A discussion of geology, soils, wines, and history of the Napa Valley region
David G. Howell, Jonathan P. Swinchatt, 2000. "A discussion of geology, soils, wines, and history of the Napa Valley region", Great Basin and Sierra Nevada, David R. Lageson, Stephen G. Peters, Mary M. Lahren
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Most people, when they think about the geology of California, focus first on earthquakes. Indeed, as the mountains and valleys of California have been shaped, earthquakes have been the pounding of the carpenter’s hammer, a resounding echo from Earth-forming processes. Thus, even though most of us are horrified by the prospect of another devastating earthquake, the great beauty and abundant resources in California are a direct consequence of the very events that trigger these periodic Earth-shaking temblors.
Geology plays an important role in controlling the quality and nuances of California’s wine. It affects the soils—their chemistry and texture, the topography—mountain slopes versus valley floors, and the climate—humidity, sun angle, and temperature. The three S’s—soil, slope, and sun, helps us understand the principle factors that control wine quality. How the vintner manipulates these controls determines the specific attributes of each bottle of wine.
Understanding the geology of different California regions, and how it relates to wine growing, can be broken down into three basic categories: how the bedrock formed, evolution of the landscape, and relating these two factors to soil development and microclimatic conditions (Fig. 1).
Starting points in descriptions of Earth history are generally arbitrary owing to the age of the planet. This history is read from rocks; in North America we have identified rocks that are nearly 4000 m.y. old. Fortunately for you, and those of us who are trying to reconstruct the geologic history of California, it is not necessary to reach that far back in
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Great Basin and Sierra Nevada, the second volume of the Geological Society of America Field Guide Series, focuses on the dynamic and spectacular geology of this region, providing the inspiring backdrop for the 2000 GSA Annual Meeting in Reno. This volume gives complete coverage of field trips held in conjunction with that meeting, and contains 20 chapters organized into three sections. The first section consists of 16 chapters arranged in geochronological order, beginning with the active tectonics of Lake Tahoe and the historical surface faulting and paleoseismicity of the central Nevada seismic belt, and ending with the Neoproterozoic glacial record of Death Valley. In between are chapters dealing with Basin and Range extension, Eocene magmatism, Mesozoic plutonism in the Sierra Nevada, Paleozoic subduction, and Ordovician stratigraphy, to name a few. The second section covers the geology of the Nevada Test Site and the nuclear-waste repository at Yucca Mountain. The last section is an invited field guide from the 1999 GSA Cordilleran Section meeting that covers the wines and geology of Napa Valley, California. Overall, Great Basin and Sierra Nevada is a comprehensive compilation of new and exciting research on this amazingly diverse region, with well-crafted guides to field localities of special interest. Full-color plates in some chapters make this guide an especially appealing and useful volume.