If you're going to visit Napa, now is the time. It's my very favorite time to be traversing the valley with windows open wide. Day or night.
Visit a farmer you know and love.
The whole valley smells of fermentation, sugar, must, crinkly dry leaves, dirt, yeast and autumn. Go now to buy walnuts whose shells are still dusty from the dry ground. Go now to feel the last of the warm sun on your face. To see a denser sunset than the one barely making it through the fog in San Francisco.
Go and watch your dogs run free, pick up the scent of a hare and chase it for acres! Go to see the swallows dip and dive and hunt for bugs at dusk. Take note of the dry Napa River and listen to the leaves fall on each other. It's the loudest sound you'll hear if you listen closely.
Go to Napa Valley to see leaves change. To pick figs off of soon to be hibernating trees. Go to see thousands of acorns on the ground or stacks of grape picking bins reaching towards the heavens, by the side of the road. Look out for the pickers as dawn sneaks up on you and tailgate a truck carrying thousands of tons of round succulent fruits.
I go to the farm because it feeds me. And because, as of late, I have been feeding many others, it was time to hook my empty tank up to this place I love, feel connected to, return month after month, photograph day after day, and watch, stare, take in its changes. I know people to have lived and died here. It is my place to visit memories as well as those still alive.
And as October and fall draw us in, Napa Valley reaches its highest peak of ripeness, a crescendo of sugars and complex fruit flavors, razor sharp knives are drawn like tiny scythes, plants go to seed and dry like brittle caramel, creek and river beds pucker severely before torrents of rain arrive and the whole valley, hill to mountain to mountain to peak captures the scent of harvest, crush.
I drove home with the windows open. And if you've never experienced Napa in October I encourage and beg of you to go now.