and seguing into spring and coming full circle again.

Good stuff, Steve.
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Steve Edmunds

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Re: In this season (warning: bad prose; read at your own peril)

by Steve Edmunds » Wed Oct 25, 2006 6:01 pm

Yeah, but I liked yours, too. Especially the part about the rain, and the long Summer drought being over...
I don't know just how I'm supposed to play this scene, but I ain't afraid to learn...
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Florida Jim

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Re: In this season (warning: bad prose; read at your own peril)

by Florida Jim » Wed Oct 25, 2006 6:22 pm

Mighty pretty, boys.
Both of you.
Best, Jim
Jim Cowan
Cowan Cellars
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Re: In this season (warning: bad prose; read at your own peril)

by Bob Ross » Wed Oct 25, 2006 6:29 pm

Good stuff Hoke and Steve. Thank you very much. Regards, Bob
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Lou Kessler

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Re: In this season (warning: bad prose; read at your own peril)

by Lou Kessler » Wed Oct 25, 2006 9:10 pm

Good reading Thanks
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Re: In this season (warning: bad prose; read at your own peril)

by David M. Bueker » Wed Oct 25, 2006 9:23 pm

Nice stuff...but channeling Covert?? :wink:
There behind the glass lies a real blade of grass. Be careful as you pass. Move along. Move along.
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Lou Kessler

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Re: In this season (warning: bad prose; read at your own peril)

by Lou Kessler » Wed Oct 25, 2006 9:25 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:Nice stuff...but channeling Covert?? :wink:


Covert that lucid?
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Victorwine

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Re: In this season (warning: bad prose; read at your own peril)

by Victorwine » Wed Oct 25, 2006 10:10 pm

Nicely done Hoke and Steve!

Salute

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