Amador County Looks/Tastes Delicious

Bray Vineyards, Amador County (11/10/13) Dotty Molt

Bray Vineyards, Amador County (11/10/13) Dotty Molt

Grape leaf, Amador County (11/10/13) Dotty Molt

Grape leaf, Amador County (11/10/13) Dotty Molt

Bray Vineyards, Amador County (11/10/13) Dotty Molt

Bray Vineyards, Amador County (11/10/13) Dotty Molt

GO NOW! – 75 – 100% – Amador County – Color spotter Dotty Molt forwards these lovely photos taken in the vineyards of Amador County and reports that thanks to Robin Bray of Bray Vineyards, Dotty was allowed to “wander in and around beautiful multi-colored vines.”  She adds, “The colors are at peak, and if you’re headed that way, try to get there soon as the weather is changing.  And make sure you stop in for a tasting. Yum!”

Grape Leaves. Bray Vineyards, Amador County (11/10/13) Dotty Molt

Grape Leaves. Bray Vineyards, Amador County (11/10/13) Dotty Molt

Oaks, Gold Country (11/10/13) Dotty Molt

Oaks, Gold Country (11/10/13) Dotty Molt

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Temecula/Mt. Laguna/Lake Hemet – Vintage Color

Temecula Wine Country (10/27/13) Brian Reilly

Temecula Wine Country (10/27/13) Brian Reilly

Color spotter Brian Reilly took these beautiful images at Thornton Winery on the Rancho California Road in Temecula.  This Southern California wine growing region is showing about 50% color.

Old vines make great wine, Temecula (10/27/13) Brian Reilly

Old vines make great wine, Temecula (10/27/13) Brian Reilly

Dessicated grapes, beyond late harvest, Temecula (10/27/13) Brian Reilly

Desicated grapes, beyond late harvest; Temecula (10/27/13) Brian Reilly

30 – 50% – Temecula Wine Country – The vineyards are getting close to peaking and considering the color now visible, we’d have no problem suggesting you GO NOW!, though we expect the color to continue to develop for the next couple of weeks.

San Diego County

So. Calif. color spotter Son H Nguyen reports, “There is not much in Julian, right now,” aside from exotic “Chinese pistache starting to turn in town. There is not much on Pine Hill and it”s around 30-50%.  However, Mt. Laguna is blazing, right now. So many black oak trees, the whole area is near peak.”

30 – 50% – Julian – Best at Pine Hill.

Oaks, Mt Laguna (10/27/13) Son H Nguyen

Black oaks, Mt Laguna (10/27/13) Son H Nguyen

Black oaks, Mt Laguna (10/27/13) Son H Nguyen

Black oaks, Mt Laguna (10/27/13) Son H Nguyen

Black Oak, Mt Laguna (10/27/13) Son H Nguyen

Black oak, Mt Laguna (10/27/13) Son H Nguyen

GO NOW! 75 – 100% – Mt. Laguna – Full peak at oak woodlands on Mt. Laguna in eastern San Diego County.

GO NOW! 50 – 75% – San Jacinto Mountains – Color spotter Anissa Granados from Lake Hemet Campgrounds sends this photo of cottonwood approaching peak at Lake Hemet.  Anissa says the trees ringing the lake and campgrounds provide a lovely setting to be surrounded by fall color.

Lake Hemet Campgrounds (10/29/13) Anissa Granados

Lake Hemet Campgrounds (10/29/13) Anissa Granados

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Vintage Year for Wine Country

Calistoga, Napa Valley (File Photo) John Poimiroo

Calistoga, Napa Valley (File Photo) John Poimiroo

Reports from wine growing regions in northern and central California describe beautiful color in the vineyards with different varieties showing maroon, crimson, orange, yellow and lime grape leaves.  All but a few late harvest grapes remain on the vines.

GO NOW! – 50 – 75% – Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Monterey, Santa Clara and Contra Costa County Vineyards – Peak will evolve through vineyards as specific varieties of grapes turn color.  The show will likely continue for another two to three weeks.


Freeway Foliage

While driving along US 101, the Redwood Highway, the green forest beside the road will often light up suddenly in yellow or crimson.  Color spotter Sandy Steinman reports he took the route this past weekend, from Arcata to the Bay Area and experienced just that.  He writes, “The trees in northern California have turned quite a bit in the last several days. The Maples and other deciduous trees around the Avenue of the Giants to Willits are mostly showing their fall yellows. I would guess they are now about 80 percent turned.  There is also still lots of red from poison oak growing on the redwoods.  There are also planted trees in towns and private property showing other fall colors as well. Just remember this area is mostly conifers and patches of fall color are usually not large or widespread.”

As Sandy drove south of  Willits, he found “the best fall color was the vineyards. Some are in full color  showing a lot of yellow and red while others are still mostly green.”  That’s the thing about the vineyards.  One will be deep red, another unturned and the next a mix of yellow, orange, red and lime.

GO NOW! – 75 – 100% – U.S. 101, The Redwood Highway – Spots of yellow bigleaf maple and crimson poison oak decorate the otherwise evergreen redwood forest from Willits north to Arcata.

GO NOW! – 50 – 75% – Mendocino and Sonoma County Vineyards – A mix of fully peaked vines of various bright colors (deep red, orange, yellow, lime) can be near one that hasn’t even considered turning color.  That’s October in the vineyards.  Still, we issue a Go Now alert for wine country as spots will be good throughout the remainder of October and early November.

Color Moves to the Mid Elevations

Napa Valley (file photo) John Poimiroo

Fall color has now descended to the mid elevations throughout California, with peak color occurring in the vineyards, the Sierra foothills, the San Jacinto Mountains in Southern California and on Hwy 299 between Redding and Weaverville.

Color is peaking in urban forests and orchards of the Sacramento Valley.  With an approaching storm, leaf peepers and photographers are advised to go now to peaking areas, before the leaves are further denuded from branches.

Eastern Sierra

75 – 100% – Owens Valley – The Owens Valley remains beautiful with long-lasting spots of bright color along US 395 in Bishop and Independence.

75 – 100% – Rock Creek – First to peak and last to peak in the Eastern Sierra, Rock Creek continues to have areas of lovely color at its lowest elevations.

Past Peak – June Lake – Although there are small pockets of nice  color found along the June Lake Loop, this area is now mostly past peak.

High Sierra

Past Peak – All elevations above 5,000′ are now past peak.

Past Peak – Yosemite Valley – The combination of snow on fall color was gorgeous in Yosemite Valley this past weekend, but this likely was the last spurt of leaf peeping to be seen in the national park.

Gold Country

75 – 100% – Color has descended along the Mother Lode with beautiful orange and yellow maples and oaks showing from the 2,000 to 4,000′ elevations.

Central Valley

75 – 100% – The urban forests in Sacramento, Modesto and  cities of the northern Central Valley have been peaking for the past two weeks with beautiful color reported.  Sacramento is a veritable jewel box of brilliant reds, auburns, oranges, yellows and chartreuse.  Recent storms have affected some trees, though there’s still a lots and lots of color to be seen.   Go Now!

North Coast

75 – 100% – Napa and Sonoma County Vineyards – As has been happening for near a  month, the vineyards of Napa and Sonoma Counties have been peaking, with vineyards showing ruby, orange, yellow and lime by variety.  The wine country doesn’t change all at once, it shows by plot, though lots of great color remains.  Go Now!

Southern California

75 – 100% – San Jacinto Mountains – Dazzling displays of yellow and orange have been seen among the maple and oaks of the San Jacinto Mountains near Lake Hemet, Mountain Center and Idyllwild.  Go Now!

Gallimauphry – East/West Sierra, Wine/Gold Country

June Lake Loop (10/25/12) Jeff Titcomb

Here’s a roundup of color seen around the state.  We received photos only from Mono County.  I drove through Napa and Sonoma Counties today, but had no time to stop and take photos, so must leave that to local color spotters.  Visit the “About” page on this site to find our email address.

Also, if you’re frustrated that we haven’t responded to requests posted on our Facebook page, it got blocked by Facebook because we responded to a message sent to us by one of our color spotters.  The message was actually a Facebook virus that infected our site.  So, Facebook has blocked us from posting until they’re sure the virus is gone.

This blog, however, is not infected, so it will continue to post reports.  Because the Facebook message from the spotter related to “color change,” we thought it had something to do with fall color.  And, since it came from a productive spotter, we clicked on the request, only to learn today that it was a virus.

Because it was a virus and because we clicked to accept the color spotter’s request, the virus may have sent itself among our Facebook friends.  So, if you are a subscriber to our Facebook page and receive a request from us to something to do with “color change,” don’t accept it.   In the meantime, here’s what’s happening:


June Lake Loop (10/25/12) Jeff Titcomb


June Lake Loop (10/25/12) Jeff Titcomb


June Lake Loop (10/25/12) Jeff Titcomb

Eastern Sierra

Past Peak – Bishop Creek Canyon (above 7,500’) – All elevations above 7,500’ are now past peak, though some spectacular color can be seen in pockets of the Bishop Creek Canyon.

75 – 100% – Bishop Creek Canyon (below 7,500’) – The lower areas of Bishop Creek Canyon are in their glory, with lots of yellow and spots of orange.

Owens Valley, Bishop (10/25/12) Jon Klusmire

50 – 75% – Owens Valley – The color seen in Bishop and other towns long US 395 contrasted with snow atop Eastern Sierra peaks is breathtaking.

75 – 100% – Convict Lake – The mix of snow and fall color this past week has been beautiful.

75 – 100% – Mammoth Lakes – Spirits are up at Mammoth Mountain which reported 18” of new snow on the mountain this past week.  Combined with the fall color that’s still to be seen in the Lakes Basin, the area is “stunning.”

75 – 100% – June Lake – Color is at peak along the June Lake Loop, described by a reporter as “magnificent.”  The early snow has provided beautiful contrast.

Western Sierra

30 – 50% – Yosemite Valley – Dogwood are coloring pink, the bigleaf maple have dropped leaves into fern spring  and the black oak are turning bright orange and black in time for Halloween.  The famous pioneer Eastern Sugar Maple near the Yosemite chapel is past peak.  Yosemite nature photographer, Michael Frye reports on his blog (see link at left), “… autumn is arriving slowly. I found some nice color across the river from El Capitan, underneath Middle Cathedral Rock, where most of the maples have turned yellow. Some other maples around the valley have also turned, along with a few dogwoods and cottonwoods, but most of the deciduous trees are still green.  It looks like the peak color is still at least a week away, but the good news is that most of the trees seem to be in good shape. The leaves on a few dogwoods have already wilted and turned brown, but these are a small minority. Last year most of the cottonwood leaves wilted before changing color, but this year the cottonwoods look normal—if still mostly green.”

Gold Country

75 – 100% – Sierra Foothills – Grasses and ground covers in the Sierra foothills are glowing golden with splashes of maroon, along Latrobe Road, CA-16 and Buena Vista Road.  Amador County vineyards are just beginning to show yellow and auburn, mostly lime green on the vines.

North Coast

30 – 50% – Napa Valley – A hillside of vines at the intersection of CA-12 and the Silverado Trail is flush with ruby, yellow, orange and lime.

30 – 50% – Carneros – Vines near Cuvaison and Domaine Carneros at CA-12 and Duhig Rd. are yellow, red and lime.

30 – 50% – Valley of the Moon, Sonoma County – Vines along Stage Gulch Rd (CA-116) now sparkle with red, yellow and lime.

Vineyards approach Peak

50 – 75% – Napa and Sonoma Counties – color spotters are reporting orange, red and burgundy among the vines.

Mid December, Yet LA County Continues to Glow with Fall Color!

Impressed by this autumn’s long-lasting display of fall color, Los Angeles Times reporter Roy Rivenburg called yesterday to ask if this autumn is unusual for its duration.  It sure is.  The color arrived late just about everywhere across the state and generally has been spectacular throughout, with wet weather hardly shortening or lessening this year’s gorgeous display.

This past week, I spent several days in the Napa Valley and was impressed by the glowing displays of yellow, orange and red vineyards in the Carneros District, east of Napa, the beautiful fall color to be found among Downtown Napa’s historic Victorian mansions, and the bright yellow big leaf maple to be seen poking its flickering branches between oaks and evergreens at the Meadowood Resort east of St. Helena.

Photo of the Month on the Ventura County Trails website depicts fall color along the floor of the Upper Sycamore Canyon in Point Mugu State Park.  Color Spotter Grant Roden of Elk Meadow Cabins at Redwood National and State Parks says he’s been following Tweets from this group about the great and long-lasting fall color they’ve been seeing on their hikes throughout Southern California.

California’s urban forests continue to show impressively.  From the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden comes this video of fall color to be seen this December at the arboretum.


Getting Philosophical

Yosemite Falls, Autumn (file photograph) - John Poimiroo

After a big storm (and we had one yesterday), color spotters get a bit philosophical.  Plumas County’s black oak naturalist, Joe Willis blogged yesterday that the storm had discouraged taking pictures until he noticed the leaves knocked down by the rain and found beauty in them.  He continued, “we might not have a real peak this year. The unusual sequence of rain and temperature patterns seem to have made for a very uneven and unpredictable [although I did predict this in an early September post!] season for viewing fall colors. Some species of maple have turned bright red and are already losing leaves while just a few blocks away the same species of trees is still green. Some maples are turning yellow then falling, skipping the red period altogether.”

What I’ve seen over the years is that while rain, snow and wind do reduce the number of or damage leaves that have already turned color, they seem not to have much effect on leaves that haven’t yet turned from green to lime.  What’s interesting about this year is that the color change has been late this fall and until late Saturday and Sunday, we’d had very little rain throughout California this autumn, providing for ideal color.  The photos taken by Rob Bohning a week earlier in the Eastern Sierra attest to that.  Of course, much of that color has been blown off branches by yesterday’s strong winds, but below 7,000′ there’s still lots of color yet to develop.

Photographer Michael Frye was reporting in his blog three days ago that in Yosemite Valley (5,000 ft) 50% of the bigleaf maple have turned and only 20% of the dogwood and cottonwood, which means there’s still lots of color yet to show.  One of my favorite colors of autumn are the bright orange leaves and dark branches of the black oaks of Yosemite National Park, as they’re so reminiscent of Halloween.  These trees are particularly beautiful when framing a waterfall and with yesterday’s storms, Yosemite’s waterfalls should be flowing again for that kind of photo.  Another popular photograph is of Fern Spring, the smallest waterfall in Yosemite Valley.  In its dark reflective waters, colorful maple leaves gather for a classic shot.

Fern Spring (file photograph) - John Poimiroo

Past Peak – Above 8,000 ft.

75-100% – High Sierra below 7,000 ft.  There’s still lots of color in the canyons among aspen that had not yet turned color.  If you base your trips of the East Side in Bishop, be sure to visit Mountain Light, Galen and Barbara Rowell’s visually motivating photographic gallery.

30-50% – This week through Wednesday and coming weekend should be good times to head to Yosemite, though it is predicted to rain on Thursday and Friday.

30-50% – Another good choice for weekend adventures would be a tour of the Shasta Cascade, including a loop from Redding to Weaverville on CA-299, or to Lassen Volcanic National Park on CA-44, then north on CA 89 toward Mt. Shasta, past McCloud before returning to your base in Redding.  For those planing to drive through Lassen Volcanic National Park, the Lassen Park Road closes intermittently when storms pass through.  Closures can exist from the Devastated Area at the north to the Sulphur Works to the south, meaning that you can no longer drive entirely through the park when it’s snowing on Lassen Peak, but in areas you can drive there remain nice stands of aspen showing yellow.  Though, there’s no telling how long that will last.

30-50% – Vineyards are glowing yellow with flares of red and orange.  Head to the Napa Valley, Sonoma County and the Sierra Foothills for a bit of wine tasting mixed with leaf peeping.

15-30% – Color is also beginning to show in our urban forests.  Sacramento, San Francisco and Chico have beautiful displays of color, particularly in their great parks (Land Park, Golden Gate and Bidwell).  So, don’t get to philosophical about one storm.  Grab your camera, your sweetheart and the wheel and see the color in places where it’s at its best… after all, California is a big state!

Late Harvest, Late Color

A couple of weeks ago, travel broadcaster John Hamilton of  KGO-AM810 mentioned that the grape harvest was running late this year and he questioned whether the autumnal change was also running later than usual, as well.  We responded that yes, our color spotters were reporting that color was showing a week to two weeks late this fall.  And, our reports have consistently noted color appearing about a week later than last year.

Yesterday I toured the Napa Valley from Chardonnay Golf Course to St. Helena and found very little color showing.  Sections of vineyards are coloring yellow, but the change is still very slight.  The aromas of fermentation are evident near the wineries, so the harvest is underway, yet color is still a week to two weeks late.

0 – 15% – Napa Valley – Yellow is coloring individual vineyards or sections of them, but there’s still a lot of green.