Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Drunk on Glaciology - Going to the Sun Pinot Gris

The next up on the Drunk on Geology series is Going to the Sun Pinot Gris by the Ten Spoon Vineyard from Missoula, MT. 

The name "Going to the Sun" could refer to two different but related things, both within Glacier National Park. The main road that crosses the central portion of the park is called Going-to-the-Sun Road, in honor of the mountain that is near the peak of the road at Logan Pass, which is Going-to-the-Sun Mountain. Both of which are glacially influenced features. According to the website:
This label honors the mountain goats leaping the peaks of Glacier Park, often seen at Logan Pass, top of the breathtaking Going To The Sun road.
I had previously done a Geology of the National Parks Through Pictures of Glacier National Park, but I will limit what I talk about here to just the road and the mountain related to the name of the wine. 
Looking closely at the bottle, it is obvious that the artist was intending for the road to look like it is going up to the mountain peak, however, the road pictured doesn't actually exist. Going-to-the-Sun Road generally stays towards the valleys, providing the easiest method from getting from the western part of the part to the eastern part, crossing the central mountains at Logan Pass. And actually, that's not the Going-to-the-Sun Mountain. I'm pretty sure that's Mount Oberlin, which is visible from the Going-to-the-Sun road on the western part of the part going up towards Logan Pass.

There is a shot of Mount Oberlin, from the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which does seem to match the mountain on the bottle pretty well. You can see the remnants of the glaciers up among the peaks, however as far as I am aware these are not active glaciers but snowfields. A snowfield remains during the entire year, while a glacier is a snowfield that slowly compacts into ice and eventually flows down the side of the mountain. As a glacier melts away, this process happens in reverse, where the glacier eventually turns into a snowfield. We can compare that to the Going-to-the-Sun Mountain below which is a very different mountain.

Going-to-the-Sun Mountain is the peak located on the left side of the Reynolds Creek valley here, sticking out in the picture. This picture was taken near Logan Pass facing towards the eastern part of the Going-to-the-Sun Road as it continues through the valley.

If we look at the Going-to-the-Sun Road as it traverses across the park from west to east, it travels first along the McDonald Creek valley. The McDonald Creek Valley is seen here directly in the center of the photo. The Going-to-the-Sun Road travels through that valley to the Logan Creek Valley. Both of these valleys are what are called U-shaped valleys, or glacial valleys. When a valley is eroded by a river or a stream it is constantly eroded by the water at the lowest part of the valley where the water is cutting into the ground. This forms a "V" shaped valley. However, when a glacier then comes into the valley, the ice of the glacier often fills the valley. This means that the glacier will then erode in all directions carving out a smoother walled valley in the shape of a "U". From here, high up on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, you can see a textbook example of the U-shaped valley through which we traveled through. 

After traversing up Logan Creek Valley, the road crosses the mountains at Logan Pass then continues down the other side through another U-shaped glacial valley, Reynolds Creek Valley, pictured above with Going-to-the-Sun Mountain located along side it. 

Text from the back of the bottle:

"Rich taste follows scents of rose petals and lime in this lively, sure-footed Pinto Gris, made in Montana from grapes grown at the Strand Vineyard, Naches Heights, WA. Take GOING TO THE SUN and follow the goats for a cliff-side picnic with crusty bread and of course, goat cheese." 

As you get near the peak of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, you can actually find quite a bit of the mountain goats for which the bottle pays tribute to. Here is one hanging out in the middle of the road in front of the upper part of Oberlin Falls, aka Bird Woman Falls, which is part of the upper reaches of Logan Creek. The rocks here, and really the majority of the rocks within the upper parts of all of these mountains near Logan Pass, is the Siyeh Limestone, a 1.1 billion year old (Proterozoic) limestone rich with early fossils such as stromatolites (algal mounds from a tidal environment). 

The falls pictured above and the mountain goat are perfect for this wine because they are both along the Going-to-the-Sun road, near the peak at Logan Pass. The waterfalls also start at Mount Oberlin, which is the mountain featured prominently on the front of the bottle. 

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