A Fine Outlook


The vineyard farm building was dilapidated, and threatened to collapse at any moment. The stairs leading up to the second floor were missing no less than five steps, and the lumber used to build it had taken on the dry and darkened appearance of just about any haunted house you’ve ever seen in the movies. All that lent the new and trendy restaurant across the courtyard a rather theatrical backdrop.

And despite the old and neglected environs, the roof window seemed to offer as clear a picture of the skies above as I’d ever seen.

Our home church family opted to explore the countryside of coastal Northern California during a recent weekend getaway. As it happens, plenty of folks in our home church enjoy their wine, and so we decided visit a local winery to see how it stacked up against the many other wine regions in the area. There’s no shortage of options ’round here, like the world-famous Napa Valley, its neighbor the Sonoma Valley, or the Gold Country vineyards in the nearby Sierra Nevada foothills. Truth be told, it is hard to find a community in Northern California that doesn’t have a winery or two.

The leaders of our caravan rolled the dice [read: “Siri/Cortana/OK Google, find a vineyard near me.”] and pointed our cars toward the Russian River Vineyards. It’s evidently one of the oldest vineyards in the area, located in sleepy and lush Forestville, California. We would soon learn that new owners are working to bring revival to the vines and to the grounds. And I could feel that blend of new and old as soon as we walked up a well-worn stairway to the central courtyard.

We first passed by some bright yellow umbrellas sprouting out of some picnic tables. You could tell by the color and grain of the wood that these tables had only recently been cut. To our left sat a small crowd lunching at the chic Corks Restaurant as a young woman strummed and sang soulful versions of tunes from a catalog that spanned Coldplay to Otis Redding. Other guests gathered at tasting tables for the fruit of the vine, as well as cups of gourmet-looking french fries. I was more than a bit excited about the latter.

Of course, the old farm building I mentioned earlier was the most striking presence of all. Wherever we walked in the courtyard, you could not escape the moody shadow it cast. Somehow the fact that it was in sad shape didn’t make for a depressing vibe, but rather showed that this winery had a story. It gave me the sense that folks with bigger muscles than mine had toiled under coastal fog and hot sun to get the best of out of the local vines well before I was born.

As I broke away from my friends for a few minutes of photography, I was drawn toward this centerpiece of the winery. I shot the farm building’s decaying stairways and the ivy crawling unchecked up the walls. I snapped photos of the places of large doorways built to offer entrance to tractor and worker alike. Even the hardware on the doors and windows made for interesting subjects. I wondered to myself if the building is still in use today.

My favorite shot of the bunch was this photo of a roof window. Its uneven wooden shingles give the roofline a weathered look, and the shadows they cast convey a bit of that haunted vibe. Meanwhile the breeze of the day had created a cloudscape of cotton balls (okay, altocumulus clouds) which reflected brilliantly in the glass of the window. Perhaps this view surprised me because the building itself was so worn down, and yet it seemed that the windows shone as brightly as ever — as if someone had made it their life’s work to keep the windows clean while neglecting the structure itself.

I couldn’t climb up to the top floor of the farm building, and so I imagined the outlook from that window peering down on the courtyard below. Would I see nothing more than deferred maintenance and clever attempts to keep business afloat? No, reckon it would be something different. To see the life, creativity, and hard work in play on the grounds below would likely have given me great hope for the future of the vineyard. That, and a hankering for some more of those truffle oil fries.

Hang this photo on your wall

[exif id=”1126″]

Take the not-at-all-patented Rorschach Cloud Puff test: What do you see in the clouds? Tell me about it in the comments!

    1 comment

    Leave a comment