A conversation about California without a reference to grapes would be, for me, like a sentence without punctuation. And so it is for my sister, Kirsten. When I told her about the postcard challenge and asked her what evoked a California state of mind for her she said the strongest images were raisins drying and driving past rows and rows of grapevines Since she left the San Joaquin Valley 21 years ago she no longer sees the raisins drying unless she’s in Fresno to visit but there are plenty of wine grapes growing near her home in Temecula. And that’s the thing about grapes—California grows ‘em from head to toe; from Napa to Lodi to Madera to Coachella you’re going to find wine grapes, table grapes, or raisin grapes growing. As a kid growing up in Madera, we had many family friends who were ranchers and farmers so the summer brought TONS of gifted produce. All varieties of grapes found their place at the family dinner table. How fast can you peel one with your teeth? Remember getting fancy and freezing grapes for pizzazz-y ice cubes? And memories would be incomplete without a mention of the peculiar putrid smell that engulfs Madera and overwhelms nostrils during “crush”—a late summer agricultural ritual when grapes are squished within an inch of their lives and the wine fermentation begins. Ching, ching!
And so it is with grapes and California……
Note: Wine production in California has been in a boom for the last 30 years.
1975–California was home to 330 wineries
2006–California had nearly 2,500 wineries
Since 2000 California has opened 175 new wineries each year
Reference: California Agriculture, Vol 64, no. 1 (Jan/Mar 2010).