My husband and I recently drove through Napa and Sonoma counties and the Russian River Valley of California to celebrate our 34th wedding anniversary. We love that area of the country. What’s not to like? There’s wine. And besides the beauty of the vineyards, many wineries have spectacular gardens to tour. That’s my idea of heaven. By the third day I noticed more than a few wineries were doing something a little unusual. At the end of each long row of grapevines that lined the hills of the vineyards, a single rose bush was planted. They dotted each row like a period at the end of a run-on sentence. Ledson Winery favored white roses. Chalk Hill Winery, where we were riding in the back of an open Hummer, seemed to favor bright yellow. Our tour guide asked if we knew why they were planted there. Without raising my hand, having already sampled more than a few of their wines, I said with confidence, they were obviously there to make me happy. Which I was. Even though it was the wrong answer.
Our tour guide was a college student majoring in Viticulture and Enology, or for you and me, wine making. (Is it too late to change my major? Clearly this kid is a genius.) Of course he knew the answer. Because rose bushes are especially disease prone, and bug susceptible, they are planted at the ends of the rows to act as an early warning system. Those yellow roses are the vineyard equivalent of canaries in a mine. Before any of the nasty diseases attack the vines and grapes, or destroy a crop, they show up first on all those pretty yellow rose bushes. The viticulturist takes action. Disaster avoided. I have never been a huge fan of roses – because they’re disease prone and bug susceptible. But there they grow on the hot, dry hillside, day after day, warning everyone should my future wine be at risk. I have new found respect for the fussy rose bush. Saving grapes is a noble cause.