Friday, January 1, 2010

Winter's Beauty at Cerro Prieto/ Part 1

Hate winter? Dislike the cold, wet damp that permeates under door jambs and then window sills? Well, join the crowd, but that sentiment of disagreeable winters can be counter-balanced by our spectacular winter beauty.

Now, we're not talking Vail, the Tetons, or Aspen here. I'm talking about the rolling hills and foothills of the Santa Lucia in central coastal California. Yes, as I write this it is cold, grey, damp and ugly outside. Yet, earlier this morning just after first light, the dawn erupted in pinks, orange/blues, and dark blue/purples that literally painted a sky no artist could ever duplicate. Nary a breath of wind...everything still as a stone.

Gradually, as the sun struggled to light up our little corner of heaven, coastal fog started drifting in and grey clouds covered us up. Yesteday noon, however, the Easterlies blew the fog back to the coast(just 15 miles to the west), and the unwelcome bone chilling damp was replaced by a day that was absolutely crystal clear. There to the SE was Black Mountain...35 miles away with its massive antenna, easy for all to see. Twenty miles due south was the Cuesta Grade, clear as a bell and so close it looked like you could just reach out and touch it. Temperatures suddenly went from the low 40's to the mid 60's and it looked like one of our incomparably lovely spring days.

Our home sits atop Cerro Prieto Vineyard, and within 30 feet of our house I encountered 9 different species of mushrooms(none edible to my knowledge), when I walked outside this morning. Wet winters and blips of warm days spark a riotous eruption of mushrooms. We have roughly 5000 Live Oak trees on our 73 acres, all surrounding our vineyards. Over eons, oak leaves and their rich mulch have piled up, especially on the steep north facing slopes, where neither man nor beast disturbs them much. Last year we identified 31 different species of mushrooms plus there were a dozen more left uncategorized.

Visiting friends(one from high school days 50 yrs ago) commented that what we needed was a "pig that could sniff out truffles...or a dog so trained. Prices of truffles are worth way more than your grapes". In fact, until the recent run up in gold prices, truffles were way more valuable, bringing some $800/ pound. Well, I can't see us getting a "truffle sniffing pig" anytime soon, so if we have truffles, they are just going to have to stay put least for now.
(Continued in part 2)

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