by Maureen Gaffney
Fall. It happens every year, and yet is somehow always a surprise. You’re busy doing summer things, wake up one morning and…something’s different. Is it the light? A smell? A first pumpkin sighting? We busy, overly plugged-in humans need this gentle reminder that we are of nature, that even if not consciously, we are attuned to the rhythm of the seasons on some cellular level.
Fall is now in full swing here in the Napa Valley, the trees glowing, the vineyards aflame. But have you ever really thought about why? Why do the leaves change colors? Nature’s neat and nice, but it’s probably not doing that just so we can have a nice Instagram shot. She’s got her reasons.
According to the Farmer’s Almanac, “The main reason for the eye-popping color change is not autumn’s chilly weather, but sunlight—or rather, the lack of daylight…the reduced daylight tells deciduous plants that it’s time to stop gathering energy and get ready for the dormant season—winter.” It’s also diminishing daylight that triggers a bear to bulk up and hibernate (and maybe it’s why you ate all that Halloween candy? “Just trying to be safe for winter, honey!”).
Chlorophyll absorbs sunlight and gives leaves their green color, but as daylight fades and the tree (or vine) prepares to shed those leaves to save energy, the green fades and the other colors—yellow, red, orange—start popping, no longer masked by the greedy green.
While most all of the VINE TRAIL has something to offer on the leaf-peeping front, the Napa to Yountville section is particularly groovy at the moment. So now that you are armed with this most minimal scientific information about plant physiology, why not grab your bike or walking shoes, a friend or family member and annoy the daylights out of them with your newfound knowledge? Do note however that the après wine and cheese might be on you…