“Grapes and Old Stones”

The Summer of So Much 8

A chapter ends. A chapter with an arched eyebrow – enough rich desserts for awhile.  These past months, one wave after another, richness after richness. How often I wanted to shout, hey stop there just a second.  When will we savour and assimilate?  I need to pause and capture before the next wave comes.  But the best you can do is try to let go, so you’re supple enough to take it all in. Letting go.  Letting go of the illusion of permanence.  Trying to let go of the illusion of control.  Trying to balance between willful action to create […]

Wild Man in the Woods 5

Perched on one leg like a stork in the rain, I was swearing at the soggy cow path that had stolen my boot. The bottomless mire sucked it right off my foot and I yelped with panic as it began to disappear. Imagining the long, half-barefoot walk to the house in cold muck, IF I could pick my way out of this treacherous sink hole, I made a last attempt to retrieve the rogue boot, and found myself toppling in slow motion into the mud. How he had come so close in silence still mystifies me. He righted me and […]

Reinforcements 10

When we sent our children across the ocean to finish their education, we didn’t consider they might never return. But as the nest went empty, we changed course.  Sold the city apartment, acquired land. We told the children this farmer’s folly was not to be confused with that burdensome genre of family legacy laced with bad drama for future generations.   Sell it all when we die if you wish.  No ties.  Lead your lives, fly we said. So they did.  Of course we delighted in their discoveries and cheered their adventures.   Secretly we mourned to see them so rarely.   Sometimes […]

Parallel Lives 5

Crisscrossing the land on this hilltop are several roads to nowhere.  They are the vestiges of old rural lanes that once connected farms and hamlets to villages.  A few of these paths still lead from one place to another, but most of them were chopped up a century ago and have fallen into abandon. My favorite path has an intersection at our front gate.  Like the scarecrow’s choice, from this point you can meander south along the ridge, east down to the stream, or north to the river.  Or rather, one could a hundred years ago.  You wouldn’t know you’re […]

Quarantine 5

Household under self imposed CWQ  (Creative Winter Quarantine).  A few rituals for hiding beneath the surface of regular life: Chain oneself to a work post and pray that gestation will evoke some magic. Go down to the Grotto in the woods, listen to the water fall.  Fill as many bottles as you can carry, drink the rest.  The water is soft and sweet and tasting of round minerals. Crisscross under the stone ridge heeding the sound of chipping.  Discover John under the cliff, chisel in hand, searching for essence in an enormous oak limb.  We agree to break silence.  Discuss […]

Going underground 4

There was a time I thought it strange and frightening to bury our loved ones in the earth.  So much dark and heavy.  So much mystery.  So unfriendly. I should have remembered my own first plunge into deep earth.  Four years old, imploding with confused fury after an act of injustice, running away blind.  Searing indignation, prickling hot tears, and then a fall into a deep hole.  Later my family found me asleep, wrapped around the trunk and roots of an old oak tree. Of course my older brothers teased me for decades, via their scathingly pejorative epithet – tree hugger. […]

harvester and wagon: "there... no, I meant, there!"

No Tears Winemaking, October 2015 12

No tears this year. Sweat, sore muscles, stained hands, a little blood, but all scars reaped in joy.  It’s the year we’ve been waiting for. The year when our handiwork in the vines gets an exponential boost from legendary weather and a spanking new extension to the winery. Four harvests this season – a far cry from our pampered, one-harvest, one-vat in 2011. After the Rosé hand harvest, the Merlots arrived in their faithful manner: poised, plump, sweet. I was out in the vineyard directing the harvester while the enthusiastic team in the winery prepared for the wagonloads. And true […]

Rosé 2015 13

“Rendez-vous 7:00 am, top of the hill, vieilles vignes.” We’ve hardly begun and a thunderstorm breaks loose. “Lightning overhead, keep your snippers away from the wires,” we warn our neighbors as they arrive. No novices they, kitted out in professional rubberwear.  I’m soaked and cold in ten minutes. Lightning, generosity, helping hands, ancient roots. Thus begins l’Esprit de Jeanne, Rosé 2015. A team of twelve to start, including Genevieve’s friends from INSEEC in Bordeaux: Victor of France, Astrid of Germany and Kela of Hawaii. We are heads down, wet and serious until Henri arrives with his own solution to working […]

Harvest Preparation 2015 7

Anticipating harvest is much like anticipating a birth.  When it’s almost time to bear down, nothing else matters. It has been a spectacular year: plenty of rain in the winter, mildness during flowering, a very hot, dry June and July, just enough rain in August to plump up the berries, and now September: a gift of warm, sunny days and cool nights. Conditions are ideal, the grapes are healthy… but I will say no more lest I tempt our luck. And so it’s a scurry to get ready. We’ve organized an old fashioned hand harvest by family and friends for […]

For the Friction 3

When we renovated the kitchen of this old farmhouse we installed two sinks because generous guests are forever asking, “what can I do to help?” So all through this glorious month of bounty – fruit, vegetables and convivial gatherings – cheery teams have put those workstations to good use. The teams migrate as projects are conceived. One morning someone wakes up and says, “let’s build an extension to the deck.” And out come the power drills. On the hottest afternoon of the year our neighbors Nikky and David * arrive with expertise and physical prowess to help move the huge […]