Scholium Project

The Delta

A roadside tractor mired in the rich soil adjacent to a slough. The ground underneath the tractor is too wet to plant, so one just farms around it.
The Sacramento river beneath Walnut Grove, in the heart of the Delta.

I have been spending a lot of time in the Sacramento delta recently. It is an area that is, I think, loosely defined and poorly understood. It lies south of the city of Sacramento, west of the Central Valley and the Sierra foothills, and east, east, of the blessed lands of Napa viticulture. Large strands of the Sacramento River run through it; a filligree of creeks and sloughs empty into and flow from the Sacramento and interconnect with each other.

The Delta is quiet. Almost all of the vehicular traffic is trucks, many of them large freight trucks. Their are many cows, some sheep and goats. There are vineyards, but they are interspersed with sunflowers, safflower, corn. The farming does not depend on lots of constant labor in the fields, but a few economical passes with large tractors, or, in some vineyards, large teams of laborers. The sky is wide, the horizon flat, and nothing is small.

I am monitoring two vineyards in the Delta now: Lost Slough, the home of Naucratis, and Kevin Delu's Bella Vigna vineyard. Bella Vigna is new to the project. It is 5 acres or so, across from an emu ranch. More than half of it is planted to red grapes; the section of interest to us is the southern 8 rows. They are planted to Vermentino and a very interesting, small berried clone of Verdelho. We will get one ton of Vermentino to experiment with, and about 4 tons of Verdelho. The contrast with the proven richness and complexity of Lost Slough is very exciting. We plan to treat the grapes from both vineyards in exactly the same way to highlight the very differences of the vineyards and the clones. In some ways, this sophisticated experimentation is foreign to the spirit of the Delta– but on the other hand, there are very many good things there, and it is quite true to this quiet place to preserve the goodness and distinctness of two of them.