Monday, July 5, 2010

High Sierra Wine Lesson

Every year, in one form or another, from blog postings to casual conversations (not that there is much difference between the two), I talk up the challenges and joys of hiking into Fourth of July Lake near Carson Pass on the Fourth of July. Yet, the trail never seems to get congested, which could mean that no one listens to or reads me, but I prefer not to go there. Parties remain relatively small and well scattered. This is a glorious trek, high and sunny, with generally balmy temperatures (54 degrees at the start yesterday, 71 at the end seven hours later). The roundtrip is 10 miles, and includes such diversions as Frog Lake, Elephant Back, Winnemucca Lake, Little Round Top (where a couple had packed in skis for one steep and graceful run down a slope still deeply packed with snow) and Little Round Top Lake (where another venturesome and sure-footed couple sauntered out onto a curving ice floe to fish).

Every year on the way out I pause above Winnemucca Lake to appreciate the grand vista (you can see Lake Tahoe from there) and to record the snowpack. To get into Fourth of July Lake this year required crossing a fair number of snow fields, more than usual, but they weren't as broad or as steep as I've seen in the past. At top left is this year's dwindling snowpack above Winnemucca Lake as it stood yesterday. In the center is the more-or-less same view on the Fourth of July in 2009, and at the bottom right it how it looked on the Fourth in 2008. The lesson looks clear, a lot more snow this year than during the past two winters.

So, is there a wine angle here, other than that growers should be assured of more water for their struggling vines late this summer than they've had the past two years? As a matter of fact, let's hear it for the PlatyPreserve Wine Preservation System by Platypus, a rather grand name for a simple lightweight pouch whose polyethelene line reputedly protects a wine's integrity on long and jostling hikes. I don't have one myself, but Fred and Robin Hollabird of Reno, who led a group of about a dozen pals into Fourth of July Lake, were opening their pouch and generously sharing pours of a Sterling sauvignon blanc during lunch.The wine tasted as cool, clean and fresh as if it had just come out of the bottle. (REI stocks the pouches, at least on its Web site.) With that many people, there was just a small pour for each, but that was a good thing considering the 1,000-foot climb in elevation from Fourth of July Lake. Any more and I'd still be camped by the lake, wondering if that iceberg floating in the middle ever would melt.

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