Autumnal Equinox – Mother Nature Transitions
As we move into the heart of September, the beauty and splendor of this time of year is magnificent to behold. Mother Nature is transitioning from the expansive energy of the summer to the contracting energy of the fall. The vines have spent many months in an intense period of growth…converting energy from the sun, soil, and water…and storing it within the fruit day after day, capturing the characteristics of the growing season.
When the weather starts to change…the air becomes crisp, the wind rustles the leaves, and sunlight starts to shift…the vines, like all of nature, intuitively begin their transition into a period of rest and quietude. From the yellow and red-hued leaves dancing in the wind as they fall to the ground, to the stunning sunrises and soft light at dusk, change is apparent everywhere. As we take note of this time of transition and reverence, we’d like to share with you some reflections from the nature that surrounds us here at Melville.
What is the Autumnal Equinox?
Today marks the Autumnal Equinox…the official beginning of fall. The word “equinox” comes from the Latin word for “equal” and from “nox” meaning night. During the equinox, the sun crosses the “celestial equator,” an imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator. On this day, the Earth’s axis is perpendicular to the sun’s rays, resulting in approximately the same number of hours of sunlight and darkness. The equinox is often depicted with an image of a scale, representing the balance of day and night.
During late summer, the vines plump their grapes with sugars and easily release them when ripe for picking…otherwise, the fruit becomes food for wild animals or drops to the ground and becomes part of the soil. As the intense energy of the final fruit growth is released, the vines give a huge “sigh of relief.” Now they can rebalance and focus energy on other things to continue their lifecycle, such as providing carbohydrates to their roots. Called a “root flush,” the vine sends out lots of new roots – like small hairs you’d see at the end of a carrot. The roots retrieve nutrients from the soil, and like a pre-bedtime snack, fill the vine for its coming winter sleep so that it can withstand the cold.
While grapevines seamlessly make changes to restore balance, this notion reminds us to self-reflect on the types of re-focusing we may need in our own lives – we are inspired by nature to look inward and strive for balance.
Radiate and behold the beauty…
Autumn is possibly the most stunning of the seasons to observe. It’s as if Mother Nature, with a burst of energy from the summer, creates a most glorious finale of expression. Changes are apparent all over our property…from the golden-hued poplars lining the driveway to the morning dew on the ground after foggy evenings. Perhaps the most notable change is the color of the vines – the bright green leaves of summer turn to vibrant yellows and oranges. Temperature, precipitation, and soil moisture all contribute to the change in colors, but the most influential agent is the reduction of sunlight. As daylight lessens, the leaves respond by breaking down the green pigment (chlorophyll), revealing brilliant yellows, oranges, and sometimes reds.
Looking over the terraced hills of colorful vines is truly a feast for the eyes. In pondering this aspect of the season, we are reminded to pause and behold the beauty all around us. Observe the changes happening, feel the wind on your face, take a walk and let yourself be immersed in the transition.
Once the leaves on the vines have turned brown, they are dropped, or “let go.” The sycamore trees in front of the winery also drop their leaves, as do the poplars that line our driveway. These plants and trees know intuitively that to survive the coming winter, they need to let go of the leaves, as it preserves the moisture in their branches and trunk.
For us, it’s quite a pleasure to feel the crunch of the leaves under our boots as we walk around, reminding us of childhood play in piles of fallen leaves. A lesson in impermanence, it is intuitively part of nature to let things go…finish a cycle…renew. Mother Nature reminds us of the things or situations in our personal lives that may need change. Chad’s yearly autumnal lesson in impermanence is his realization of his need to let go of his shorts and switch to pants. Big or small, change is in the air.
Prepare and embrace…
The beginning of autumn is a very busy time for us with harvest, and it’s quite easy to embrace these activities as we anticipate the end-product…wine! However, after all the grapes have been picked, there are still a few things we must do for the land, in order to help the vines get ready for winter. Later in the fall, we will prepare the soil and plant seeds for a new cover crop. Then, we’ll nourish the vines with nutrients through the drip irrigation system – keeping them healthy and ensuring a robust budbreak in the spring. In due time, the vines will transition naturally to their winter dormancy, while we all do a rain dance.
The feel of autumn in our personal lives is similar to what we experience in the vineyard. Like the business of harvest, fall can be quite a hustle with kids back in school, fall festivities, and Halloween around the corner. But as we move toward November, we also get into the mode of preparing for colder weather, the inwardness, and ultimately the gatherings with friends and family over the holidays.
A beautiful time for a visit…
As we look around the property and notice the changes happening every week, we are grateful to witness the transitions of this season, both in the vineyard and from within. Autumn in this area is a beautiful sight to behold, and we invite you to our Sta. Rita Hills estate winery to experience it for yourself. Book a “Beyond the Barrel” tour, or just come get cozy, sip, and relax. See and feel first-hand the abundance of fall colors and textures and find inspiration in the changes Mother Nature so generously provides.