A Condor's Weekend
California super-bloom, 4-1-2023 (credit: SWP Media)
Driving inland from a coastal region, a little-known valley wanders 100 miles east towards California's agricultural heartland of the Central Valley. The Cuyuma represents an earlier era in California less urban, congested, and frantic. A weekend was set aside to enjoy great wines, hillsides covered in wildflowers, and long conversations over lunch.
Close friends own a family vineyard and olive orchard known as Condor's Hope, named for the endangered birds now being restored to their once mountain and redrock habitats. Their dry-land, ecologically managed, vineyards planted in Zinfandel, Shiraz, and Pedro Ximenez grapes, produce some truly striking examples of California's viticultural heritage. Zinfandel is the defacto red wine of California having arrived around the Gold Rush era. Recent DNA studies have shown genetic linkages to grapes from Croatia; Shiraz (or Syrah) originated in Iran and became the famous red wine varietal of France and Australia; while Pedro Ximenez is a mysterious heirloom grape of Roman origins. At some point, vines were planted in Spain and they are used in the production of Sherry. At Condor's vineyards, Pedro is grown to produce a dry, white wine with the color of golden straw.
Condor's Hope vineyards & wildflowers lunch table (credit: SWP Media)
Besides the elegant wines and hardy ranch-style meals that were served, the weekend celebrated a wildflower season that was going to be exceptional due to rainfall levels three times the average. A 'super-bloom' across the hillsides and valleys was just beginning. NASA predicted a "flood of wildflowers" and the seasonal spectacle was already visible from space. The Agency shared a Landsat-9 satellite image of the vineyard's valley already covered in vivid colors of yellow and green.
Cuyuma super-bloom from space, 4-6-23 (credit: Landsat-9) & Cuyuma Valley Tidy Tips (Layia platyglossa), 4-1-23 (credit: SWP Media)
During the morning, a visitor pointed to a pair of the restored condor's soaring above the mountains to the south of the ranch. The birds added an extra bit of wonder to the weekend. WHB