The noble vine: a benchmark of life

Budding grape vine in California

Unless you are a vineyard manager, winemaker or student of viticulture (grape growing), you probably don’t have an up-close-and-personal bond to the grape vine. Allow me to stretch your appreciation of this noble plant.

Green Wine Country by Green Traveler GuidesGrape vines are as old as the hills! Well, not quite. While they can certainly live to be over 100, it’s not so much their age that fascinates me—it’s the cycle they have found to do their thing. Grape vines are more like trees than other edibles planted in tended rows. Plant a vine and watch it grow year after year, just like your kids. Veggies, on the other hand, are usually good for a season and poof! Gone until planted again. It’s a different dynamic.

Grape vines have a defined cycle that varies based on geographic location, weather conditions, soil type, grape variety and more. In Northern and Central California the life cycle begins around April with new bud growth; then fruit formation and development; on to harvest in late summer; then time off for winter as the vines go dormant. The life cycle starts up again come spring and goes for another century or if we treat the vine with respect.

Ancient syrah vine in March in Napa Valley, California

Ancient Syrah: March

Each of the milestones (rebirth, growth, harvest and rest) in the vine’s life cycle is an opportunity to celebrate our own lives in the context of nature. I encourage you to stop what you are doing find a vineyard to watch. If you can’t, don’t worry. My plan is to track the growth of this mature Shiraz/Syrah vine each month throughout the year.  We can watch is grow together.—Roger Archey, Contributing Editor