Friday, February 26, 2021

Drunk on Geomorphology - Continental Divide Cabernet Franc


The next Drunk on Geology is for Continental Divide Cabernet Franc from the Continental Divide Winery in Fairplay, CO. 

The continental divide is essentially a line that divides the direction that water, specifically in the form a precipitation (rain, snow, sleet, etc.), travels along a continent. All continents have a continental divide. Within North America, that divide travels down the western portion of the country dividing water that flows towards the Atlantic Ocean from water that travels towards the Pacific Ocean.

Simplified Continental Divide of North America. Image courtesy of National Geographic.

This primary continental divide, or Great Divide, runs north to south through several states within the contiguous United States including Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. Since this dividing line is typically along mountain ridges, the line runs through a large number of National Parks as well. 

Continental Divide in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming

Although the signs typically mark the locations of the continental divides, they aren't always in precisely the correct location, as is the case for this one in Yellowstone. Although I wanted to get out and show water flowing in two different directions, the actual divide was a bit up the slope behind the photographer (my lovely wife), so the water actually just ran down the same side of the sign (as you can see by the stream on the righthand side of the sign).

Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado

This sign in Rocky Mountain National Park is probably a bit more accurate than the above sign in Yellowstone. 

The reason that the Continental Divide generally runs along the length of Rocky Mountains is because of the topography of these mountains is generally higher than the rest of the country, dividing the water paths into two different regions. Everything on the eastern half of the Rockies and beyond flows eventually towards the Atlantic Ocean, while everything on the western half of the Rockies flows eventually towards the Pacific Ocean. Well, kind of. Like I mentioned above, the line down the Rocky Mountains is a "simplified" version of the continental divide. It is actually a bit more complicated than that. 

A bit more complicated map of the continental divide system for North America. Image courtesy of Geography Realm

One of the reasons that the true continental divide is a bit more complicated is that North America is surrounded by a few major bodies of water. On the eastern half of the country, although many of those water bodies eventually drain out to the Atlantic Ocean, there are some stops along the way. So the eastern half can be divided up into the directly into the Atlantic Ocean portion, the Gulf of Mexico divide, the St. Lawrence Seaway divide, the Hudson Bay divide, and the Arctic Ocean divide. 

Along the western half of the country most of the land area travels directly into the Pacific Ocean, except for a large landmass in the center of the west called the Great Basin. This region is actually an enclosed basin where water does not exit out of except through evaporation. The largest body of water in the region is the Great Salt Lake, which is salty precisely because water only leaves through evaporation, leaving behind all the salt and other minerals that the streams collect along the way. The Great Basin is actually comprised of many smaller basins with several end lakes, besides just the Great Salt Lake. 

There are also more instances of enclosed end basins and a few can be seen along the central Great Divide, like in Wyoming. Like the Great Basin, there is a section of Wyoming known as the Great Divide Basin, where water also doesn't leave except through evaporation. 

Text on the back of the bottle:
"Nestled high in the Rocky Mountains, we produce and cellar premium wines above 10,000 feet elevation using Colorado grapes. Our scientific approach and meticulous attention to detail ensure exceptional wines crafted to artfully reflect the terroir of Colorado. 
Our Colorado wines are produced from premium fruit from the Grand Valley AVA where the pristine waters from the Colorado mountains irrigate and nourish the vines. Our extreme elevation and cool temperatures help to produce a classic, old world style wine."

And the winery is definitely true to its name. The Continental Divide Winery, actually sits within the shadow of the Great Continental Divide as it winds its way through Colorado. The artist rendition of the mountains on the bottles of the winery I would assume represent the mountains in the background of their winery, through which the divide runs.