9/11/15

A LITTLE SIP Ought to Be Enough


With this weeks theme for Sepia Saturday being about wine I had to add my two cents since I live in the middle of one of California's premier appellations. There was once a booming apple industry here.

The truth is I live here, but I don't drink the stuff. In fact, I've had it with vineyards and wineries. At times I feel like I'm living in a part of Disneyland with all the tourists flocking here to Winoland. They clutter the roads, my local fruit stand, and my favorite restaurants. And then there are certain vintners who carve up the land destroying the eco systems. Sadly the county lets them get away with it, though there have been a few success stories where neighborhoods have fought having a new winery built in their midst.

Each time I see an orchard being bulldozed I sneer and wonder which corporation or one percenter is going to plant another vineyard. The area is leaning towards becoming a monoculture unless more is done to stop it. The people I know do not want our area to become like Napa. There is hope that as hard apple cider grows in popularity orchards will again be planted. We do still have truck farms that provide produce to stores and restaurants, but they'll never match the miles and miles of vineyards.

Right now the crush is on which means the rush of tourists is also on. With wineries on both sides of me I hear the crashing and banging all day and night. I look forward to fall when the leaves turn golden and red and begin to fall to the ground. Then the tourists will go home leaving the locals once again able to drive into town on a Saturday morning without being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Of course then the ugliness of the vineyards appears. Mile after mile of organized rows and rows of dormant vines strung on wires with their drip tubes hanging down. And more and more vineyards are being fenced in because of theft. A winter vineyard is not a pretty sight.

I love this area and have lived here for a long time, but I hate seeing what's happening to it. It's a beautiful area with wonderful weather, soil, and scenery. But corporations and wealthy individuals see nothing but dollar signs. They swoop in, tear something down, and build something that services the one percenters.

During the nearly 40 years I've lived here I've seen dramatic changes and I admit I worry that it will become unlivable with the constant influx of city folk wanting a house in the country…as long as they can have the dirt road paved.

And if you do come as a tourist and plan to visit wineries here's one tip for the ladies: you're not in the city, don't wear high heels. Dirt roads and gravel will not be kind to you. If you really must wear high heels stay over in Napa where you'll find a lot of pavement.

I doubt the fellas below are having sips of wine. I'm betting they were downing something naughty during prohibition. An empty bottle with no label means they had a wink wink way of finding their favorite beverage.



I know this sounds like an unkind rant, and to a certain extent it is. But for anyone who lives in an area where tourists swarm, I think you'll understand that when a community caters to outsiders a bit of the soul of the community disappears.

I'm happy to say I live in an organic apple orchard with some very old trees. I'll let the next caretakers of the land decide if they want to follow the sheep and rip it all out for another vineyard or let it remain an historical orchard where Luther Burbank used to come to visit.

23 comments:

  1. I was really sad to read your post, it all sounds so very depressing. Vineyards are not somewhere I hanker to visit, but if I ever do I will be sure to wear sensible shoes.

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    1. Sorry if it made you sad. It's a beautiful place to live, but the very reason people moved here is being destroyed by the people who are moving here. It always happens. It's like when there is a nice small art colony, once the tourists and developers find it it gets destroyed. The very reason people liked the place gets destroyed by the outsiders who move in bringing their perception of how things should be.

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  2. I understand. Anybody who lives on the coast of Maine understands completely what you're talking about...

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    1. I figured people who have tourists around would understand. We've all been tourists, but so many forget that people actually live in the place they are vacationing. It's their home, not an amusement park.

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  3. No need to apologize, balancing the interests of development and preservation is the inevitable dilemma of beautiful places everywhere. Last September my wife and I drove through New York's Finger Lake wine country. It was our first experience seeing that kind of agricultural development. Too many grapes, but I was fascinated by the apple orchards which were not lines of trees, but low narrow rows, much like the vineyards so they could use mechanical pickers. Beautiful landscape but hardly the way it used to be.

    As to the photo, what are the two fellas leaning on? No.7 - 14 persons sounds like a bus but it looks like a carnival ride.

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    1. That sort of orchards is just plain scary! I've never seen anything like it.

      I think the fellas are aboard some sort of ship and they're leaning against a lifeboat.

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  4. I feel your pain. I lived in a tourist area, not as swampted as yours, but it was so nice when the season ended.

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    1. At least in the winter the buses stop. I like the winter because the tourists are gone and the ground beneath the vineyards, providing we have rain, turn lush green. Of course with the change in climate who knows. There's a huge fire north of me as I write this.

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  5. I am so glad you shared how your life has been impacted by the wine industry and tourism. I had no idea. But here in Black Mountain we do benefit from tourism, and I have learned to not shop in town when there are an influx of tourists. It's a balance here which doesn't affect the land quite as much as the vineyards are. But I'm sure just having more people around does create changes.

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    1. I miss butterflies. I miss the lizards and frogs. And I miss the quail. When miles and miles of vineyards move in the whole ecology changes. And I'm tired of them being event centers where busloads of people are brought into neighborhoods for parties. We used to have a guy who brought tourists down our dirt road in one of his stagecoaches/buggies/wagons. We had to take it to the sheriff to get him to stop because he thought it perfectly acceptable to cross our land to make his money.

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  6. Rant away. I found this a fascinating post. Something I'd never thought of. I'm about to go down to South Australia with a friend next month - (famous for its vineyards). We thought we might trek around and have a gander but I won't be wearing high heels !

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    1. I would imagine Australian wineries would have a similar feeling to what we have in our county which is casual. Comfortable shoes and clothes. You can always tell which people are the "wine country" tourists by the way they get all dressed up. Stick out like a sore thumb.

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  7. I wonder if this could be a scene from a movie?

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    1. It does have a 1920s film look to it.

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  8. I live in a tourist area where there really is no end of season. There is an end to the wine harvest though, which we’ve just had, and we salute the local wine-growers who have steadfastly stuck to their agricultural roots when the lure of tourism is so strong. It’s rather nice wine too.

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    1. There are family wineries that on the whole are fairly decent neighbors, but then you get people like "chef" Guy Fieri, famous for being a tv chef, deciding to put a winery in a neighborhood. I know the street where he wanted to build this and the whole concept was insulting to the people who live there. In this case he lost, the county told him "no!" It would have destroyed the quiet little street.

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  9. I understand -- living here in San Francisco, tourists clutter up the sidewalks and stand in the middle of the street taking pictures and downtown is a complete mess. I avoid Napa like the plague but I do like to visit friends in Sonoma....but driving all around CA i see vineyard after vineyward....on the Central coast, on Hwy 5 now, all over Sonoma/Napa Valley -- we do not need all those vineyards or all that wine. But it seems a vineyard is better than what they are doing here in SF -- covering every square inch of the city is new high rises. Depressing.

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    1. Yes, you can't get away from vineyards in this state anymore. When I go on trips around the state and see vineyards I start screaming. They are everywhere. The worst are the ones being built on hillsides. Tear down all the oaks and put up another damn vineyard.

      I feel your pain in SF. The techies are destroying that town.

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  10. It seems grapes can be grown pretty much anywhere these days, and here in Australia they are taking over from farmlands in many areas. It's a worry because we need food crops - you can't live on wine! That said I have to confess that one of our sons is getting married In a vineyard in November, in the Hunter Valley, one of our premier wine growing districts.

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    1. And yet there never seems to be a glut of wine. There is a romance to wine that people fall for. And getting married at a winery or in a vineyard is very popular here too. Hoping your sons wedding is glorious.

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  11. We have a vacation home at Smith Mountain Lake in southwest Virginia. We don't enjoy it much in the summer when tourists are there -- they don't practice boat safety and they churn the waters with jet skis making it difficult to even be on the lake. So I get what you're saying about tourists. We also have some vineyards there -- all very small operations. I enjoy visiting them, especially when they host an evening event -- very small-town with a local band, bring a picnic. It'll never be Napa. I'm glad of that.

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  12. Interesting pose! And I hear you about the winery thing. With all the "destruction" (called development) of farms around here - I wonder where we will get actual "food" from?

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    1. I always loved the farms in Pennsylvania. They were so pretty. Sad to think of them gone. And of course the ones in Lancaster County are surrounded with tour buses.

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