I recently spent a weekend at the home of good friend David Dobbs and his family in Bakersfield, California. David and his wife, Tammy, own a spectacular new wine shop called Imbibe in Bakersfield and I was there to pour our wines for their patrons (click here for Imbibe website).
I got up a little late the next morning and the only one still at home was their son, Daniel. I sat down and talked to him briefly until he became totally engrossed in a video game. It was a highly complex game, with different settings and a host of bad guys and obstacles to be zapped by the hero as he made his journey through the various challenges presented.
LEVEL 1: Our hero Grapeman is in our Cabernet vineyards during the middle of Winter 2009, adjusting the rainfall pump for sufficient moisture for the upcoming growing season. He has to be vigilant for two opposing foes. One is Aridia, who can cut off all rainfall just as the season starts and cause drought. The other is Mountain Slider, who wants to keep the rain tap open so that erosion is a problem on the steeper slopes. ZAP-ZAP! Both evil-doers are vanquished and the vines get a good steady light rainfall.
LEVEL 2: Winter comes to an end and 2009 bud-break approaches in the Napa Valley. Grapeman has to be on guard for new adversaries -- Blustery and Hotshot. If Blustery gets his way, winter sticks around and bud break is delayed. Hotshot is trying to heat things up, prematurely, so that bud break comes too early and his cohort, Frosty Freeze, can cause havoc. ZA-ZA-ZAP! No luck this time for the bad guys!
LEVEL 3: Bud beak has occurred on schedule and now Grapeman must be on constant vigil for the ever-sneaky Frosty Freeze. The tender buds and, later, young shoots are vulnerable to frost damage. In 2008, Frosty Freeze managed to get the upper hand and was able to stick around for too long, with great impact on crop levels. Grapeman had his laser-ray trained on Frosty Freeze early in 2009, so we made it through the frost season in good condition. ZAP-POW!
LEVEL 4: This is the longest part of the growing season for Grapeman. Early on, he is busy out in the vine rows with cultivation and fertilization, providing a favorable growing environment for the vines over the summer months. He is constantly monitoring the moisture requirements, so the vines get barely sufficient irrigation, but not too much. His two enemies on this game level are Spikey and Powdery. Heat spikes can dry up the rooting zone of the vines if Grapeman is not ever-vigilant to keep moisture available to them. In contrast, long periods of foggy and cooler conditions in some locations can bring on the onset of Powdery Mildew. Again, Grapeman has to deal with whatever pops-up on the path of his journey. ZIP ZIP ZAPPOW!
LEVEL 5: The vineyards move ever closer and, then finally, into harvest mode. This is the most critical time for Grapeman and he needs to be fully engaged and attentive. Spiky returns from time-to-time, turning up the heat to bump up the sugars and sunburn the ripening grapes. Then Rainaldo makes a wet appearance mid-way through this level with a burst of rainfall. Fortunately, his rain-dampened visits are short and not too severe, so that all the grapes can be harvested. HURRAY!
A particularly insidious monster is lurking in the background during this whole contest. Its name is Impetuous. It is constantly whispering into the ear of Grapeman, saying "the grapes are really ripe and so you MUST pick them now!" Grapeman must avoid this urge and stay the course with patient determination, constantly monitoring ripeness so as to pick the grapes at optimum fruit development. BAROOOOM!
All the foes are vanquished and Grapeman has won the game! Our Super Hero has made his journey through another successful growing season. Excellent wines are in the tanks and barrels, so it is time for a brief rest before the next challenge round begins.
Cheers to all those Super Heroes who work so hard to triumph in the vineyards, year after year!