Flashbacks and Fast Forward

Twenty-six years ago I was younger than two thirds of the guests then visiting the Dry Creek Vineyard tasting room. Today I'm older than two thirds of the guests. Is it just me or do many of the Millennial Generation really look barely a day over 15? Maybe it's just me getting older. In any case, it is wonderful to see wineries experiencing a surge in younger tasters. When I started at Dry Creek, back in 1984, very few of our tasters were in their 20s; we were catering to a much narrower, older audience then.

There have been many changes over the past 26 years at the winery. In 1984, the “tasting room” was in a small room, probably no more than 18' x 20', with a concrete floor, a wooden bar Click photo to enlarge!similar to today's, but much smaller, and a pot belly wood stove up against one wall. We didn't have computers or cash registers in the tasting room, just a metal box for money and a receipt book we kept in a drawer behind the tasting bar.

The music being played at the time was strictly classical, that was Dave's Law. No Rock 'n Roll or R & B allowed. We were appealing to the 50-somethings and this group was not terribly fond of “that music.” Of course, all of the employees were into R & R and R & B, but we couldn't risk offending our core constituency tasters.

Today 80% of the music played in the tasting room is R & R and R & B and our guests love it. Of course, today's 50-somethings and 60-somethings grew up with Rock & Roll, and the Millennial Generation seems to have a broad appreciation for many styles of music, so they seem to enjoy the atmosphere as well. 

Dry Creek has always attracted a great variety of interesting personalities. Dave, being an independent, intelligent Free Thinker, saw the value of hiring a diverse group of fun loving wine enthusiasts. We worked hard and we played even harder.  I remember playing touch football after work, out on the lawn, with a boom box blasting Rock 'n Roll, while a lovely array of DCV wines graced our picnic tables, along with cheese and crackers and whatever else we had brought with us. Sometimes such events were spontaneous, other times we would loosely plan to bring something to BBQ after work. Summer weekends felt like a nonstop, never-ending party.

Of course, back then only one or two employees had children. The rest of us didn't have to run off after work like obsessed soccer moms. We just had a great time enjoying each other's company. Dave would open his home for BBQs, swimming and dancing, and we would all bring a dish to share, along with a bottle of wine and a towel. Seeing how many bodies we could cram into Dave's hot tub was always great fun. Those were the days.

We used to have a wooden suggestion box which sat next to the coffee machine into which we would place, well, suggestions. Sometimes there were some rather hilarious recommendations, but for the most part they had to do with 'improvements' to the way we were doing things, or with something that was needed to do a better job. My suggestions were mainly about 'going more organic'. I was a dyed-in-the-hide nature hippie, always on the lookout for a 'smaller footprint' on Mother Earth.

I had graduated from Sonoma State University in 1975 and stayed on for a while in the new, alternative energy department, before making my final break from SSU. I was using a solar panel I had built for heating water, along with a solar oven and a solar fruit dehydrator.  I was quite committed to an alternative lifestyle at the time. My suggestions were politely reviewed and then put aside.

The suggestion box was retired many years ago, but I am pleased to note that in recent years Dry Creek has implemented many changes in its operations so that we might tread a little lighter upon this beautiful planet of ours. Changes have been made in the vineyards, including water recovery, and the lighting throughout the winery has been upgraded for greater energy efficiency; we have owl houses and bat houses around the winery, as well as predator perches in the vineyards.

Don Wallace, President of Dry Creek Vineyard and a founding member of the Sustainable Agriculture movement at the California Wine Institute, has been a prime mover behind many of these changes. He has been exploring alternative forms of energy use for the winery, and he is currently involved with the Dry Creek Habitat Restoration project. That old suggestion box may have been retired long ago, but more improvements have been implemented in recent years than I would ever have thought possible 26 years ago.

Karen Tovani,
Tasting Room Associate

| | Comments (8)


VSC_Girl Author Profile Page said:
March 30, 2010 1:43 PM

What an exciting read! I loved it.

Nicky said:
March 30, 2010 2:14 PM

very enjoyable read..nice to know that 'getting back to the garden,' so to speak, is hip again..

ktovani Author Profile Page said:
March 30, 2010 4:34 PM

Hey, VSC_Girl, thanks!

ktovani Author Profile Page said:
March 30, 2010 5:30 PM

Hello Nicky,
Thanks for your favorable comment to a first time blogger. Yes, isn't it great the way many of the wineries are going green. Speaking of gardens, we (the folk at DCV) started an employee garden, Don calls it "The People's Garden".

JohnLopresti Author Profile Page said:
March 31, 2010 11:15 AM

I would place the organic emphasis at DCV earlier than 1984. In 1981-82 DCV had a longtime, experienced gardener lady who specialized in drought tolerant and edible plants, flowers, and herbs. The plantings were as beautiful and sensorily attractive as the more traditional formal landscape architectures at other wineries at the time. Dave was one of the originals, in making a distinctive new northcoast winery identity; he represented a departure from many of the worn old ideas. And, evidently, from the photo, he tended the tasting room, too, on some days. His was, indeed, a youthful perspective.

hustler Author Profile Page said:
April 8, 2010 3:02 PM

I was going to head home from work today and drink a choice Belgian beer. After reading this I may have to open one of those "30th Anniversary" meritage I picked-up from your tasting room on vacation 2 years ago. I don't know why, but this entry took me back.

ktovani Author Profile Page said:
April 9, 2010 6:05 PM

Hello Hustler,
I hope you enjoyed your Meritage and reverie, sounds like a good way to end the work day.
Thanks, for your comment.

ktovani Author Profile Page said:
April 9, 2010 6:14 PM

Greetings John,
Thanks for sharing your knowledge and history of Dry Creek Vineyard. I enjoyed your comment.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by ktovani published on March 30, 2010 1:32 PM.

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