April Brings BudBreak

Budbreak in the vineyards arrived especially late this year in Sonoma County.  In my hobby vineyard, which is located in the cooler climate of the Petaluma Gap – just like SSU, the first pale green buds with their pink tips did not burst forth until Sunday, April 3!  That is two weeks later than the past seven years!  But since March was one of the rainiest months on record this year, I can understand why the vines waited until April.

On campus everyone seems very pleased that the sun has finally come out again.  We’ve had a few warm days in the 70’s (F) which caused the students to flock to outdoor tables, chairs, and the lawn to grab some rays of sun.  Shorts and flip flops are now familiar sights on campus again.  More importantly, April brings Spring Break – which is late this year (the third week) – and everyone looks forward to a relaxing week off.

In gratitude and celebration of the sun’s return and the beginning of a new harvest, I jotted down the following lines:

When the dark barren branches of the vineyard

push forth their pale green buds

joy surges through my heart.

For I know Spring has returned,

and with it Hope of warmth and sun.

I raise of glass of wine in anticipation

of the new harvest that has begun

to stir in the Spring vines.

Shamrocks in the Vineyards and Other Green Rites of March

March came in smiling this year in Sonoma County with much sunshine and bright green grass on the hillsides.  The vineyards are still dormant, but I am beginning to see more clover (shamrocks) as a cover crop between my vines.  If you weren’t aware, many vineyard owners plant specific plants between the rows to protect the soil from erosion, to improve soil fertility, and regulate vine growth. Common cover crops include not only clover, but winter peas, mustard, oats, and fava beans.

Besides shamrocks in my vineyard, the month of March brings St. Patrick’s Day which is held in reference by college students across the nation as a great day to party.  Thus when I accidently scheduled my mid-term exams on St. Patrick’s Day this year, there was a rather loud uproar from some students.  However, when I reminded them the exam would only last 30 minutes and they would be getting out of class early that day, this appeased most.

I also love St. Patrick’s Day and anything to celebrate being “green” and “sustainable.”  Therefore, this month’s wine quote comes from Paul Dolan, CEO of the Mendocino Wine Company, the first carbon neutral winery in the US.

“Like children, vines need a good environment and nutrients to grow.  Our responsibility as wine grape growers is nuturing the environment so the vines and grapes can express themselves.  Adopting sustainable winegrowing practices makes this happen.”

Paul Dolan, p. 91, How to Launch Your Wine Career

February – Classes Commence and Mustard and Valentines Adorn Our Vineyards

February is upon us, and at SSU this means new classes are starting.  The first few weeks are always hectic as students are jostling to find seats in our crowded classrooms.  Due to budget cuts, we have less seats.  However, due to the large group of Millennials coming through the university system now and until 2015, we have more students than we have seats available.

So it is best to look on the positive side.  The vineyards around campus are filled with yellow mustard, and Valentine’s Day is a special part of this month.  It is good to take some time out each day to think of these small blessings.  Thus my wine quote for February focuses on the romantic side of this month.

Wine Quote of the Month:

“A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,

A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread-and Thou

Beside me singing in the Wilderness-

O, Wilderness were Paradise enow!”

Omar Khayyam

Welcome to a New Year at SSU

January 2011 is upon us, and I believe that this will be a wonderful and exciting new year!  After weeks of cold and rain, the month of January is starting bright and sunny.  Classes don’t resume until Jan. 31, so I’m hoping that many of my students are enjoying the Winter Break.

As for me, I’m back at my computer writing research papers, but also enjoying long walks past sleeping vineyards.  The vines are bare of leaves, but the black cordons and slender shoots look like sculptures in the bright sun.  Pruning season is upon is, and soon yellow mustard and orange California poppies will fill the rows between the vines.

January 2011 Wine Quote

My quote for this month comes from D.H. Lawrence’s poem “Grapes”:

Our pale day is sinking into twilight,

And if we sip the wine, we find dreams coming upon us

Out of the imminent night

December and Final Exams Are Upon Us

We are now entering the last few hectic weeks of the semester.  As a professor, I am busy grading papers and preparing final exams. Students are cramming and desperately trying to schedule assignments from multiple classes so they don’t have to pull “all-nighters.”  Yes — I remember what it is like to be a college student in December. However, keep in mind, it is just as crazy for professors, who have to grade all those papers.  This semester I have 129 students!  This is why I save my “stress management” lecture for this time of year….  It helps me, just as much as the students.

Anyway, enough complaining. I still love my job, and know that in a few weeks, we will all be celebrating — perhaps heading to the snow in the Sierras, drinking Cosmopolitans in Palm Springs (I’m heading here), and always enjoying lots of lovely wine and food with family and friends during the holidays.

So I end this post with a wine quote from the Bible – Ecclesiastes (31:35-36) and also one from the Koran (47.15).  During this season of thanksgiving and joy, we can celebrate from multiple perspectives.

“Wine drunk with moderation is the joy of soul and the heart.” Ecclesiastes (31:35-36)

“Here is a Parable of the Garden which the righteous are promised:  in it are rivers of wine, a joy to those who drink.” Koran 47:15


Enjoying Autumn in Wine Country

Autumn is definitely in the air.  Nights are cooler, the leaves are slowly changing to gold and red, and the grapes are ripening on the vine.  We are deeper into the material in our classes, and students have started on team projects.  The campus is even more beautiful this time of year, with autumn flowers amongst the changing foilage.  Students relax on lawns, and often we have bands playing music at noon.

It is this time of year that I always remember my favorite Jack London quote — and of course, Jack London adopted Sonoma County as his home, establishing his “Beauty Ranch” on the Eastern side of Sonoma Mountain, with the House of Happy Walls.

“The air is wine.  The grapes on a score of rolling hills are red with autumn flame.  Across Sonoma Mountain, wisps of sea fog are stealing.  The afternoon sun smolders in the drowsy sky.  I have everything to make me glad I am alive…”

In Icy Argentina This Week

It seems a little strange to fly to Argentina during the second week of school, but that is when the International Wine Forum is scheduled in Mendoza.  This year they kindly invited me to be a guest speaker on the US wine market — all expenses paid.  Amazingly, I was able to fit in the 5 day trip around my class schedule, and after 20 hours of travel I’m back in winter in the Southern Hemisphere.  It is very cold and they are in the process of pruning their vines, while at home in Sonoma everyone is praying the grapes will get ripe enough to harvest soon.  Feeling a bit like Alice in Wonderland.

However, looking forward to my first glass of Malbec, and the fancy wine dinner planned for tonight.  I will be blogging this trip on www.winetravelstories.blogspot.  Check it out in the next few days for more details.

First Day of SSU Fall 2010 Classes Consumed by Record Heat

There was an air of excitement on campus today as everyone returned for the first day of classes (Wed., August 25).  People were greeting one another, laughing, and appeared jazzed about being back.  What was unusual was the extreme heat (102 today and 103 on Tuesday) that replaced the cold foggy days that depressed us during the first part of August.

My first class was at noon in Stevenson 1002 with 122 registered students in Organizational Behavior and another 8 trying to crash.  Unfortunately the air conditioner didn’t seem to be working so well, and after 30 minutes everyone in the room was sweating.  However, since it was the first day, we only stayed for 45 minutes….and everyone seemed quite pleased to escape the room oven and get some fresh air– including me.  An interesting first day.

A Cool Foggy August in Sonoma

It’s been a cold summer in Sonoma — one of the coldest on record — with thick fog every morning that drenches the plants, flowers, trees, and vineyards with moisture.  When we wake each morning, it looks like it rained during the night.  The sun usually comes out around noon, and then we enjoy a few hours of warmth, before the fog rolls in again from the Pacific.

At a Sonoma Country Grape Grower’s meeting yesterday, they said that many of the vineyards have powdery mildew because of the moisture.  We are also 3 weeks delayed in ripening due to the lack of sun.  My pinot noir vines are just started to go through verasion (change from green to purple).  There are those who are predicting a long, warm Indian Summer.  I hope they are right.  If so, this cooler longer ripening period could actually mean a high-quality harvest for Sonoma County.  Only time will tell.