Out of the ashes
The story of this ranch sometimes reminds me of when I was a boy and we would go to the movies on Saturday morning. If you recall, last month’s Journey to Harvest article ended with disaster as the pioneer family’s barn and home both burned to the ground. But like in those Saturday movies, just when it looked like the forces of evil had triumphed, putting an end to any chance that the wonderful terroir of this 50-acre hillside vineyard would be able to produce great wine…you could hear the sound of bugles and galloping horses in the distance. As the Cavalry came charging over the hills to the rescue, you could see the lead rider carrying the black and yellow banner of Clan MacLeod. We may have been too late to save our pioneer predecessors, but not too late to rebuild the dream.
There was literally nothing here but an old shack as we began picking up stones, preparing the vineyard soil, and building our new home. After a few years of hard work we had our home built and five acres of zinfandel planted. During this time we used the small space under the shack to store our tools and supplies. Our neighbor Mr. Uboldi let us leave the D-2 tractor at his place.
We needed a barn and needed one badly. However, the expense of home building and initial planning had exhausted our funds. Then, out of the blue, we had a Greek theater “deus ex machina.” I had a consulting contract with my ex-employer who suddenly cancelled and sent me a large termination check that fully funded a new barn. For years we called the new barn “The General Instrument Memorial Barn.” It was indeed a happy event that set the tone for our whole vineyard project.
Let’s let the new barn tell its story in its own first person voice.
“Before my materials and supplies had shown up the family had observed a large, flat, grass-covered area bounded on one side with a row of fire-scarred fig trees and two large, scarred oaks on the other. Mr. Uboldi told them that it was the site of the pioneer barn that had burned decades ago. Perhaps it was the pull of history that led them to choose the same fateful site as my new home. Whatever the case, they made the right call as I have been the host of so many happy events, raw optimism, and plain old good vibes over my 35-year life. Consider just a few events: The wedding of daughter Susan (a huge event with cowboy music, a half steer and 200 guests); the making of apple juice that has won two Best of County gold medals; I’ve been the hub of activity for at least a hundred grape harvests; and my redwood walls greet all visitors who come to taste the product of our unique Sonoma Valley terroir.
“Wine experts say that no one knows the extent of the variables that contribute to the character of a great glass of wine. But if a cheerful, history-rich ambiance counts, then I am doing my share or more. Truly the disaster-prone life of my barn ancestor on this site must by now be fully avenged.”
But enough of the Barn story...what’s happening with vintage 2013? Javier and the Zinfandel team and Marie with her Sauvignon Blanc are awakening after winter’s rest and are anxious to get started on their Journey to Harvest. Earlier in March you could detect a tiny white line across the top of each bud that was the top edge of the first leaf pushing to get out. Now, both are in full bud break – the time when the dormant buds that grew last May and June literally burst open.
In a few more days as the buds open there will be the edges of three or more tiny gray-green leaves with pinkish serrated edges and an over all whitish fuzz. If you go out in the vineyard at dawn when the morning dew is still upon the buds, there will be tiny droplets on the tips of each serrated leaf point. And if your eye catches the nearly horizontal morning sun rays just right, the dew droplets appear as a diamond necklace on the edges of the new leaves. A farmer’s reward!
Now push your luck and look down into the small circle of new pink edged leaves and you will find two round tiny bunch-like clusters about a quarter to a half inch long. These two tiny clusters over the next six months will survive a host of hazards on their journey to be part of a great glass of wine, Vintage 2013. A farmer’s challenge!