Showing posts from 2011

“Striving for success without hard work is like trying to harvest where you haven't planted” David Bly

The adventures that continue to occur at the rancho boggle one's mind.  Keep in mind the romantic image that is continually in this hopeless romantic ranch manager's head of one day establishing a vineyard, strolling down the rows of the perfect, beautifully purple grapes, while holding a glass full of our favorite wine, all the while, incredible food from this very rancho is awaiting on the patio, perhaps a dish of home-grown, marinated olives, perhaps some grilled garlic bread drizzled with our own olive oil, perhaps some melted goat cheese drizzled with jams made from figs and peppers grown at this very farm.  We are inching ever closer, but there is always that frequent hair-raising incident that nearly causes one to get in the car, drive away, and never come back.
Last week, in preparing for the 2011 harvest of the newbie Petite Sirah (which we should never do, yes, yes, it has been noted, but it was too tempting), we decided to take that stroll through the vineyard at sun…

“Every day has been so short, every hour so fleeting, every minute so filled with the life I love that time for me has fled on too swift a wing.” ~ Aga Khan

The constant question posed by one rancher to the other has recently been, "Why are we so tired?  Where has summer gone?  With harvest and the end of the year facing us, why have we taken no vacation?" 
Finally, after a recent critical review of the schedule and how it could have been planned better, it was determined that the possibility exists that said ranchers have tried to fit too much living into the space of four months and that while it was planned in an exemplary fashion, down to the minute, the error is that no time was left to sleep (or even rest or sit down.
In addition to a more-than full time profession held by one of the ranchers, some of the highlights of the weekends over the last few months include emergency driveway repair performed by the ranchers, a 40th birthday celebration being held at the ranch with 70 guests, and thankfully, time spent searching for and finding a new cleaning person for the ranch (unfortunately, after the party), back to L.A., more g…

"Vision gives you the impulse to make the picture your own." ~ Robert Collier ~

  We began planning our vineyard in 2006, starting with layout, researching types of vine rootstock, clones, getting soils tests, ordering vines, ripping the soil, making hundreds of gopher cages, installing stakes and trellising, installing irrigation, making trips to Wasco to pick up vines, and planting them.  We have tied them more times than we can count.  We have nurtured them.  We have tested them.  We dropped the fruit for the first three years.  We have suffered numerous setbacks and challenges.  While we waited for the vines to mature the necessary five years (and while we weren't planting olive trees and lavender and harvesting said crops), we thought this might be the opportune time to work on a label that represents the ranch and the family.  I could see in my mind what the label would look like, and I spent hours on the computer attempting to achieve this, but couldn't seem to get there.  It was at this time, as a gift for my 50th birthday, Brian &…

“It takes a long time to grow young.” ~ Pablo Picasso ~

Being a cycling enthusiast and to celebrate his milestone birthday, Brian decided to ride from his home to the ranch, approximately 250 miles.  His four friends, Chris (x 2), Matt, and Josh accompanied him on this journey, which took from Tuesday until Friday afternoon last week. 

Not only did Brian's ride require exacting detail, but the planning logistics for all the festivities required countless hours spent by Michelle, which was an amazing gift to Brian on its own merits.  After the rigors of the ride, a lively celebration in town ensued at Lombardi's on Friday night, followed by a BBQ of major proportions at the rancho for about 70 of Brian & Michelle's friends and family, then followed by a brunch at Calcareous the next morning. 

Accomplishing a major feat for a birthday celebration appears to be a tradition in the family.  This ranch manager and her niece went to Italy for her 40th birthday and The Chief tried to best Pebble Beach recently for his 65th.  


If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome. ~ Anne Bradstreet


One look at this picture, and one might think that spring is progressing along just as it should be.  Sun shining, birds tweeting (yes, they were the first ones to tweet) and all being right with the world.  Well, keep thinking that and the driving hail and freezing temperatures and relentless rain that once again blighted the area will not be mentioned.  No sooner did our unfortunate, yet still aspiring, vintners walk the vineyard and proclaim to themselves that all was right with their world and hail began to pummel the tender newly budded vines.  The rain has not even stopped long enough to repair the driveway after the monster storms that moved in the week of March 20th.  The quicksand-like driveway nearly claimed two cars and slimed them into the ditch on the 27th.  How's that for man triumphing over nature? 
Consequently, at the first break in the weather the second weekend of April, three pickup truck loads of gravel were brought in so that the driveway could be trav…

No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn. ~ Hal Borland

Oddly, this winter seems as if it may last forever.  It started raining last September, and as the ranch prepares for the seventh annual Stuart & Jason Birthday Festival (and a mighty big one for Stuart, at that), the reports have just come in, chance of rain all days.  It isn't as if we aren't appreciative of the gift from Mother Nature, but with over 26" in the ground for the season, we're ready for a little sun and warmth.
All things growing are also ready for springtime, as well.  Bud burst has actually occurred on the table grapes (no frosts, please), we anticipate bud burst on the Zin and Petite Sirah around the time of the birthday festival, the Cabernet usually is a bit later, the olive trees have sprung forth and are preparing the 2011 crop, and the fig, apple, and the cherry trees have buds.  Of course, the truest sign that spring has arrived is when Pete's cattle returns to the ranch, and that has not yet happened.
It hardly seems like it's been s…

“The secret to a rich life is to have more beginnings than endings.” ~ David Weintraub

We thought it would never happen, but finally -- finally -- the picking, crushing and pressing of the 2010 crop of olives has occurred. Harvest of everything that grows is done. Over. And while it would have been nice two months ago so that all those rainstorms could have been enjoyed in front of a roaring fire with a good glass of wine, rather than out in the cold drizzle picking olives, in the end, it is finally the end.

And now that it is the end, that means it is also the beginning. 2011 was launched with the pruning and retying of all those vines while simultaneously pressing the last of the 2010 olives. The Pest Control Manager, the Carl Spackler-wannabe, has been out in force, planning on new ways to get the upper hand on everything that dares to vex him -- gophers, squirrels, mice, rats, voles -- please note, this author is not included on that list.

The olive trees have also all been pruned and are ready to go for 2011. The Picking and Pressing Team were getting a little burne…

“Patience is waiting. Not passively waiting. That is laziness. But to keep going when the going is hard and slow - that is patience.” Author Unknown

The end is in sight. The last olive has been picked. We remind ourselves, however, that it is now February of the next year. When one is hauling one's self in late at night after mat-layering or schlepping over to the barn in pajamas to crank the press down early in the wee hours of the morning, a negative attitude could creep in or thoughts along the lines that it seemed one was doing this months ago and is still engaging in the same task. It's been decided to opt for the positive spin, in order to retain sanity, the Italians don't pick their olives until January or February -- so we've got that going for us.

The Arbequina paste and oil look distinctly different from the other three. The Mission and Frantoio paste were thicker to spread and the Mission oil is a gold, with hints of green; the Frantoio oil is an emerald green. We don't exactly know what to make of the Arbequina yet. The paste is extremely oily, so oily that the layers of mats were nearly slipping off…

I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught. ~Winston Churchill

Yes, we're always ready to learn, but 2010 seemed to be a year of an awful lot of lessons. In fact, we just can't seem to let go of 2010, we're still picking olives. Still . . . picking . . . olives. First, they wouldn't ripen. Then, they all started ripening, but the weather wouldn't cooperate in order for us to pick them. Now, they're ripe and we're trying to get them picked, washed, sorted, crushed, maxalated, and pressed, in addition to gearing up for the 2011 things we need to be doing, like pruning the vines, which we did get done last weekend, except for three rows of Zin, which we'll finish with the last olive trees. I had originally estimated seven gallons of oil for the year. However, because I was such a newbie back then (and so much younger), I didn't know we'd lose a gallon or two due to the new mats. And yes, that's one of the valuable lessons -- never get new mats. We will, however, be ending the year with five to s…