Monday, November 29, 2010


SOME AUTUMN DAYS, and some days in spring, possess a kind of harmonic convergence. A convergence wherein sun, color, temperature, and clime blends with or attaches to our spirit and we become one. For the lucky among us, these days happen when we have the time to appreciate and enjoy.

Such was the case on a recent Thursday, one just before feast.

IN A TRIBUTARY VALLEY to the Russian River, we found ourselves exploring privately held vineyards laced in and amongst coastal woodlands.

INITIALLY, THE GRADED ROAD divided one varietal from another, but as the glen narrowed we’d find vines on one side and interior live oaks on the other.

EVEN IN EARLY AFTERNOON, the low November sun, taking a cue from Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson, “turned the leaves to flame.”

HIKING WESTERLY, we climbed a ridge where the topography, and, perhaps, the exposure, was less kind to wine grapes. Here, the live oak and black oak canopied the road.

Under foot, evidence of an already wet season sprung from the duff.

Overhead, the evidence suggested that the coastal wetness is a normal occurrence.

Tracing the top of the ridge only for a few yards, the route curls back down into the rolling vineyards.

THE CAMERA I USE is light and small enough to be easily packed for a long trip on the motorcycle. It is a Panasonic “Lumix” (purchased at Costco) with a Leica lens that zooms. It is only slightly larger than a deck of playing cards but it has more capability, I think, than the computer that helped Tom Hanks bring Apollo 13 safely home.  Its ability to take close-ups fools folks into thinking I’m some sort of genius (at least those who’ve not made my acquaintance.) I like a forgiving tool.

THE PATH BACK to our beginning again splits the vineyards. On either side, the red and golden harbingers of winter cling to the vines for perhaps only a day or two longer. “One more good freeze,” we’d been told.

THERE ARE MANY THINGS that man does to the environment that are cruel and ugly. They are done in the pursuit or riches or power. There are a few things that man does – for whatever motivation – that actually enhance the visual. Think of a suspension bridge across the bay or a split rail fence splicing through some pasture land. Perhaps a secondary road that quickly courses out of sight only to reappear atop a distant ridge. I’d suggest that vineyards “laced among woodlands” are among those enhancements.

Particularly on a day when sun, color, temperature and clime becomes one with our spirit.


NOTE:  The Marietta Winery is not open for public tasting or tours.  However, the Bilbro father-and-sons wine-making team produce sought-after reds that are available at finer stores.  The "Church" recommends you begin with a bottle of "Old Vine."  Handcrafted.  Delicious.  Something you'd be "proud to share with friends but affordable enough to enjoy with pizza on a Tuesday night after work."

Acknowledgment: Thanks to owner Chris Bilbro for access to the property - and for the fabulous Thanksgiving repast.

© 2010
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. What a lovely way to spend a day.

  2. It is a lucky parent who has a daughter who is not only a winemaker in her own right, but who also marries into a winemaking family. Loved the photos of your walk.