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Napa, at the Threshold of Spring

Today I am reminded why this is my favorite time of year in Napa. While the vines slumber, the rest of the valley moves visibly towards Spring. Already, the mustard lies heavily layered amongst the rows of vines, whose recently pruned silhouettes look like clutching fingers trying to escape their plush yellow beds. Piles of vine canes, the subtractions of last years growth, lie tied and sometimes burning in bundles at the edges of vineyards, and wispy plumes of smoke rise and fade in the still air.

At this time of year, there seems to be no mid-day. The light transitions smoothly from morning to afternoon, and by three, it has all the romance of early evening — slanting low and golden across the fields. Whether in celebration or confusion from this temporal ambiguity we do not know, but the red winged blackbirds punctuate the stillness with their characteristic trills, uninterrupted (for a change) by traffic on Napa’s Highway 29.

Sunny mid-winter days are few in February, and when they do appear, they trick the mind into believing that at any moment, Summer might just burst onto the scene, unannounced. Such days quickly dissolve into a wash of drizzle, but the mustard remains its shiny yellow self, even as the world seems to back off its impetuous flirtation with the season called Spring.

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