cabernet sauvignon

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Here’s something different for a change: Our story through numbers.

0    the # of wines and wine regions we strive to emulate

1    the # of vineyards whose grapes go into our wine, and that one happens to be one we farm and own, planted from bare ground, no trees harmed in the process

2    the # of people with firm (enough) resolve, to make a wine unlike any other out there

3    the # of inaugural release wines, because the birds flew off with the 4th one

4    the # of actual wines, once the birds are under control

5    the # of years since planting out in the sunny wilds of Wasco County, Oregon

6    the # of years since we set back down on US ground with feet running to purchase land, drill a well—we mean, drill a well, THEN purchase land (we made a $20K gamble before we bought a thing)—order the vines, and ready the ground for a 2006 planting

7    the # of varietals planted on our south slope: cabernet sauvignon, tempranillo, sangiovese (Brunello clone), riesling, syrah, petit verdot, cabernet franc

8+7*    the # of producing acres on the south slope, 35 total planted on both south and north sides on our 160 acres, but they’re not on the wire due to funding

9    the # of locales as of today in Oregon and New York City, where you’ll find our wines. In Oregon: The Bay House (Lincoln City), Wildwood (Portland), White Buffalo Wines (Hood River). In NYC: Blue Hill, Henry’s, Anissa, Dovetail, First & Vine, Penn Wine. And it’s always available on our website…(just a gentle holiday plug)

10×90**    the # of square footage of a tiny farmhouse that a man, woman, cat, dog, and small child lived in for some years so we could fund the dream

*I had to get creative on some numbers…

**Another instance of this creativity…

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My jaw dropped and eyes teared when I saw the devastation of that little cold snap we had last week. “Holy crapola” was all I could say, again and again, as we drove into the vineyard, and saw all those fried sangiovese leaves along the farm road.

Holy crapola. The dark clusters, only last week comfortably housed under a fall canopy, looked so desperate now as they clung to the plant, cringing below the now crispy leaves. “Get us out of here!” they seemed to be calling from behind the net. “Help!”

Help us!

Granted, this cold snap did not kill anything other than the leaves, and not even all the leaves across the board; the vineyard’s hillside got it in different places. Definitely at the bottom where it’s the coldest, and hit and miss across the midsection and top. Click on this picture to enlarge and you can see the line of “normal” looking yellowed autumn plants, and the dark, fried plants at the bottom.

Our Vineyard Gnome Surveys

What did this occurrence mean for us? It meant we had to make decisions that would otherwise not have had to be made if it were not to have happened. Like speeding up harvest, for example. We were out picking the cabernet sauvignon last weekend, as planned, which also fell prey to the cold, but it was the sangio we were still waiting for. Turns out another cold snap is moving in (and why shouldn’t it? It is the first of November, after all — like everyone else, we are a good three weeks behind harvest) and to mitigate the risk of sangio ice-wine, where the berries actually freeze on the vine, we picked it today. So it’s pretty much a done deal out there.

What a year. There are worse things, like the bank telling us our funding stops here, which they did. Yesterday. While ketchup may do just fine with a fried vineyard, I’d prefer a stiff drink for that news. And a good, warm fire for us to gather around, while we enjoy this evening’s last bit of sunshine in Portland for a while. We’ll figure it out, with ketchup or not.


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Let’s just say, last night’s frost was not little. Scott spent the night at the camper, up checking temperatures throughout the late night and early morning, with a helicopter on stand-by if the freeze would be that severe. It was not good–not the 15 degree junk our little vineyard endured the first year we planted it, more at the 25-27 degree mark –but what was not better was that by all indications, there was no warmer air to push into the vineyard, the temps at the top of the hill below freezing, too. And pushing freezing air around was not the solution we were after. So the helicopter was called off, and the damage done.

How much? We don’t know. The question now is, is the vine still working if all leaves were not destroyed? We were planning on harvesting the cabernet sauvignon this weekend anyway — how much might the fruit degrade if the plant is no longer active? And what does it mean for the sangiovese, all those vines so laden with lovely fruit, but still a ways off from being what we need? Scott’s trying to figure all this out, on his way to his day-job that keeps the bills paid and at least THAT worry taken care of.

Scott just said, rather simply,”It’s a fecked* up year that continues to be fecked up, to the end.” I tried reminding him that the riesling and tempranillo we just brought in last weekend turned out just fine, that is, the sugars and acids were in balance and so we can breathe a little there. But then he reminded ME that we were only looking at 3.5 tons of fruit there, mostly because of the season’s earlier cold temps, and we still have 8-10 tons hanging. What could I say to that?

So we’ll see. Fingers crossed, aGAIN.

*I changed this to the more polite term, for us American English speakers. Irish readers might still feel the full pain.

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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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We were out at our vineyard last weekend, curious to see how much the vineyard may have caught up with all the good weather we’ve had. Scott doesn’t tell me he’s worried, or anxious or anything, but I know I’m on pins and needles for the success of this year’s harvest; we’re already at a turning point, more-or-less, with trying to sell the 2008 Gampo and Home Place, and ’09 Leroy’s Finest; it is a make-or-break situation we’re in, having funded this whole venture ourselves and with the help of a local bank (thank you, Brad!), we do have to sell our wine to keep the funds coming; this whole “gotta spend money to make money” thing is slowly catching up to us.

Of course, speed is of the essence here. Every day that goes by gives opportunity to unfortunate incidents: poor weather—an unanticipated frost, or unwanted rain—or perhaps a flock of scissor-beaked birds snip their way methodically through the netting to gorge themselves on grapes, or a mythical herd of mammoth roaming the ranges of Wasco County decide they’re going to bust through the fencing and tear up the place, or, like those banditos out in the wilds of Washington State, thieves break in and steal it all, or worse.

But let’s not get me carried away. I’ll try and just focus on what’s here – harvest 2010, whenever that might be. What we saw last weekend gives us great hope. The Riesling and tempranillo have really moved. While out hunchy-ing around under the bird net canopy, Scott collected samples, and found them each at 19 brix. Hooray! Only four more to go.

Scott and Sam Crushing Grapes to Measure Brix

With the weather forecast as it is, harvest for these two varietals seems to be just around the corner, we hope. And as good as the cabernet sauvignon and sangiovese look, we’ll see what they do with the coming warmth. These past days for sure must have moved them significantly; with day-time temperatures in the 80s and nights in the 50s, that’s a whole bunch of good fortune for that treasure growing on the hillside.

As I sit here and think about the year, even though it’s not yet finished, I feel we’ve been fortunate (enough) that this year has not shown us “constant sorrow” in the form of one trouble after another we had to get ourselves out of; at least there was no fire (so far), and we did get the birds under control, the weeds, well, they are their own monsters and Scott tells me “next year” is the year of Weedus-Good-Bye-us. We’ll see. The well had its share of hiccups that experts can’t seem to get their heads around, but all-in-all, so far, a manageable year—maybe Scott would say otherwise; I have a feeling there is a ton of things he keeps to himself as he tries to gallantly shield me from the “truth.”

So now we’re waiting for harvest, waiting to see how the grapes will turn out, and hoping beyond all measure, we don’t find ourselves in a tight spot.

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