Deschutes River

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Oops! Didn’t realize it has been so long since I last posted. I pretty much took some time off to do Mama things (cards, cookies, and cadeaux) and actually got them all done for once, with very minimal duress–a very interesting result from stepping a moment (or in this case, a month) away from the wine biz/start-up/swimming-against-the-current fray. Hmmm.

Anyway, while 2011 is still only yesterday, I’d like to leave you all with a month-by-month visual of the sights and colors of the The Grande Dalles and our Uncultivated Life (note the yellow boat serving as wade pool in front of our Campeau) out in the wilds of the wine world.


January: We released our wines at the rustically swank James John Cafe in North Portland. Chef Owners Suzanne Bozarth and Aaron Solley would accompany us to New York in March, to the James Beard House.

February: It’s a quiet time out on the hill, but still much for little vineyard gnomes to discover.

March: “Columbia Valley Terroir” unveils itself at the James Beard House in NYC: featuring our wines and sumptuous regional Northwest Solley and Bozart fare.


April: A slow start, but the land starts to warm and the greening of the hill begins.

May: Guerilla roadside Wine Stand at the Old Garage during Memorial Day Weekend in the Hood (Hood River). Best line of the weekend asked by someone who drove in, got out, and then quickly left after asking: “Is this legal?”


June: Wine in hand, an evening walk out on the land. Sam! Get out of Dave’s wheat!

July: Fire season. Thankfully this was not on our property, but still causing much damage to someone else’s across the way. Reminded us of the 2009 range fire that headed straight toward us, stopping three rows in our vineyard. As the story goes, the Old Coot was the only person who went in our vineyard to fight it. Still need to thank him.


August: Wasco County Fair! Aptly themed, “Barn in the USA.” For the second year we sponsored a Demolition Derby car. Yeah! Hot day out there in South County in that fairground valley. Whew!

September: Still warm out on the land. In this picture, because we didn’t quite make it to our Deschutes River swim spot, the little boat had to do.


October: Harvest. We made it. And we made it into Google Earth’s One World Many Stories campaign. The only wine story IN THE ENTIRE INDUSTRY to do so.

November: A seasonal quiet begins its descent, along with some early snow.

December: While the last hues of Fall in the Columbia Gorge peep through the mist, our wines are beginning to shine in New York City, and at some Michelin-starred restaurants to boot! Where exactly, you ask? Annisa on Barrow Street. Blue Hill NYC on Washington Place. Dovetail on West 77th Street. Henry’s on Broadway. Penn Wine and Spirits at Penn Station. First & Vine on First Ave. Yippy skippy!

As thankful as I am for our accomplishments in 2011, there are still many miles to go before we can sleep. Many miles. So, while I look forward to 2012 and all the exciting things we have planned, I wish you all a prosperous and healthy New Year and from time-t0-time, to step off the beaten path, for it is what often makes all the difference.

~ stephanie


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This is what I was thinking about Oregon Trail Pioneers right here at our usual Deschutes River swim spot, almost at the point of where it flows into the Columbia River —where we cool ourselves down when it’s hot out at the vineyard. After another harrowing river crossing* for these people here on the Deschutes, the long-awaited fertile land is now within a shortened reach, but with still a long way to go:

OMG, these people made it all the way here are to Oregon Territory, but it’s not the verdant valleys they see, it’s these basalt-y, dried out autumn golden grassy hills that are presently Wasco County, and on the other side of the river, in Washington State, Klickitat County. “We came here for THIS?” I know my thoughts would be along those lines, cursing the man who brought me here—feigning no free will, of course—and wondering, was it because we took a wrong turn and he didn’t want to ask for directions that we’re in this place? But inwardly I’d be enjoying my secret excitement of adventure and possibility, because that’s just how I am. Terrible, I know, I’ll work on it.

Maybe those settlers cooled themselves right here at the mouth of the Columbia, where the rushing waters and its temperature rise and fall with Mt. Hood’s snow-melt, the air scented with the sweetness of sage brush cooking in the heat. Yup, right here along the banks, I decide, where my small family and I now frolic, Sam dipping in and out of the pools with his long, yellow “noodle,” that long floaty tube you imagine geriatrics using for a pool work-out. It’s right here that those people washed their clothes or dipped their feet, set their fires, and wondered again: “We came here for this?”

“Oh, please, let me make it right with a good dinner,” the men may have thought, as I watch modern-day fishermen cast a line out into the waters, the Chinooks still running fast but not so plenty as days gone by. And in the morning, the settlers would continue on, wondering, wondering, are we almost there?

Along they’d go, another 15 mile trek down to The Dalles, maybe on the basalt lip running along the river where their trail is still visible, or maybe fanned out across the landscape, passing right by the base of our vineyard. But once at The Dalles, they have to decide two things (if they’re late comers to the Trail) in order to circumnavigate Mt. Hood: continue on over the treacheries of a late Fall Cascade Mountain trail, or put it all on a raft and navigate the wilds of the Columbia. So close, so close. Yet no matter which curtain they picked, I can’t imagine they’re NOT thinking, where is the green we’ve been promised? Where are those fertile valleys? And stands of timber? And quiet spots of respite, where we might eek out a new life?

Those valleys would be there, obviously. And only the toughest would reach them. As I watch a small school of fry try to hide in the reeds as I wade past, I look out and think, “We are so close, so close. And yes, Stephanie, we came here for this.”

*Years later around this very spot where I tool around in the water wondering all this, a Heritage Marker would be placed, one I have yet to see, reading: “The Oregon Trail crossed the hazardous Deschutes River at this point by floating the prairie schooners and swimming the livestock. An island at the river mouth was often utilized when the water was high and the ford dangerous. Pioneer women and children were frequently ferried across the stream by Native canoe men who made the passage in exchange for bright colored shirts and other trade goods.”

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Once again, I’ve been absent. Just not in me to write a thing about our endeavor. Why? I think the wind got knocked out of me after I detached a bit and read through The Grande Dalles’ five-year vineyard anniversary post. Holy crap. We experienced all that in five years?! Then I found out the universe was under hold of Mercury Retrograde, so that put it all in perspective, my lack of interest,  AND I started reading William Boyd’s Any Human Heart, and am now consumed in my free time to swallow up the next sentence of the fictitious Logan Mountstuart.  I’ve also been putting off Summer’s newsletter; I have a few more weeks until Summer is no longer here, so I should make it. And there you have it.

Instead, I’ve been cultivating my little garden, enjoying my time with Scott and Sam, especially our weekend overnights to the vineyard and trips to the Deschutes River; I’ve been contemplating childcare other than myself for Sam again (it’s time!); what else….we went to the Wasco County Fair mid August, which was a great time, not really sure how our sponsored Demo-derby car did; had some family guests (Scott’s parents), and for the most part, I am enjoying what Summer we are having.

And oh, yes. On a lark and a feeling that someone just ought to know, (about how we used Google Earth to locate our ground) I wrote to Google about our endeavor – I told you all about this. Well, we entranced and inspired the right people, and now things are rolling; we’ve been contacted by Google’s PR firm, Cutline Communications, in San Fran and have just been interviewed by a local newspaper, and we found out we will be featured in a Google Earth marketing campaign, a story they’re highlighting to celebrate Google Earth’s history, set to launch September 28th! Not bad, with Mercury Retrograde and all that.

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Came around the bend outside of The Dalles on Saturday and this is what I saw:

A range fire in someone’s wheat field, just outside town. Wheat harvest was under way, and Scott had called me on the drive, to tell me of the fire that flared up, and how Dave, the gentleman who farms the rest of our property left with his crew to help fight it. He asked Scott to stay behind, in the event there could be a flare up on our land; I guess hot machinery can get a flame going.

In town, where Sam and I stop to pick up sandwiches for lunch, we saw this:

On our way to the vineyard we had to pull over to let the Hood River Brush Engine go by, the neighboring town coming now to fight the blaze. Sam wanted to go see the fire, but I told him there’s no need for Looky-Loos, and anyway, it’s not safe, and best to be out of the way so the men and women fighting the fire can do their work.

Once at the vineyard, the smoke had greatly subsided; Scott told me he had seen the flames dancing in the distance, some few miles away, and when Dave and crew came back, he told us the fire was 20 ft. high, and had done a good 100 acres of damage before being contained.

In the morning, I snapped this picture from our camper window, where you can see the burn area:

That same morning we also were privy to “our” kestrels hunting, and caught a few images (click on them to make them bigger — sorry if they take longer to load):

And Dave’s John Deere combine. When we saw that thing sitting on our land, it was like a lunar space machine had landed, so foreign is that to us, out there, but not foreign at all to the history of the area.  This shot is of Dave, with Scott and Sam, heading off for an evening run; Dave was kind enough to offer Sam a ride, and after we came back from our Deschutes River outing, and had our pizza dinner, he was still at work. It was a beautiful evening.

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