Our family is in a state of transition.  My eldest child, Taylor-whom many of you know from the wine named after her, (Taylor's Vineyard Sauvignon Musqué) as well as her annual singing performances at our Summer Lobster Fest, recently headed off to college. Packing her up (three cars full!) was a surreal experience as any parent who has been through this transition knows. Happily, she is loving college life and has made many new friends.  Her grades better be positive too as we sure are going to have to sell a lot of wine to help pay for this! Our family life is slowly adjusting to a slightly less complicated existence with one less person in the house.

The winery is in a state of transition too. We have several new faces around the cellar and we are rapidly gearing up for our 40th harvest. With all the cold weather earlier this year, we're already behind schedule by a few weeks. But most winemakers I know secretly welcome a little delay as they finish up their last minute preparations before the first load of grapes arrive. This year, we will most likely start picking Sauvignon Blanc first. Quality looks good, but yields, especially in Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel are light. A bit of last minute scrambling is going on as we search for added vineyards to shore up our estate fruit supplies.

Sadly, I'll miss the arrival of our first load as I'm on a plane headed to New York for a week of market work. You certainly wouldn't have had that forty years ago! Nor, would you have had the overcrowded marketplace, distributor consolidation and a lagging economy to worry about in addition to harvest. As a matter of fact, harvest forty years ago was a very different matter.

The summer of '72 was very hot and dry. A serious wildfire had occurred on Bradford Mountain, just off West Dry Creek Rd. I was 9 years old at the time. The California Division of Forestry Services had set up camp in our newlyClick photo to enlarge cleared field- in what would soon become known as DCV 3-the birthplace of Fumé Blanc and the first vineyard planted to Sauvignon Blanc in the region. Dad was fresh out of UC Davis and excited as hell to make his first vintage of wine. The winery itself had not been built, so our first load of grapes was actually crushed over at Cuvaison Winery in Napa where good friend Tom Cottrell was winemaker. Many of the industry's legacy vintners were also getting started that same year—Bernard Portet, Jim Barrett, and Tom Burgess to name a few.

It was an era of trial and error, of teamwork and innovation—most Click photo to enlargewinemakers were new at this, and they were such early pioneers! One of my favorite family stories involves my father using chewing gum to plug up a leaky radiator hose during the long slow drive over the hill to Cuvaison. With 100 degree plus weather, the grapes were at risk of being scorched and a solution had to be found quickly.  A couple of wads of Wrigley's soon repaired the problem and Robert Young's old red truck eventually made it over the hill with our precious first load. Hopefully, we won't have similar problems this year although I'm sure there will be a few snafus...there always are.  

So much has changed in the nearly four decades of our existence. We now have dozens of fermenters, three presses, and thousands of barrels that fill the walls of the winery. Our cellar crew has grown to 9 and we have a full time maintenance man to repair radiator hoses instead of using chewing gum. I've grown up and so has the winery. What will the next forty years bring? Who knows, but I sure feel blessed to have been a part of the winery's early days as well as that very first harvest.

| | Comments (3)


AngelWorks Author Profile Page said:
September 7, 2011 5:50 PM

I love this story. It reminds me of my childhood on the farm in Texas, except we were harvesting Coastal Bermuda Grass on a red John Deere tractor!

Wine is much better.

Kim (aka Wilma) Author Profile Page said:
September 8, 2011 9:15 AM

Angel - Thanks for the comment. I'd have to agree that farming grapes is at least more romantic than Bermuda grass. Trust me though, there are plenty of tractors around here too! All my best to you!

JohnLopresti Author Profile Page said:
September 9, 2011 3:59 PM

That lower photograph of Dave wielding the pitchfork is reminiscent of an early silent video I saw in a vineyard management class. The video depicted all stages of a very informal harvest around those years. The person who made the video was Michael Topolos, who was studying in the class. He had shot the footage without sound. It looked like a bunch of friends were his crew of grape pickers. And he mixed a sound track onto the images, with the Beatles song "All you need is love". After the class viewed the film, his discussion revealed the grape source was some ridge old growth vineyard of petit sirah close to the Mayacama Mts. At the time I was in that class, I had met Dave, then about 9 years older than in your nice memoire and I had spent several weeks working in the then new winery he had built. There were a lot of excellent individuals paving their own ways to greatness in wine making in those times, building CA viticulture and enology into the world class strength it enjoys today. I think Mike captured a good portion of the spirit, too, with the amateur video images of his associates trying to bring in the grapes on time.

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This page contains a single entry by Kim published on September 7, 2011 3:13 PM.

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