While biking to visit a friend employed at Christopher Creek Winery, I abruptly turned off Limerick Lane at the railroad tracks and kicked up a cloud of dust behind me. A towering fan above Foppiano’s sauvignon blanc vineyard had caught my eye and I wanted to get a quick drawing of it. Once the dust settled, I swung myself off the bike, leaned it against a eucalyptus tree and pulled out my sketchbook. This morning was a little warmer than most because dense morning fog had held in the previous day’s warmth. But now the sun had broken through the mist, and the coastal range of mountains was visible in the distance.
Healdsburg averages over forty inches of rain a year, but this year may be an exception since we’ve only received half our average. Without clouds and the rains that accompany them, nights get extra cold and frost dusts the landscape in a blanket of powdery white. Although beautiful in the early morning, the frost doesn’t bode well for plants, especially early-budding grape vines. To protect the delicate buds from frostbite, many farmers use tall fans above the vineyards to capture the warmer air hovering just above the cold.
One problem with the fans is that they are incredibly noisy and so are unpopular among neighbors. They’re said to sound like a loud lawn mower or even worse, an airplane taking off. Averaging 70 to 80 decibels each, one can understand why they wouldn’t please those living nearby. Closer into town, the use of much quieter, traditional overhead sprinklers is often used as a frost deterrent.
After putting the finishing touches on my sketch, I gathered my drawing supplies in my backpack and rode up the hill toward Christopher Creek tasting room.