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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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If you haven’t already figured out in my posts, our wine life does not reflect the care-free days and ways people imagine a wine-life to be. We are a small, start-up, practically self-funded, and do much, if not most of the work ourselves. I am in charge of this blog and all writing, and the website. Scott takes care of the vineyard and wine side.

So I spent Friday morning before Sam woke up fretting over The Grande Dalles website. I was reading my daily dose of Wine Business  and came across The Winery Website Report’s Why Winery Websites Stink, part Deux. So I’m there shaking my head “Oh, yes” thinking of all the misinformation (people using the word “estate” wrongly and misleadingly, for example) and similar gobbledygook (where it’s hard to tell one site from the other),  I’ve encountered, and thinking how I hope ours might be refreshingly to the point (like our wine! ha!) and honest. Oh, how smug I was in my thinking, and I should’ve stopped there, but I kept clicking the links, the one that brought me to Part I of Why Winery Websites Stink, and here’s what I read, a quote attributed to Sean P. Sullivan and the Washington Wine Report:

90-95% of winery websites stink because they say little about the winery and even less about the wines. They provide largely generic information rather than specific information about who you are andwhat differentiates your winery.

Now, I don’t know which websites this guy was looking at, because the ones I visit and peek in on go on and on at times, almost rote like; I can’t read the stuff, but that’s just me. I do not classify myself as a “wine geek.” And, I should tell Sean P. Sullivan that just the landing page of a winery should speak LOADS about who the people are, what their wine is like, and so on and so on; such is the power of a well-thought out brand, not a me-too experiment. But then I went to our site, and wondered (worried, really), “Do we say enough?” I believe we’ve captured the essence of the grit and the grande, of who we are (Scott, “Eternal dreamer,” Stephanie, “Recovering pessimist,” for example), and through our minimalist approach we speak volumes. We do know who we are, and we show it. I won’t worry about that.

More fretting, though, ensued when I started reading more about SEO (search engine optimization) and that’s where I need to spend more time. For example, if you were to type “Tempranillo Oregon” would you find us? Got to page #10 on a Google Search and nada. And same with Brunello or Sangiovese. Yet we are there for “’08 Gampo,” and “’08 Home Place,” but that doesn’t help us when people don’t know what our proprietary wines are composed of. Sigh. Something more to put on my to-do list: optimize search engine tags and what not. It really does feel like a game of Tag to me, everyone out there searching for the best hit, and us, trying to get caught.


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“There’s no better time than a dark, blustery Irish winter to dream the dream of sunshine, grapes and wine.”

That was my opening line in our letter – or something like it – way back in 2005 when we were living in Ireland, courting our not-yet-on-board cowboy vineyard manager who we had met some weeks earlier while we were honeymooning in Roseburg, Oregon. How? What? Ireland? Yup, Ireland. The land where this whole wine adventure really took off.

Scott’s work brought us there for a 2-year assignment — mine was shortened because I had to prepare the cat for travel to a rabies’ free land. So in Ireland we were, and it was then when the wine dream that had been growing in Scott for decades really bit him in the behind. Alone on those winter nights, between late night pub phone calls (I got some pretty funny ones), he began to read the books I had given him over the years, and he was hooked. It also helped that we had just gotten back together only weeks before he was to depart for Eire, and that I agreed to join  him on his assignment — the tipping point was being reached, no turning back — we were committing to each other, see how that goes?

Scott Reading About Limestone, Prompting Our Honeymoon in Roseburg

So, it’s to Ireland I raise my glass today, not necessarily in celebration of that guy who supposedly set all those heathens straight, but to that little green penny of a country, that colorful, cheerful, rural land, the location that so inspired Scott’s dream, or at least reminded him that Irish winters are ridiculously grey and wet.

Besides the steer and sheep and the occasional pheasant, my favorite backyard Ireland view.

Slainte, Ireland!



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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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Scott’s off to Yakima, WA today [note: which really was Saturday], a good 2-hour trip NNE of The Dalles. He’s returning some bird netting; it’s good to get some money BACK for once. Ever since our first harvest in 2008, birds have been, how shall we say, an issue once the grapes ripen. Never thought they would be, since there are no roosting trees around, it’s just those little darned wings that take them places we forgot about.

That first harvest year we tried a couple things: the intermittent cannon blasts (lasted until the neighbors asked us to turn it off, so we did—it wasn’t working, anyway), and the bird distress call, a microchip of birds in distress, plus the predatory birds causing it. Also had a crazy little rendezvous around Mt. Hood to pick up the chip we needed—for it to work you have to have distress calls of the birds that have taken over your vineyard, like starlings and robins. Somehow we had coastal bird noises on the chips we had borrowed from a neighboring cherry orchardist, and it was soon very obvious that starlings don’t give a rat’s ass about one of their feathered brethren like a seagull calling out in distress: “Too bad for you, brother, there are grapes to eat.” So after identifying which birds in particular had invaded our vineyard, we set off to pick up the chip in the little mountain-like community of ZigZag, just at the base of Mt. Hood, the bird chip people meeting us half-way between their Sisters, Oregon location.

We already knew it might be too late for us, since birds had already found the treasure in our vineyard. The trick is that you must put these calls out BEFORE any of these ravenous monsters find your crop. But we were desperate; there were too many birds, and too small a harvest, getting smaller by the day. Samuel was only 2-months old, and if being new parents wasn’t enough, we were new harvest people, and had this bird issue.

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Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. I was 11 at the time, so no, I don’t remember where I was when it blew. But I have heard accounts since moving here to Oregon in 1991–the hot, tarry ash that ruined umbrellas people here in Portland used for the fallout, as well as any other thing the heated material landed on; the ominous, dark cloud people saw and then wondering, “Is this the end?”–and I remember all the “authentic Mt. St. Helens ash” blown glass holiday ornaments that were still being sold years after the 1980 eruption, I myself buying one in the late ’80s for my then step-mother at a little gift shop on Lark Street in Albany, New York, where I attended University.

I’ve been up and around Mt. St. Helens mountain biking, and the landscape is surreal, even today. Lunar, lunar, lunar. One day I’ll make it to the the top of the old gal, but for now I think about the tremendous energy hovering still in our back yard, not just in Mt. St. Helens, but in Mt. Hood, too.

Mt. Hood stands only 30-some miles as the crow flies to the WSW of our vineyard, and I have to admit, I worry. There are fumaroles pumping sulfuric gases out towards the summit of Mt. Hood, nauseating the hiker on the way to the top; not a lovely experience when you’ve been hiking all night, and then in the early dawn you get that up your nose. So Mt. Hood is another one that can go. It’s not the pyroclastic flows I’m worried about, it’s the ash and fallout — with the right wind, our vineyard, and 1000s of acres around it could become, well, toast. Or at least ruined. Which is still toast to me.

So for now, we’ll just enjoy that view from our hilltop, and hope for no wind that day. Right.

Peep my next video post for a peek at Mt. Hood in relation to our vineyard site, if you want.

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1000 ships? I doubt it. Although at times I do feel this wine thing has NOT been of my own accord…[cue nervous laughter].

Let’s see, however, what this face of mine DOES launch. It’s something I quietly started a couple of weeks ago, but what the hell. There’s no better time than the present to send ‘er out to sea.


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For me, if I don’t hear a meadowlark out at the vineyard, it’s not complete. I don’t know why that song has come to signify the “being” of me there, but it has. Thankfully I hear one every time. And then I wonder, is it the same one? Do we have a resident meadowlark like our resident kestrels?

We were at the farm just the other day, Wednesday. Scott was showing around a city-slicker NYC friend, to whom I had loaned a fleece and hat because she had left NY in balmy weather, only to find a spring Oregon chill. Sam and I were checking for owl poop, I mean, pellets, under the owl houses that stand some 10? 12? feet above the trellis poles, attached to them by long screws and bolts. Sam carefully grabbing onto the vines as he hauled his growing little legs over the lower wire. Scott noticed and called out, “Make sure he doesn’t knock off any buds,” which I was already doing, of course, imagining where next year’s fruit canes might come from.

We headed toward the boxy house, white markings along its face, dropped by birds surveying from its roof. I really wanted to find a pellet. Wanted to find the little mass and pull it open with a vine’s cut spear that still dotted the rows from this year’s pruning, and see the bones and detritus that it might contain, stuff you learn in 10th grade biology, or from your crazy bird-mother… But there were none to be found. Only a quick rustling of feathers as we approached, and then a blur of wings as it left its hole. Was it an owl? (It would have to be a small one.) Was it a kestrel taking over a larger home? (The kestrel homes are more an rectangular upright, this was a horizontal positioning.) I don’t which bird it was, but I only knew it was there, and it left in a hurry, with Sam trying his best to keep upright, his face all rosy from the cold, and wind, stepping over the wire, and not far away  atop another pole, the meadowlark let loose.

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HIGHLIGHTS: Pole Barn Departs Again. Fast-Tracking an Ag Structure with PSU Architects. What Makes It an Ag Building? Moving Along: To Do List.


It’s now been seventeen weeks since The Little House On the Hilltop (TLHOTH) project began. Where are we now?

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HIGHLIGHTS: An idea considered. Hawaii building musingsmusings.


With Week Three-Point-Five of The Little House On the Hilltop (TLHOTH) project now behind us, let me share what’s happened.

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