Sounds of the Napa Valley

Early last Saturday morning I was driving up-valley to visit a client's vineyard. Slowly I became aware of a very different set of sights and sounds than those I normally experience on an autumn morning during harvest.

Yes, there were trucks roaring up the highway carrying bins of freshly picked grapes wending their way to the winery. Yet there was also the echo of other trucks hauling loads of earthquake debris as Napa Valley struggles to return to a sense of normalcy. Both sounds were reassuring in their own way and indicators of better things to come..

One was the familiar sound of another Napa harvest signaling the end of a very fine growing season and the beginning of the grape's venture to the glass. The other signaled the early signs of recovery from a catastrophic event experienced by Napans at all levels of personal turmoil as well as businesses struggling to repair and rebuild.

Our Browns Valley home in the city of Napa boarders the creek and a normal fall weekend day is often sweetened by the musical sounds of birds, chickens, peacocks and our neighbor's friendly goats. But every so often the thud of a hammer and screeching of a saw blade shattered the rhythm of a bucolic afternoon as I wondered why a neighbor would choose this time for household repairs.

I am no longer disturbed, but rather reassured, by these formerly intrusive sounds because I know they are symbols of progress and I welcome the commotion as an indicator of healing. Funny how things can change when neighbors come together and help each other.

Harvest normally is punctuated by the sounds of trucks, forklifts, crusher/destemmers, pumps and thunderous voices screaming orders. Nothing is different here for 2014 but the added ring of the telephone or chiming of an incoming text or email message to offer or seek assistance is an encouraging sign of the times.

As we all know the aftereffects of the earthquake to our wine industry have been overwhelming and nowhere are the signs of "lending a helping hand" more evident that from vintner to vintner. Just look at the generous support extended by Tom Burgess of Burgess Cellars in offering his fellow vintners in need free barrel storage until their facilities can be restored.

And Tom is not alone in his generosity as many others have responded in their own way offering support to neighbors, friends and strangers alike. In many ways these are the unheard sounds of the fortunate helping others in a time of need and bringing the community together. Despite today's many challenges the resolve of cooperation and determination can be heard loud and clear throughout the Valley.

As the pace of harvest increases with all of its customary tumult, we are anticipating the culmination of another successful Napa Valley growing season. And long after the resonance of this year's harvest has faded, a new set of sounds will continue to be heard signifying the renewal of Napa's spirit, tradition and beauty. This is bountiful time for all.