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My first year in Europe, I moved when the seasons changed. I spent autumn in Castilla-La Mancha, winter in Barcelona, spring at the foot of the Pyrenees. I had moved to Spain to apprentice with winemakers, and I was following the cycle of a grapevine. Late fall, when I arrived, was time for cellar work: bottling, racking, packing, and shipping. In February, when the ground had frozen, we pruned the vines with electric clippers. Springtime was for removing excess leaves from the vine; the sticky summer months were for watering and upkeep. Long-awaited was September, time of vendimia—the harvest.

Harvesting of red-grape varieties in Napa Valley, CA. (©Peter Menzel /

Napa Valley and the Jeffersonian Ideal

Jefferson’s life, writings, and aesthetics inspire in his spiritual descendants, real and feigned, as many contradictions as virtues. This valley may represent the apotheosis of the American family farm, with what is one of the most valuable legal crops anywhere. But how close its twenty-first-century manifestation is to what Jefferson advocated for in the far-away South long ago, and what he would have thought of it, are commingled like old dregs at the bottom of a bottle. Many here may wish to leave that bottle unopened.