Winter Solstice – Mother Nature Transitions
The quiet and restful time of winter is upon us as Mother Nature transitions to preparing her bed to sleep…the leaves have fallen, the air is cold, the light is low, and the baby bears, mama bears and dancing bears all intuitively begin their quest for slumber. The Sta. Rita Hills wakes up on a cold, early morning with a layer of light frost on the ground, the poplars along our driveway are practically barren and we see our warm breath as we don our down jackets and head out to walk the land.
Today marks the Winter Solstice, the pivotal time when the sun travels the shortest path through the sky, resulting in the day with the least amount of sunlight and the longest amount of darkness. Derived from the Latin word ‘sol’ meaning ‘sun,’ and ‘sistere’ meaning ‘to stand still,’ the Winter Solstice is a time to pause and rest, reflect and renew…preparing for the return of the light, which gradually lengthens each passing day.
As many of us are experiencing the frenzy and joy of holiday shopping, travel and celebrations, we move counter to the rhythm of Mother Nature, whose focus is to go inward at this time. Nature knows what she’s doing, and doesn’t get caught up in half-price sales or shipping delays. It’s beautiful to witness the transition of the vines as we walk among the rows – after an intense focus on growth prior to harvest, the vines have exhaled…the fruit and leaves have fallen, and they intuitively prepare to rest.
Ah…the wonderful activity of sleep. Creatures great and small need sleep this time of year, and some of us are just starting to catch-up after harvest. Just like hibernating bears, the vines have the same natural reaction to the season – in the plant world it’s called going “dormant.” This period of rest is vital to the vines’ health…the slower metabolism during dormancy allows them to stockpile carbohydrates to get through winter and into spring, when they will awaken renewed and ready to grow once again.
As farmers, our biggest input towards the health of the vines at this time is to nurture the soil, by planting and maintaining a cover crop. Like tucking your child into a cozy bed of warm blankets, we prepare the soil so the vines have the healthiest bed to rest as well. Using a blend of four legumes and one grass to build organic matter into the soil, once the cover crop is planted, we do a rain dance and celebrate when it starts to “look like rain and feel like rain.”
While the vineyard is settling into a time of rest, there is plenty of activity happening at the winery. We’ve got the fireplace warming up the tasting room, heaters outside on the patio, and many sunny winter days sprinkled in between rain, offering plenty of sunshine to welcome our guests to sip and savor during this cozy and beautiful time.
We wish you a restful and renewing Winter Solstice…and look forward to the return of the light in the new year.