Where to start? This has been a challenging year, even before the double whammy of extensive power outages and the Kincade fire (just fully contained as this is being written). With the wholesale wine market jammed with new labels and minions of salespeople all clamoring for attention, I find I am unable to keep our wines focused on in most of these markets. Yet what has always been solid for our winery over these many years is the support we have received from those of you on our mailing list. We thank you for never giving up on us. It is why we were able to start this winery in the first place and why we are still here.
Planned power outages: We were pretty lucky early in October during the first Planned Power outage. Our winery location was spared the shut down when harvest and wine making was still running hard in early October. The last shutdown though was potentially more problematic as our location was included. The good news was that the we were in the later part of harvest where all fruit was in, the temps had cooled and the refrigeration need for fermentation was essentially nil as usual. Knowing a day or so in advance we were going to lose power for at least 4-6 days, I proactively chilled the cellar down more than usual this time of year before the power was cut at the winery on 10/26. My parents had given me their old 5KW pull-start generator which had been replaced by a newer, stronger electric start unit. I was able to put the old generator to good use at the winery as well as at home so we could keep doing business and making wine. The winery neighbor is an electrician and was able to calculate the size and type and then locally locate a variable frequency drive that would match the 5KW generator to deliver 3 phase power to the larger winery equipment. Game changer! This allows me to empty the presses and continue normal winemaking activity as needed when power is cut. This setup can also drive the destemmer so in the future we will be able to bring in red grapes without a hitch regardless of PG&E service. We are also looking into a whole-winery generation system for the long term so we will not need to juggle circuits. But this little short-term solution was quite adequate for the needs at the time. Never give up.
The fire: Miraculously, up at the Scherrer Vineyard the house, barns, out buildings and vineyards were untouched. The fire had burned down the wooded hillside right to the significant defensible space my dad had stalwartly maintained. A fire had burned thru in a similar fashion in the 1930’s when he was a child and it obviously made a lifelong impression. For all these years his vigilance and adherence to this standard kept the property intact. My sister, Louise has been responsible for mowing most of this large area the past years. They never gave up on this. It was a huge factor in the fire sparing the farm as fire fighters weren’t on site at those critical moments when the fire burned uncomfortably close to the structures most of which have been standing well over a century.
Evacuations: We evacuated my parents twice that week in the wee hours of the morning from their home on the vineyard in Alexander Valley to our home south of Sebastopol. We had done this two years prior, so it did not take as long to pack and leave this time. A couple days later when we all had to evacuate our Sebastopol home as a further precaution from the worst case scenario of the fire jumping Highway 101, we dispersed to different safe locations, hopefully for a few more days. At that time, I returned to the evacuation zone at the winery to open up at night when smoke was headed the other direction to keep the cellar cool, defend the winery against any two-legged predators and to put out any spot fires that might flare up by long-flying embers pushed by the fierce, changing high winds. Fortunately, none of these threats were realized, although it was difficult to remain on the roof while blowing pine needles out of the winery roof gutters for the third time.
Those early days of the fire with late night evacuations and worry were sleepless for all our family. It made the last couple of months of my harvest mode 100-hour workweeks look like a vacation on a cruise ship in the tropics. That little 22-year-old generator, secured in the back of my pickup along with several 5-gallon containers of gasoline, hardly got any rest either as we commuted between our home and winery keeping cold food cold, water running, and the blessed coffee machine brewing here and there. The little generator never gave up. Neither did we.
You can download the complete newsletter here: Never Give Up