At long last, we had enough winter rainfall to fill the soil profile to field capacity. Then, as if that wasn’t good enough, we got extra rain in early May which really got the vines into high gear growth. The plants haven’t looked this happy for quite some time. It would be nice to be able to bank some of that ‘extra’ rainfall for the seasons when nature turned the tap mostly off. The reality is that California historically experiences feast and famine in rainfall despite our desires for ‘average’ temperatures and precipitation every year. So, with this herky-jerky ride in mind (somewhat of a rodeo ride vs. a draft horse pulled wagon) we endeavor to keep one hand on the hack rein and the other high in the air with the vagaries of each season, just like our ancestors did. We are becoming accustomed to this one-handed method of riding, for better or worse. Just gotta hang on.
With the recent banking debacles in the world, it has become quite evident that the way we collectively avoid a perceived or revealed risk can become a self-fulfilling prophecy causing dominoes to fall back onto ourselves and/or others. Those of us engaged in short shelf-life agricultural products, like grapes and their conversion to more stable forms like wine, have had to grow accustomed to varied levels of risk. We appreciate your support in helping us navigate these waters as we have striven for stability for over three decades.
Time: We are all born with an unknown amount of “time-wealth” that we trade for other forms of wealth. It’s strange to consider making “purchases” with an asset that one has little idea of how much they actually have to spend. One can only hope that there is more! Timing: This is where the true value of the time spent and the amount of time left to spend can be assessed. Leaving a building, just before the earthquake levels it, is of greater value than planning to leave it an hour later! In this case, the timing determines the amount of time left to spend. Similarly, timing of harvesting determines the outcome of the wine, especially when conditions become extreme.
Old vines, old barns, old tractors and old tools; they were designed with common sense and they still do what they were made for. Of course, there is always a place for a new way that supports the concepts that made the old ways timeless. But they must pass ‘the common sense test’ before throwing[…]
Just as we are mentally ready to declare that the Covid pandemic is over and return to a life similar to before… there are now other existential threats surfacing in Eastern Europe which affect the rest of the world. History repeats itself so regularly and it’s an important reminder that this happens to real people, not just distant ones on the media. The Rolling Stones were young people at the time they wrote the title song, living a day at a time. All the founding members were born in the years during WWII and grew up during the aftermath and recovery in Great Britain. It is remarkable how much wisdom it communicates about the human condition. The message of this song seems quite apt today for reasons beyond the initial thrust of the song.
In a number of ways, the winemaking life has analogous characters and challenges to Ulysses’ story. On top of the normal farming/weather vagaries, there are existential threats (fires threatening lives and buildings), monsters that arise from the depths of the sea or from above (smoke affecting fruit, worldwide pandemic, the weather… drought then flooding within 2 weeks), thieves & suitors for one’s position of authority (politicians, tariffs, supply chain issues, huge price increases on bottles and certain facets of the commercial wine trade). Ulysses had to not only be very good at the tasks at hand but. also had to be able to avoid the pitfalls during the lengthy journey by using his head.
Recently this dry summer, I had reason to venture upon the wild hills above the family vineyard in Alexander Valley. Walking the hills half a century later, I pondered redeveloping these natural water sources as a backup to our amazing modern well which requires electricity to function. Going back to the time before electricity was available, all you needed to supply the house with water was a source at higher elevation, gravity, hand digging tools, some mortar, rocks, pipe and some planning ahead. These springs have seeped their life-giving water in a modest but stalwart fashion during wet and dry years including the 1976/1977 drought which I witnessed first-hand. This is a very hopeful reminder during challenging times.
As with any significant change, there are upsides and downsides. For us, as with you all, this past year of pandemic has caused us pain and uncertainty. The upside to that is we are healthy and have been able to weather that storm with the tremendous support we received from you, our direct customers.
Ever since last fall when the fire burned right up to the barns at my parents’ place, we have been on alert, adapting to new situations. COVID-19, business shutdowns and the resulting market shifts for wine made us find new ways to cope.
We are all currently in a situation where we must adapt to rapidly changing conditions. While this was initiated by a biological threat, the human reaction to it has caused changes that cascade through every corner of society. And like most human reactions and responses, not all of it is logical or fact-based. However, that does not change the fact that we must adapt and move forward as best we are able.