It was just one of those years. There was way too many grapes and I was tired of making jelly. I figured ….this can’t be rocket science…. I’ll try making wine. Heck, they’ve been making it for 2 thousand years. With a good hill country recipe, more grapes than you can say grace over, and a grass roots fascination in the process of it all, the stage was set for the fulfillment of a hearts desire.
Growing up in the Magic Valley of Texas, there was always some type of plowing, harvesting, canning and cooking going on. We had rag dolls stuffed with cotton gleaned from the side of the road. Sunday there was fried chicken and a ritual nap on pillows stuffed with feathers (a by-product of lunch). In black dirt, you can grow anything, and it grows all year long. In retrospect, I recall a grapevine outside my sister’s bedroom window. It never did any good at all. It was an annual disappointment.
By moving to Erath County to raise a family a new world was opened for me. First of all, I didn’t even own a coat. Then the ground was “sandy loam”, what’s that!!!?. My in-laws had to teach me all over on how and what to grow. Additionally, you had only short seasons to accomplish this. Citrus was replaced with wild plums and brazos berries. However, one of the greatest finds for me, was wild mustang grapes. They were everywhere and, they didn’t burn my hands when I picked them. That’s a big thing!
My life became scheduled by chasing wild mustang grapes on an annual basis. Maybe I should say an annual obsession which lasted 12 months out of each year. Does this mean is was just an “obsession”? Probably so….well anyways. There was the picking and the processing; add bottling and making homemade labels just for the fun of it. Still had to save enough for jelly… so, we took cuttings from around the county and made a small vineyard next to the house, just to have some of our favorites close enough to keep an eye on. 1000 foot of vines was where we started.
Then there is the vision board. This is what you do when you hit a certain crossroads in your life and you ponder exactly what you want to do when you grow up. It has pictures of a large vineyard and on one of the corners…three oak trees. This was followed by : “The Phone Call”.
My husband had been visiting with a local doctor who had put in a vineyard. Seems that he had some vines that were not going to take his vineyard the direction he was looking for. The vines were a mustang highbred and were going to have to go. I got a call asking how many vines I wanted. At first I started thinking how to extend my current rows and after doing the math my answer was “I can take about 300 plants”. I stopped for a moment and looked at my vision board….What Was I Thinking!!!!. I called back and said…I’ll take them ALL! Now we have 12,500 foot of vineyard. It’s almost exactly what was on the vision board including three oak trees that sit in a bunch at one corner. Come by and I’ll show you the picture…it’s crazy 😊.
One day I was visiting a fellow vintner. He asked me many questions about the vineyard, and about wine making. We found so much in common. It was easy to see that we both had quite a passion for the wine making process. Then he said to me, “you know Shadows make the best wine.” This statement has stuck with me and I ponder over it quite often. It’s been commented that, it takes 4 men to work 1 acre of a vineyard for the first 4 years, then one man for each 4 acres after that. “Labor intensive” can be an understatement for the care of and sustaining of a vineyard. One would expect that being in the vineyard hands on and passionately caring for it would make a real difference in the outcome of the wine itself. I believe this is a fair and accurate statement. But I believe it goes even further. It’s an understanding that sometimes you have to get out of nature’s way and having faith that the trials and triumphs that come each season are for a reason.
It’s way more than just the humans in a vineyard that cast their shadows. Every drop of rain, each blade of grass, the rays of sun and the beams of the moon, the way the wind tosses and twirls each leaf; they cast their shadows leaving their mark on each vine, leaf and grape.
Laying the wine to sleep and waking it up when you uncork a bottle casts its own type of shadow and makes the wine ultimately what it turns out to be.
My prayer is that when you cast your own shadow on a glass of our wine that you can feel, if even just for a moment, that you are part of this vineyard. Taste the cool of the moon and the warmth of the sun. Find the fragrance of each flower and the hint of oak from the trees that surround it. Join in with every bird, bunny, chicken and hawk that find refuge in its branches and its fruit. It’s all here…. all you have to do is tip your glass.
It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything, so I thought I’d reach out to you all. It’s a Saturday afternoon and the sand hill crane is visiting with his buddy the duck at the tank. They are surrounded by one lama, 5 horses, multiple cow/calf pairs and a host of birds, flora, and fauna. The kingfisher is giving the fish a rest and has nestled up in an oak tree. The sun is hiding behind clouds and the ground is covered with green. Of course, the green is mostly catkins and pollen from the oak trees, but we will be happy in the illusion, praying for rain and making plans to buy hay “just in case”.
We finished pruning on Wednesday and the 10-day labor intensive chore is finally in the history books. As always it takes many hands and many hours. We are always thankful for those who jump in to help. The grape vines already have some bloom. The mockingbirds have shown up in the rows and are sizing up their next latest greatest nest sites. What makes them so special is that they are very territorial and invite no other birds withing the vineyard…. save the chickens. This keeps the grape eating birds at bay. An added benefit: they eat bugs. Just another part of our friendly co-existence here at the Bar Ditch Winery.
A scrub jay, flies past me, lands on a cedar stave and reminds me, by song, that he is way more impressive than the swallows that are fluttering back and forth. Landing next to the lit mariachi band in front of the winery, I notice that his blue is no match for the LED lights on the yard art. He is content to sing for me and I am content to listen.
I noticed a flock of birds flying over and took a video. They made no sound at all but were rather large, white with black wings. Another flock showed up while we were pruning. These are whooping cranes and I’ve uploaded a video to Facebook so you can see them.
I remember my mother always pointed out trees to me, she would talk about their shading and form. We were taught to identify images from silhouettes in clouds and the shadows they make in the horizon. The sunrises and sunsets provided daily wonder and on occasion, even our skin and surroundings would have a yellowish/red glow. Although the world around us changes, some things are timeless. It’s always good to remember those things and to appreciate them. I’ve set out a few chairs and tables with an invitation to come visit. We’ll drink a little wine, remember our past, dream of the future, live in the moment and make new memories.
Well, my tea is cold and it’s time to warm it up. It’s gotten a little chilly and a jacket is sounding pretty good right now. I’ve enjoyed our time together and look forward to meeting with you soon in person.