dormant vineyardJanuary and February are some of my favorite times up in Sonoma. It’s the dormant season for the vines, and by this time they’ve been trimmed, tied and the vineyard cleaned up. That means there isn’t much for me to do but putter around, check on things and enjoy the weather. Oh, I know in some places, Northern California’s rainy season — which can often be like monsoon season — is grumbled about. But in farming territory — especially since we’re farming in what is technically a semi-arid climate — rainy season is always more than welcome. We’re usually wishing we had more of it. Last year was a doozy, one of the wettest in years. This season started out the same way, then got extremely cold, then suddenly flipped into beach weather for the last week. Now the rain is back. Briefly. And I’m told beach weather returns tomorrow for another 10 days. I’m praying for more rain. My vines need to sleep some more and they need lots more to drink.

Another great thing about a Sonoma winter is that, unlike the frozen barrenness of New England where I used to live, it’s one of the most lush times of the year. Most of the trees don’t lose their leaves and some even burst into colorful berries and blooms at this time.

toyon berries

Toyon trees (shown here) and Madrones are especially pretty.

California Bay Laurel

And the California Bays are doing their part. My flower book says Native Americans used these fragrant leaves for an insect repellent.

In this rainy season, everything gets covered with moss and lichen.

moss and ferns

So suddenly a rock can grow ferns.

dogs and mossy rock

Mossy rocks are fun to sniff. Or wee on.

coyote poo

Especially if you sense that a large coyote has been by. And left his calling card.

But you can also stop and smell the flowers. Because a few of the early bloomers have already started. Like Pedicularis densiflora which is better known by its common name: Indian Warrior.

Indian Warrior or Pedicularis densiflora

My flower book calls this "a stout American native found in small bands. Friendly."

Of course, we need to monitor the progress of this season’s wine which has been through secondary fermentation and is now resting in steel tanks. The great thing about wine is that it’s a living thing. It keeps maturing and changing over time. Luckily, our Cabernet and Rosé seem to be maturing toward better and better flavors. Unluckily, we may have left the Rosé on the skins a bit too long. It’s got, let’s say, just a bit too much color.

our rosé in progress

Maybe we'll create a new wine category: Hearty Rosé.

We'll save the wine talk for another time. Some find it boring.

dog in vineyard with approaching storm

Some of us would rather use the time between storms for more exploring.