And Then Some

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It’s been warm here in Portland these last few days, and it’s projected to continue. So that means it’ll be just what we need out east in the vineyard, helping those little vines catch up to the slow start they, and most others out here in the West, have endured. And while they do, and while the heat leaves us looking for cool and sweating out whether or not our grapes will ripen in time, may I suggest a drink I have concocted: Basil-Strawberry Rum-Ade.

We made it up after I had had enough of the sickly sweet of diet coke in the Cuba Libres Scott had been pouring for us pre-dinner (we drink wine at dinner; nothing fancy, we are on a budget, after all). So I used what we had on hand, as any desperate-for-a-good-drink housewife might–lemons, basil from our “terracotta” garden pot, and strawberries saved from the slugs in the earthen garden–and put this refresher together. Maybe one like it already exists in the mixology-sphere, I dunno; I’ve never seen it on menus or run across it online. So here’s what I made, and it’s rather flavorful, the basil a lovely herbal counter-balance to the sweet of the strawberries and triple-sec:

Basil-Strawberry Rum-Ade
2-3 small strawberries — I used the very small and incredibly flavor-saturated ones grown in our garden
1 fresh large basil leaf
1/4 lemon, juiced
ice cubes
1 good splash of triple-sec — I used approx. 1 TBLSP

Here’s how it goes:

Muddle the strawberries and basil leaf in the lemon juice.

Add the triple sec, then fill up the glass with ice.

Top off with rum, as much as you’d like.


And there you have it. I’m looking forward to trying it with a little seltzer splash, for some bubble. And I can’t wait for the day I can offer it to friends at our home on our hill, overlooking Mt. Hood,

listening to the coyotes gather in the distance, our vineyard (and maybe winery, do I dare to dream so grandly?) in view; of course I’d also serve my favorite flavor of pork rinds (plain), because nothing beats a good rind and  good drink with good friends in the glorious wilds of the West.

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WARNING: This post is waaaay more heady than a meadowlark warbling (my last post).

Was at the best lunchtime presentation about the power of story last week, where the presenter, the creative mastermind behind the Portland Timbers advertising, Jelly Helm, a former Executive Creative Director at Wieden and Kennedy, shared some of his expertise. Even now it’s all still swirling in my head: the idea of story deficit in our culture (what we do have is way too shallow), about how the stories we’ve all depended upon as a society have been challenged and are in many cases no longer valid, the hero story — lots of heady stuff that I just LOVE, having a brand storyteller/writer background.

As I sat there and listened, I started thinking about the wine industry, the industry I now write for, and work in, and The Grande Dalles, and Scott and myself. And Steve Heimoff. What stories are now being told in the wine world, what stories aren’t, and at this junction the industry finds itself at, because it’s clear the wine world is going through something, what  scenarios will characterize the wine world and its stories moving forward?

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That’s what we saw last weekend on our drive to the vineyard. The bald eagles up in trees along the Columbia River—I counted four within a 50-yard distance, could’ve been more—off of I-84, right before our turn-off. The flock of wild turkeys were less than five-minutes later, off in a stand of trees, along 8-Mile, us just into the twists and turns of the road as it followed the meandering of the creek. There must have been a couple dozen of them along the water’s banks. Lined up eagles and a flock of turkeys. A national symbol and a national meal. Quite an ornithological dichotomy within minutes of one another. What does this mean?

All you rational people will say, “You’re in the Pacific Northwest, ferchirssakes, and so happened upon these feathered friends in their natural environment. What, do you think they were waiting there for you?!” No I don’t think they were (ha!) but I believe with this poignant showing of nature, there is something to take from it.

Thinking about life right now, there’s no denying the stress of trying to find those people who appreciate a more individual wine. So many “what’s all this for?” moments as we dip our feet into the industry and find out how hard it is to swim upstream when everyone’s swimming down. The closed minds of people are beginning to numb our own, and I wonder, have our heads dropped to the ground, like those turkeys pecking along the stream bank, unaware of the broader picture, or, on a more positive note, is it simply focusing on the task at hand? And what about the eagles? Are they there to remind us to keep our heads up, and not lose sight of the bigger picture? Or perhaps, and pardon the cheesiness, that we should soar above all the turkeys out there?! Or maybe it’s just to scavenge what we can and feast on it. I don’t know. I only know it was quite a mix of birds that day.

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Hat? Check.

Coffee? Check.

Wool socks? Note to self, get some.

Laptop? Check.

Cell phone? Where IS that? Ok – check.

Lots of books to catch up on? Double check.

Toilet paper for public bathroom? Triple check.

Ladies and Gents, I’m back in the Car Office again.

After a fairly short break in real life but like an eternity in web life, I’m right back here at Columbia Park, in north Portland, Oregon, in the car. “Where have you and your Car Office been?” you ask? Well, why don’t I just tell you?


The bird netting is being taken off as we speak! Yoohoooooo! That’s right everyone. We’re gearing up for harvest this week. Boy those grapes are taking their sweet time this year! Have had some recent frost scares, some rain scares, but looking at the forecast for the rest of the week

we’re good to go. Scott says the sangiovese still needs some time, but the riesling, cabernet sauvignon, and tempranillo will be snipped by Friday. I’ll try to wing Sam and myself out there for some live, on the spot reporting…

Now on to me. Ha! Seriously. I’ve enjoyed this time away from writing/blogging and here’s why: When we first planted our vineyard, all our freetime went there. All of it, and boy, did it piss me off when I no longer had the vineyard fever like Scott did. We were down to one car, my old Subaru, my autobahn and mountain baby I had with me when I lived in Germany and week-ended in Switzerland, and then my solace when I returned to the States as solo gal, that old suby my trusty trusty on all my Pacific Northwest adventures. Nope, it had been relegated to the farm car, and we had a vineyard to plant, dammit! Anyway, I didn’t want to feel pulled in two directions again, especially now with Sam in our lives.

Some months’ ago, Sam’s daycare ended, thankfully, not that he had a bad time there, but I didn’t like how the gal tweeted about green sale sweaters and a lot more when she was supposed to be engaging with the kids. Geez, louise! That experience solidified how precious our boy was, and somehow I felt guilty to have put him in that gal’s care. I also finally “heard” the lyrics, when Bert sings to Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins, “…childhood slips like sand through a sieve,” and boy didn’t that tug at my heart. Having just moved into a new house last month (yes, there are loan gods!), I essentially have just been hanging out with our very sweet boy in our new digs, and boy am I happy for it.

But now I’m ready to return to this (it’s time!), and thankfully have found a VERY COOL nanny who comes to our home twice a week, and then I escape. Back in the car office again. Look for more coming soon.

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I’ve been sick—a cold (hence the online silence + I had been working on the website + I’m knitting Sam a “tractor” sweater)—the last week or so and someone suggested bay leaf, hot water, and lemon as relief, a Sicilian grandmother’s remedy from the old country. I was on it. After I made myself a cup, and put Sam to his nap, I settled in to try to catch up on some of the wine world’s goings on; my first (and only) stop: Stu Smith’s site, Biodynamics is a Hoax.

What a hullabaloo going on there, if you haven’t visited, and lots to digest, that is if you care about biodynamics and vineyard farming. Disclosure: I know very little about biodynamic farming, and at one time some years ago, when we were beginning the prep work to plant our vineyard, I felt a little pressured that we should be doing something like this, as it seemed to be all the rage, and obviously still is. In something like a fear-based state of mind that we do things right, and in an ignorant state (or innocent? hmmm, where to draw the line between the two?), I felt the draw of herd mentality. So, I got what was at that time the only copy of Nicolas Joly’s Wine from Sky to Earth: Growing and Appreciating Biodynamic Wine from the Multnomah County Library (five years later there are two copies) and set out to learn more. Fine enough. But somewhere between the dung-filled horn and crystals the skeptic in me took hold, and after months of renewals and collecting dust while I thought I might get around to it, I returned the book to the library. I should’ve skipped ahead to the moon planting bits, that’s what I was really interested in. My old-world Swiss Oma would plant to cosmos rhythms, and I romanticized about moonlight sowing (!). But I digress (as usual).

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Finally. This is a big day for us; for any of you who’ve launched your own start-up website, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, imagine a substantial project you’ve invested a lot of yourself in, one that you are able to claim as yours and one that you are both proud of and surprised how you ever got it done. Like that.


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A list of 10 things a person should have at their disposal when venturing out into the Wilds of Wine.

8. An outfit for every occasion. If you’re a climber or hiker, you know how you truly need an assortment of protective clothing for what mother nature throws at you. The typical set up is the base-layer for wicking moisture, the mid, insulating layer to keep you warm, and the protective outer layer to keep the elements at bay: an outfit for every occasion. And as someone who loves the outdoors, the more options the better – I just can’t help myself.

One of my favorite mantras that drives Scott nutso is whenever he mentions an “event” and I say, “Oh! Sounds like a new outfit!” I must have formulated that idea after reading this “cultivated” book that shared the happenings of a year in a California vineyard. That book was really uebercultivated and often a grimacing, rough read  because of all the self-inflated moments, but still an interesting glimpse into how “the other side” lives, if we could all be so lucky, born into it instead of making it happen ourselves. Anyway – I digress. All the clothes descriptions for all the parties and events the author described, of COURSE you need new outfits for every public viewing.

I’m more practical. I’d be happy with a new outfit for weeding, or simply a Pucci head scarf for an event. And I did try to beef up my 10-year old fraying “creative class” wardrobe from my old sports company job and schicki-micki freelance meetings for our NYC media trip, and maybe I should have done the same for our venture capital pitches which never amounted to anything (which in hindsight is a godsend we didn’t get investors, for you can’t go your own way  and do what you want if you’re on other people’s dimes).  Scott says I mention that new outfit thing “At more or less any occasion.” But no, I don’t always get a new outfit, we are on a fairly tight budget, you know. It’s just that I can’t help myself.

9. Ability to laugh at yourself, and that’s so you can laugh at others. In my book you can’t have one without the other. And I most certainly love to laugh at others, in a Mark Twain/Jonathan Swift/Alexander Pope kind of way. I’m an anthropologist at heart, and I love to observe people, behaviour, and copycat copy on websites. And you KNOW I can laugh at myself, that goes without saying. For a reminder, see #5 in this post.

10. A leader with an unwavering vision. In hiking, it’s to see your team safely to the top. To make decisions in the best interest of the group, but always with safety at the core, and sobeit if you have to abandon the climb because of weather or injury or fatigue or what-have-you. They know what they are there to do. In this loud, me-too business world you better have someone with a vision. An honest, individual vision, who believes to the core in what they’re embarking upon, and who does not waver from the path. Think Richard Branson. Or Yves Chouinard. Those guys know where they’re going. Not only do they have extremely clear visions, they are visionaries, even better. Theirs is the kind of belief and determination and VISION you need. That’s Scott. He is the guy who knows, heart and soul, that there is no other way other than this. His way. His vision is what has guided this endeavor from the get-go. It is deep inside him. It is the driving force behind everything we do in the vineyard and for our wine. He’s an individual, as every leader needs to be. And he has an unwavering vision.

So, there you have it. My Top 10 Essentials. I know, I know, I didn’t even go into all the martinis or manhattans you might need along the way. That goes without saying.

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A list of 10 things a person should have at their disposal when venturing out into the Wilds of Wine.

5. Sense of humor. Back to the Hogsback. It’s 6 AM, hiking from 10 PM, and we’re almost to the summit of Mt. Hood. We’ve just found out our comrade is afraid of heights. And if that doesn’t turn one’s stomach, the altitude, Mt. Hood’s up-top sulphuric fumarole stink, lack of sleep, fatigue setting in, and all those carbs we’ve been downing will. You have to, umm, “go.” So there you are, out on the Hogsback, exposed, literally and figuratively, and you gotta dig your little hole, and pretend you can’t see your team up the way, and THEN, well, get out that little blue bag because a key maxim for hiking is “Pack it in, pack it out.” And all you can do at that point is to find the humor in it all, or else feel rather miserable.

Having a vineyard is no different.

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A list of 10 things a person should have at their disposal when venturing out into the Wilds of Wine.

One of the great things about where we live in the Pacific Northwest is all the hiking that surrounds us. The Cascade Mountains are essentially at our doorstep, Mt. Hood the closest to us in Portland, as well as the vineyard (30 miles or so, as the crow flies), Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams near by to the north, and then all the peaks in central Oregon: Mt. Jefferson, Three Sisters, Broken Top…. Not to mention all the opportunities in the Columbia Gorge – Dog Mountain, Table Mountain, Ruckle Ridge, Mt. Defiance, to name a few. Before the vineyard and wine, when times seemed much simpler, and we had the time and car and energy to head out into nature, I was a rather avid hiker, even enrolling in and completing the Mazama’s Basic Climbing Education Program (BCEP) in Scott’s and my salad dating days. The Mazamas are the second oldest climbing group in the West, founded on the pinnacle of Mt. Hood in 1894, and their BCEP a primer for physical conditioning and basic climbing—rock and snow/ice—techniques to get you to the top of some peaks—along with a seasoned Mazama climb leader, of course—at the end of the course.

One of the key things that gets hammered into you in the Mazamas Basic Climbing Education Program is what’s called the 10 Essentials. They are what every climber should carry with them, no matter what the duration of your hike, day or overnight, car-camping or wilderness rambling, to help you in a pinch, and keep you prepared for outdoor’s unexpected twists and turns. They are:

  1. Map of where you are hiking
  2. Compass (I carried one, but still really don’t know how to use one, no fault of the Mazamas, I would even skip lukio in Finland whenever we had our Orienteering gym class. I don’t know why I have such an aversion to the compass. Odd.)
  3. Whistle
  4. Waterproof matches and a fire-starter
  5. Knife
  6. Extra food/water
  7. Extra clothing
  8. Sun protection (extra glasses, lip and skin balm/cream, and hat)
  9. Flashlight with working and extra batteries
  10. First-aid kit

Based on this, I’ve assembled my own list of 10 Essentials that everyone should have at their disposal when starting a vineyard, for going whole hog into the wine business, for even, like in hiking, as much as you think you know where you’re going, there are a ton of unknown variables that can cause you to alter course, or terminate the mission altogether. Here they are, in no real order:

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