The New Grape Vines We Chose…Starting Our Vineyard

New grape vines for our mini-vineyard.
New grape vines for our mini-vineyard.

Ahh…the world of viticulture in California…such a complex maze of analyzing wine, the new grape vines available, their varieties, their growing habits and their ultimate potential.  It’s enough to make one pass out just trying to grasp it all!  Thirty five years ago, I planted a few Pinot Noir grapes in our previous homestead garden.  I don’t know what rootstock they were on, or how much tannins they produced.  I certainly didn’t have any fancy trellis apparatus.  I just let them grow up the arbor.  During those years that I wasn’t overwhelmed raising kids, working and going to school, I simply harvested the grapes, juiced them in my mixer, added a few ingredients and set a carboy of the concoction out on the cool, back porch to ferment.  Many times that wine turned out to be absolutely amazing.  Sometimes it was just some killer vinegar.  I didn’t care.  It was all good.

My, how times have changed.  As I am planning on putting in a tiny, postage stamp, “vineyard,” (it’s literally only 25 vines,) I find that these days, it’s a big, scientific affair.  Are my Pinots Dijons, or Wädenswils?  115s, or 777s?  Is the rootstock resistant to Phylloxera?  Is my soil too acidic…does it have too much clay?  Am I too close to the ocean?  Which trellis system should I go with?  Do I really have to “romance” the vines?  How do I do that?


Honestly, that’s just to much to think about for a couple of dozen, little vines.  I went ahead and ordered some plants, but then I got a frantic call from the nursery saying that they only had half an order of one clone of Pinot Noir and apologetically asked if I would accept another clone to fill out the order.  I could hear the gasp of astonishment when I told them that was fine and that I didn’t really care.  Besides, I had a few vines that I’d already planted from last year and I didn’t know what type of clones they were.  They turned out to be Wädenswils.  So now, I have half Dijons and half Wädenswils.  I figure that I’ll be able to compare the productivity of the 2 types and blend their juices together…a crazy, fun, science experiment, so to speak.

New Grape Vines
New Grape Vines, Ready For Planting

The vines have arrived and I’ve been busy getting my mini, hillside site ready for planting.  I can guarantee you that I do not have too much clay in my soil.  In fact, it’s mostly rocks, as my trusty, Mantis rototiller can attest to.  But as I understand it from the dreamy winos, rocky soil is good…very good.  It keeps those vines struggling to get their nutrition and “struggling vines” make the best wine, right?   Yee gads!  Rocky, or clay soil, they’re going in and that’s that.  I’ll worry about the trellis system later.

So now, I’m halfway done with the planting and I’m excited that I’ll hopefully be able to harvest my first wine grapes in 2, or 3 years.  I already have some table grapes growing nearby and they’re doing great, so I have high hopes for my small patch of pinot noir plants.  I’m sure that I’ll never be able to make enough wine from them to fulfill my yearly need, (ahem) but they’ll put a dent in it.  Plus, winemaking is good fun!  I’m already starting to save up wine bottles for reuse…which is also fun.  Cheers!  Here’s to romancing the new grape vines!

~ C


A Beautiful Thanksgiving In the Mendocino Mountains

It’s Thanksgiving morning and most of the work has already been done.  I now have time to sit down with my coffee and reflect on what Thanksgiving is to me and my family.  I read an article this morning about how the first Thanksgiving really wasn’t what we imagined it to be, with everyone peacefully sitting down to a glorious meal.  That is was actually about kidnapping American natives and trying to sell them off in Europe, political posturing, distrust and hatred.  Hummm…not my idea of a wonderful holiday experience.

I don’t really care what the first Thanksgiving was about, I care more of what it is about to me, personally, right now.  For me, it is about being grateful for all of the beauty of life around me.  It’s giving thanks for our good fortunes, our loved ones, the creatures, both tame and wild, that share our space and for the huge bounty of food that comes our way each harvest season. I’m so glad to be alive and to witness it all.

So, in celebration of giving thanks, we are preparing a feast.  This year, we are making our first, vegan, Thanksgiving meal.  Much of the food has come from our garden and the forest.  I know that there are probably a couple of our guests that wonder where the turkey is and maybe even miss it.  But as for the rest of us, we couldn’t be happier with the plant-based fare.  We have some delicious things on the menu, starting out with a retro, almond “cheezy” ball that has been rolled in toasted almonds and green onions, homemade cider and beer and a bottle of Frey Vineyard’s local, organic, Petite Sirah.  Our dinner courses include wild mushroom and Shitaki, “purses,” roasted potatoes and cauliflower whipped, with deep-roasted vegetable gravy,  homemade sourdough rolls, spiced cranberry sauce, Brussel sprouts, stuffing, sweet potato and kale casserole with nogada sauce, salad with shaved persimmons and pumpkin pie with coconut cream…oh…and let’s not forget, Roederer Estate’s  sparkling BRUT wine. (Another local winery, from here, in the Anderson Valley.)

I promise to have all of these recipes available soon.  I was so busy cooking and preparing in the kitchen yesterday, I just didn’t have time to take notes and pictures. I’ll get them up there, so you can make them for one of the other, upcoming holidays.  I’m off to start of the stove again and get down Gramma’s china.  In closing, I ask that you please, have a wonderful and joyous Thanksgiving.

~ C,

An Old Woman’s Garden