Christmas in California's Wine Country

Last week, my sister called and wanted me to shoot their family portraits for this Christmas season. They only live about 40 miles south of us, so the drive is short and always well worth it. But thanks to viruses in her household, the photo shoot had to be postponed. Finally, today looked like a good day. The weather seemed to be cooperating, and so did the kids' colds so I trucked my way down there as soon as I got the call from Sis. Once I was there and everyone was dressed in their portrait-wear, my brother-in-law (Mr. Architect) made the wonderful suggestion that the family portraits be shot out in the vineyards that are only a mile or two from their home.

Sis and Mr. Architect live in one of the Northern California valleys that rivals Napa Valley as being a world-renowned producer of wine grapes. It is also the valley wherein is nestled my hometown. It has been "the soil" that has produced me, my childhood, my young adulthood, and that of my siblings--something of far more value than wine grapes. Even though our family are all devout members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (and, therefore, don't drink any wine or alcohol) there is a deep familial connection with the beauty of the vineyards that we've grown to love as we've grown up around them. Now my niece and nephew are getting that same wonderful opportunity of living in a valley with a rich heritage in vitriculture. It seemed the fitting place for a family portrait.

Mr. Architect's idea was "golden" in more ways than one. The vineyards have been harvested for the year, and the leaves that are left are turning lovely amber shades in the cool December air. It was so picturesque. We only had to pull over to the side of the road and walk less than 100 yards to be in the midst of all the beauty.

The kids were the first to spot the unharvested grapes still on the vine. I immediately jumped on the chance to photograph them in the beautiful late afternoon sun. The depth of the color of the grapes was so amazing. The shot above is straight out of the camera with only my copyright banner added. I couldn't change it one smidgen in post-processing, because it was so gorgeous as it was.

As we strolled the outskirts of the vineyards, we spotted three jack rabbits as they leaped and bounded from row to row in the interior of the vineyards and eventually sprang over the rolling hillside. It is serendipitous moments like this that have always made me happy when I see a new vineyard go in instead of a new subdivision.

The portrait session was a delight without any hiccups or whining (that's what happens when kids grow older than the age of 5). Although the posed family portraits are being reserved for Christmas cards to be sent out by Sis, I did want to share a wonderful candid shot of the family as they walked in the vineyard from one posing spot to another.

Yes, this is the epitome of a Christmas in California's beautiful wine country. It's why my heart will always be here despite our lack of white Christmases.
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  1. We always seem to gravitate towards what we first knew. I love white Christmases because I grew up where we always had huge snowfalls by December 1st. As kids, we used to walk on hard snowdrifts that were as high as fence posts.

    But I can see from your photos why the beauty of your own home land lives so strongly in your own heart.

  2. What a beautiful spot to take a family picture Cindy. You are a good sis to be able to provide this wonderful memory for the family.

  3. My husbands grandfather lives in Napa and we love going to visit him, any time of year--every time is gorgeous no matter what! You know, sometimes I feel bad that we don't have a white Christmas but earlier in the week when we had snow on the mountains I kept looking around thinking how beautiful it was--but it didn't seem like December. It looked like Feb or March to me and it made me feel LESS Christmasey. Ironic, huh? But you get used to what you have and to me December/Christmas is a sparkling, cold, sunny day.

  4. While I've gotten used to white Christmases, I do miss those golden hills and vineyards. There's a reason my kitchen in Idaho is decorated with grapevines! Love the candid of the family though. Which winery is that?

  5. What a visual treat! I love the richness of the colours in the afternoon sun. I think the landscapes of our childhoods are always special. In my dreams it is the landscape of Oxfordshire with rolling hills, sheep, cows deciduous trees and little cottages just tucked out of the way of the hill's wind. I think it's because as a child you have more time and curiosity to familiarize yourself with your surroundings at bike level rather than whizzing past in a car. You area is beautiful cindy. No wonder you cherish it.

  6. Frankly, I'd welcome a green Christmas with open arms.

  7. A warm and golden panorama, Cindy, as well as a nice memory of your portrait-shoot. I can see why you love it out there.

    While we are destined for a White Christmas here, along with it comes ridges of wet, gray slush and a rawness that goes through the bones!

    I wish you a lovely holiday with your family.

  8. Beautiful photo of the vineyards. My first memories are rainy Christmases. But my most memorable are warm sunny ones.

  9. Beautiful colors... I can smell the air! I do love this!
    Love you, YLA


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