Thoughts of Dad on His Birthday–In No Particular Order

Dad 2012

Walking close next to me on a snow-covered sidewalk in downtown Salt Lake City.  In front of me my husband carrying our newborn in her little carry car seat.

Outburst of uncontrollable laughter  in the bedroom next door every time Mad Mad Mad Mad World would air on TV.

Calmly, methodically sending the brush on its long pole carefully down the side of the pool.  Working his way slowly around its circumference.

The inevitable, yet always expected, “Hoooome Sweet Home” as we crossed into our driveway returning from a family trip.

Dancing in the winery amphitheater for his anniversary party.

Holding my mother’s hand in the church pews during service.

Standing beside me, walking me through the backyard he had cleaned meticulously on my way to be married.

The spontaneous hug for my Mother at the sink after dinner.

“I’m really proud of you” or “Your Mother and I are so proud of you” after graduation from UC Davis.  No doubt from Sacramento State, Santa Rosa Junior College and Marin Catholic High School as well— but I don’t remember those.

Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline blasting from the stereo

Fixing everything. Everything.

Sitting back, stirring his coffee and taking in the Christmas dinner conversation around him. Catching my eye and sending a laser wink in my direction.

“How’s my girlfriend?” asking about our daughter, across the miles.

Washing, scrubbing car grease off his hands before meals.

Fishing off the dock.  Feeding the ducks. Relaxing on the deck. Putting the boat into Clear Lake.  Taking the boat out of Clear Lake.

Teaching me how to water ski.  Circling. Circling. Circling the boat until I popped up out of the water…or gave up for another day.

Letting me drive the boat on his lap.  The yellow floaty boat key swaying, jingling as we bounced along the surface.

Year after year, as we both grew older, the back of his head, the right side of his face, from my vantage point in the back seat of the car.

Quickly, quietly pressing some money in my hand after a visit before returning to college.

Sitting on the back of a red Honda motorbike, hanging onto his middle on a winding road to church.

Lifting the storage door, De Soto peeking out from below, “Do you want it?” sheepish grin he could barely contain.

Easy chairs throughout the years, Scarlett or Kelly on his lap.  Reclined.

The now-frequent, not forced, often preceding mine, “I love you” that he drops at the end of a conversation.

Lingering images like dust specks.  Definable with shape.  Tiny wisps of fleeting moments.  Swept together from all corners and across the floors of my mind into one discernible pile of overriding feelings of Love, Gratitude, Honour, Respect and Awe.

Happy 87 years of living Dad.

Posted in Personal Sandra | 2 Comments

10 Reasons to Free My Grapes

I wrote this article, Top 10 Reasons to Free My Grapes, for the September edition of Orchard and Vine magazine.  All views are my own, of course.

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Daddy’s Day

I could list many reasons why our 8YO has the privilege of a Daddy like hers, or I could just let this picture tell one thousand words.

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I flew out of the Kelowna airport this morning.  There’s not much enjoyment in flying these days,  but nonetheless I almost look forward to flying out of there.  Is it that I enjoy security checks?  Maybe on the odd occasion, but generally no.  Do I like the yipping dogs in tiny under seat carriers dreading their journey?  Not at all.  And if you’re wondering, I don’t even like the post-security food available in the waiting lounge.

But I do like to eat at the White Spot because of one waitress that works there.

She has worked the room since I can remember.  Stressed, grouchy, impatient and sometimes rude travelers abound, but there is this waitress, always smiling, energetic, happy.  Genuinely interested in what you’re reading (“Do you like that book?  I have wanted to buy it.  Should I?  Nice!  I will definitely pick it up.”) Asking to where you are heading or what kind of day you’re having.  Not asking like small talk, but waiting for an answer and contributing to the conversation, not contributing to the noise.

I find this waitress fascinating.  In a low paying job with miserable people around her all the time and making a positive impact. She must, because here I am, a half a country and a half a day removed from her and I can’t get her out of my mind.

Small role.  Big impression.  Order me up another one of those, please, before my flight boards.

Posted in Local, Personal Sandra | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Wee Return to Natural?

The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first; Be not discouraged – keep on – there are divine things, well envelop’d; I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell. ~Walt Whitman

The vineyard we purchased almost 20 years ago, the vineyard in front of my home, has always been a good piece of land.  Nice slope on a high up bench, removed from the threat of frost and complex soils formed thousands of years ago from an alluvial fan.  The first vineyard planted on this site was Chardonnay, years before we took it over.  It was irrigated with overhead sprinklers (the norm in the 1980’s and 90’s), mowed frequently between the rows and sprayed throughout the season to keep any pests, weeds and fungus at bay.

Three years ago this Chardonnay block was showing its age and we decided to replant it.  We took the opportunity to replace the overhead irrigation with drip, the first such block at our home vineyard to go through that conversion.  Our vineyard practices changed thanks in large part to our new Vineyard Manager Andrew Moon (@Andrew_Tinhorn on twitter)  the spraying decreased, and in some cases were eliminated, and the drip no longer watered the mid rows (the land between the vine rows).

70% water savings.  Less spraying.  All good.  But there was still the question of what plants would establish themselves between the mid rows.  We are in a desert.  Cover crops (the grasses that cover the ground between the rows) don’t just…well…grow.

For two years the once green grass between the vines turned brown in the summer, some weeds moved in, we continued to mow.  This spring, when the snow had melted, we saw this on the ground throughout the new Chardonnay block, Draba verna. 

Draba verna has the tiniest little wee white flower, that grows naturally in sagebrush country, so it is native to the Okanagan.  It also happens to be a “beneficial” in that its presence helps to reduce damage in spring by cutworms that can crawl up the vine and damage the young, tender buds.

Perhaps Draba verna was here all along and we never noticed it when we were watering the thick grasses between the rows.  Perhaps it was here before our vineyard was planted in the 1980’s and now has made a return appearance.  Or perhaps, it has just found its way onto our land since we’ve changed our farming practices.

Whatever the case, I like what I see.  A wee return to natural?  We can only hope.

Posted in Eco Sustainability, Grapes and Wine, TInhorn Creek | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

What’s a Good Day?

Been so long since I’ve blogged but I’ve given up the guilt many year ago, so onward and upward.  Today I had a good day.   What’s a good day for me?  Well, I can tell you, days like this don’t happen often for me so I thought I’d blog about it.

  1. 7:00 AM Drove to the back of our vineyard to choose a Gewürztraminer vine for #Gewsday (a weekly chronicle of one vine on our property in 2013) with my 8YO daughter.  She was excited to pick the vine and we settled for Vine 5, Row 15 of GT-1 Block on our home vineyard at Tinhorn Creek. Good way to start.
  2. 7:50 AM 8YO safely on the bus for grade 3
  3. 8:00 AM Gave a safety orientation to a new cellar employee–a great new addition to our winery and getting off on the right foot.  All good still.
  4. 9:00-11:00 AM Meetings (well, it can’t all be good!)
  5. 11:00-12:00  More Health and Safety orientation time to new cellar worker, again all good.
  6. 12:00-1:00 PMTasted 46 barrels of Oldfield Series red wines…2011 Merlot, 2011 Cabernet Franc and 2011 Syrah.
  7. 1:00-3:00 PM Lunch with a fellow winery owner.  Best part of the lunch?  Realizing that each winery that commits to Estate fruit is making a real commitment to their own sense of place.  Anyone can buy fruit and ferment it but there is something so special to compare notes with another winery owner that farms their own land.  Gets to know that one piece of earth–its slopes, frost pockets, nutrient levels, drainage, wildlife pressures and on and on.  Power to the wineries that farm their own land! That’s all I can say about that.
  8. 3:00 PM Picked up 8YO from bus, second part of day begins.
  9. 3:10 PM Tasted 24 more barrels of Oldfield Series wine from the 2011 vintage–this time the components of our 2BenchRed blend (Merlot and Cab Franc today, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Verdot later in the week)
  10. 3:50 PM Tasted one “double secret probation” barrel of  something special that’s been at the back of our cellar for 16+ years.  A few people know about it but not many.  Don’t ask me what it is because I will not tell you.
  11. 4:00 PM  8YO sang Happy Birthday to my mother, her grandmother, down in California and that warmed my heart, and hers too I suppose.
  12. 4:30 PM Said good-bye to an employee of ours who is going on her 2-month Tinhorn Creek-paid sabbatical.  If you have worked at our company for ten years we give you two months off paid to recharge your battery.  It made me happy we do that and worth it when I saw the big smile on her face tonight.
  13. 5:00 PM Blogged.  Something I haven’t done in months.

Now I have an entire night to start something new.  Today was a good day in the life of this winemaker, indeed-y.

Posted in Grapes and Wine, Personal Sandra, TInhorn Creek | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

One Teacher

2chairsI saw something come across my twitter stream yesterday–something along the line of “Everyone is a Teacher”.  I have never thought of encounters this way. How great would it  be to see all people as teachers and all encounters, even difficult ones, as a potential lesson from a teacher? It happens without us thinking about it, but somehow all these lessons fade.  We begin to see the knowledge base we have as something gained by our own initiatives and capabilities, when of course, most of it comes through interactions.

Keeping that idea at the forefront I think I will try to write ONE thing I learned from one person each day. One Teacher.

The difficult part:  to stay receptive to the idea that learning can come from anyone at any time.

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Bucket List of Future Wanderings: Updated

A bit over a year ago I posted my Bucket List of Future Wanderings on my blog.  I was blessed to be able to go to two of the ten places this summer (Iceland and Russia) and all I can say about that trip is–boy did we nail it!  Amazing when expectations for a place you’ve always wanted to go to are actually exceeded.  I’ve refined the old list (combined Chicago/New York as one trip–cheating some would say), added to and subtracted from it. My latest wandering desires…

1. Turkey Now more than ever before.

2. Cuba I’d like to get here before the country goes through too many changes

3. Prague Some cities will remain on the list until I see them.  Prague is one of them

4. Peru More than Machu Pichu but I’d certainly like to go there if I ever get to Peru

5. Morocco New to the list this time.  Not sure but the more I see of Morocco the more I am intrigued by it.

6. China/Mongolia Great Wall I’d love to go off the beaten path–and I’d also like to see Beijing’s Forbidden City.

7. New York/ Chicago Art Tour Believe it or not, I’m thinking winter time for this one

8. Yukon/ Northwest Territories If you can call 2,500 kms away “in your own backyard” then I guess this would qualify.

9. Laos I am not in the know as to what to do in Laos, but it still seems like such an undiscovered place

10. Malaysia/ Thailand Of course very different countries but close enough to each other once you have to travel half way around to the world to get to them.

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19th Time’s a Charm

Today’s is the eve of my 19th vintage at Tinhorn Creek.  Technically, it might be my 181/2 vintage since my husband brought in the grapes in 1994 when I was finishing my studies at UC Davis–but I was on the phone and computer throughout.

Someone asked me last night, are you expecting any unusual difficulties this harvest?  My response was “yes”.  Every vintage I see things I have never seen before.  This vintage will be the same.

The difference now from 19 years ago?  I don’t worry about the challenges.  Most are weather related and (although it has taken me years to figure this out) I cannot change the weather.  Problems get solved. Even disastrous situations eventually fade to lessons learned.

My thoughts focus on employees working safe.  Going home healthy.

Bring it!

Posted in Grapes and Wine, Health and Safety, TInhorn Creek | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Impressions off the Bus

I took a wonderful tour last Friday to Carlton, Oregon as part of the 2012 Wine Blogger’s Conference.  It was blazing hot.   After an impromptu police evacuation of our bus holding up traffic (all staged but all very cool) we were escorted to the grounds of a tiny organic winery called Carlo and Julian.

The wines were great.  The people behind the wines were great.  But two things left impressions with me once I got off the bus.  The first was the father of the winery’s owner who does not normally live on the property but was visiting for a family reunion.  He greeted us, struck up a conversation with me and literally, arm in arm, escorted me down the driveway.  It was then during our conversation that I realized how deeply proud he was of his son and how excited he was to help host our group.  It was touching.  It reminded me of how proud my father is about what I do.

I did not take a picture of him.  I thought it disrespectful to take out my camera while we were talking.  

The second impression was the property itself.  Not the vines, but the land surrounding them.  Hops climbing up winery walls, pond ducks, roaming sheep and punctuating it all was the centrepiece…the grand oak tree.  The star of the show. In the heat it embraced the group of 50, gifting them with shade.  It could have accommodated 100 people with shade to spare. Coloured mason jars hung from her.

This terroir felt wise, calm, grounded.  You knew the wines would be.  You could feel it all around you.

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It’s Beneath Us

I’m certain some people read my blog because they love wine, but for over a month most of my posts have been in pictorial form about my vacation, or ceilings on my vacation or looking up trees….hence the title “Oldfield Wanderings”.

This one is about rocks and sand.  At least a blog about dirt is getting closer to vines, if that’s what you’re tuning in for.

It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.~Maya Angelou 

Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected.~William Plomer

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.~William James

It is wrong to expect a reward for your struggles. The reward is the act of struggle itself, not what you win.~Phil Ochs

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.~Khalil Gibran

I have just got a new theory of eternity.~Albert Einstein

Posted in Personal Sandra, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Denmark Images

We are in Denmark (in the countryside near Ebeltoft) for the next week. I love this area as it’s like a second home to me. Here are some images from Denmark:

On Ferry on way to Ebeltoft

Ebeltoft, Denmark

Ebeltoft, Denmark

Tved, Denmark. Stones that were pulled out of Leo’s fields over the years…

Tved, Denmark


Tved, Denmark

Knebel, Denmark

Kenebel, Denmark


Beach at Tved

Beach at Tved

Near Tved


Near Knebel

Near Knebel

Near Tved



Neder Tved

Neder Tved

Neder Tved



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Vacation Ceilings

Harpa, Reykjavik

Shopping Centre on Red Square, Moscow

Peter and Paul Fortress, Saint Petersburg

Catherine’s Palace, Pushkin

Catherine’s Palace, Pushkin

Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, Saint Petersburg

Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Church of Our Savior of Spilled Blood, Saint Petersburg (All Mosaic)

Church of Our Savior of Spilled Blood, Saint Petersburg (All Mosaic)

Church of Our Savior Spilled Blood, Saint Petersburg (All Mosaic)

Under a Saint Petersburg Bridge

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Russia Images

Kremlin, Moscow

St. Basil’s Cathedral, Red Square, Moscow

Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Moscow


Red Square, Moscow

Red Square, Moscow

Red Square, Moscow
Novodevichy Convent, Moscow

Gorky Park, Moscow

Train from Moscow to Saint Petersburg

Catherine’s Palace, Pushkin

Catherine’s Palace, Pushkin

Saint Petersburg

From Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Church of the Spilled Blood, Saint Petersburg

Church of Spilled Blood, Saint Petersburg

Piskaryovskoye Cemetery, Saint Petersburg
Over 600,000 people buried in over 200 mass graves

Peterhof, Outside Saint Petersburg

Peterhof, Outside Saint Petersburg



Saint Petersburg

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Iceland Images

Harpa, Reykjavik

Graffiti, Reykjavik

Thingvellir (Continental Drift between Europe and North America)





Cotton Grass





Haimaey, Vestmannaeyjar Islands

Eldfell Volcano, Vestmannaeyjar Islands

Vik, Crashed DC-3, 1974


Olfusdalur Valley


Blue Lagoon

Posted in Travel | Tagged | 6 Comments

“Special” Orders

Now that Bill C-311 has passed federally, the provinces are stating that they will need to “look at it”, but in the meantime provincial liquor boards are telling their consumers that little has changed.   To be helpful they are letting you, the consumer, know that if you want to buy a Canadian wine that is not carried by your provincial liquor board then you can contact their SPECIAL ORDERS DESK and they will kindly order it in for you.


Let’s take a look at how that system works in BC if I want to buy a bottle of wine from a winery in Ontario.  Just 7 easy steps and 4 notes away!

  1. Download the Special Orders form
  2. Complete the form for the wine you want with as much details as possible
  3. Submit the form
  4. The purchasing department of the BCLDB will contact the supplier and find out availability and quote you a price
  5. Review your order
  6. Sign the quote
  7. The Special Orders Desk will order the wine for you.

Easy as 1, 2, 3…er…4, 5, 6, 7.

Now for the fine print (I love fine print, it’s so… fine).

  1. Minimum order 1 case
  2. Step 4 takes 4-6 weeks 
  3. Delivery time 4-8 weeks for a domestic supplier
  4. Orders are subject to social responsibility and heath guidelines.  I assume that you must be of legal drinking age to order wine.  Of course, understandable.

Recap Process and Time: 7 steps, 2-3.5 months order time


Now let’s look at the price quote you will see.  Since you are ordering through a provincial liquor board you will be subject to paying the markup charged by said liquor board on top of the retail price of the wine.  I didn’t have the patience to go through the above process to get a quote for a wine from out of province (feel free to do yourself, remember, it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3…etc) but I did have a friend in Nova Scotia get a price quote from their NSLC for a bottle of our 2009 Cabernet Franc ($19.99 retail at winery).

Case price through Nova Scotia Special Orders Desk: $19.99 x 12 bottles + 85% markup (on a price that already includes has BC taxes) + $127.65 shipping one case = $571.53

Case price direct to consumer from our winery: $19.99 x 12 bottles, less 10% for case discount + $56 shipping* = $271.89

*Note: The shipping quote is what it would cost us to ship to Nova Scotia…if we could…  which we can’t…so we don’t…but if we did it would be $56

Price Recap: $47.63/btl NSLC Special Orders versus $22.66/btl Direct to Consumer


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12 Gauge v. 12 Bottles

As some of you may have heard by now, I have been involved in the FreeMyGrapes fight to get Canadians access to Canadian wines.  To that end, I purchased a 12 gauge shotgun online from Saskatchewan last week to show my fellow Canadians how easy it is to buy a gun versus a case of wine online from another province.  My new gun is a “Maverick 88” single barrel, pump-action, 12 gauge single shot–whatever all that means.  It was made in Texas, sold by a Saskatoon retailer online and it was cheap at $209.95 (expensive for a demonstration though).

…if only getting 12 bottles of Canadian wine were as easy as getting this 12 gauge:

  1. Until today, June 28, 2012, with the passage of Federal Bill C-311, transporting wine across Canadian provincial lines was illegal.  Not so for the gun.
  2. Although Federal Bill C-311 allows for personal transport of wine from province to province,  British Columbia is still restricting personal transportation of wine to ONE 9L case.  Not so with the gun.  I could have bought 100 shotguns if I had the money, and the desire.
  3. Although the 51 word amendment to the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act (ILLA) allows for people to “bring the  wine or cause it to be brought into another province” (ie: shipping) British Columbia has not allowed for e-commerce sales yet.  Not so with my online shotgun purchase.
  4. Due to BC Liquor Board policy and similar to gasoline, taxes on a bottle of wine are hidden in the retail shelf price.  Not so with my 12 gauge–$209.95 for the gun and $26.99 taxes (12% HST charged because that is tax rate in the “ship to” province).
  5. Wine is not allowed to be shipped via Canada Post.  I do question whether section 3.4 is still valid with the passage of Bill C-311–but that question is for another day.  Guns can be shipped today via Canada Post, section 3.3, no question.  As long as the gun is unloaded, locked, in a sturdy container and the package is not marked in any way on the outside (I love that part!) then it is allowed to be shipped.
  6. Wine needs to be signed for by an adult when it is sent via carrier.  The Maverick 88 also needed to be signed for by the purchaser so there is no difference here.  The argument that online wine sales will somehow sidestep liquor board’s mandate to ensure that intoxicating beverages are not shipped to people who are not of legal age is just ridiculous.  Anyone who has ordered and signed for a case of wine in BC from a BC winery knows that.

I can see why the provinces are so concerned about allowing consumers to buy wine online and get it shipped to their homes in Canada.  It is a very dangerous…um…value added agricultural product that supports local farmers, is enjoyed with meals and adds to the tourist economy.

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For Your Personal Consumption: The Lobster7 and the Canada3

Having just wrapped up four days in Halifax for the Atlantic Canada Wine Symposium, I was given three bottles of Nova Scotia wine to take back to British Columbia with me.  I am not unfamiliar with the young industry out there.  It reminds me of the Okanagan Valley 20 years ago when I arrived from California. 15 wineries.  So much enthusiasm, hope and promise.  The wines are crisp, cool, refreshing, and low alcohol (the “hot” thing now).  The friendliest bunch of producers you’d ever like to meet.

I also took home 7 live lobsters caught fresh from the waters surrounding Nova Scotia. Anyone who has gone to the Halifax airport is familiar with the pools of fresh lobster you can choose from just next to the security gate entrance.  I had a chance to meet some Nova Scotia lobster fisherman last year on a family vacation.  As good a bunch of people you’ll ever come across.

What could be more perfect? The marriage of two Canadian-grown products, one grown in our seas and one grown on our land, that travel in one day across this huge country of ours and end up on my table in Oliver, BC.

That’s true patriotism in my book. Not flag waving but supporting in a real way what we do here.

The similarities between the Lobster7 and the Canada3 end here.

The Lobster7 were purchased before I checked in.  They were boxed up (still alive–I know, I’ve had a hard time with this part of the story).  They were carried on the plane and placed in the overhead bins—riding the plane with the big people. They flew across 9 of our 10 provinces and arrived at their destination 12 hours later. The most well-known product from Nova Scotia was unpacked and lowered into their steam bath of doom.  Around the table were four friends, my husband, me, and my seven-year old daughter.  The Lobster7 were accompanied by a home-made butter (although they did not need it).  They were delicious.

Oh, and did I mention that you can also order these live lobster from your home and have them shipped to you?  Anywhere in Canada.

Meanwhile, the Canada3 were not so lucky.  They were acquired the night before departure, wrapped in copious amounts of cardboard, 2 pairs of wool socks, various pieces of clothing, and put in my checked bag.  No overhead compartment for them.  They rode on the underbelly of the plane in a sea of luggage—no guarantee they would survive their trek.

And theirs was an illegal journey.

Alcohol, even for personal consumption, is not allowed to cross provincial borders. An antiquated law from 1928 and politicians without the courage to stand up for a truly entrepreneurial industry have ensured that nothing has changed in decades.  The best-hidden secret from the Island (three Nova Scotia wines) were chilled, cracked open and enjoyed by all (including a sip or two for my seven-year old—like it should be).

Local foods being paired with local wines.  One matching the other.  The way it’s done in wine regions around the world.

Wine is food.  Canadian wine should be enjoyed by all Canadians who choose to partake.  I want my daughter to be proud of what her mother does when she grows up.  I don’t want her to think of me as a bootlegger.  I want her to crack open a bottle of estate grown Canadian wine and enjoy.

With a home-grown lobster if she chooses.

Posted in Grapes and Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

#CabFrancTuesday #West and #East

#CabFrancTuesday #West
Tinhorn Creek Vineyards

In 2010 I followed ONE Chardonnay vine in front of my home for the entire growing season (April until harvest in Fall).  I called it #ChardyTuesday because once a week on Tuesday I would tweet the progress I had seen in both the vine’s growth and the clusters.  It was a great way to document the growing season, week by week, from one vine’s perspective.

In 2011 I choose a Syrah vine, also near my  house, to documents in the same manner.  I called it #SyrahTuesday because I am so very creative.

This year a group of ladies came out in August for a weekend of tasting Cabernet Francs and helped me choose the vine I would follow in 2012.  #CabFrancTuesday was born.  Our  little vine, whose trunk leans to the south, is planted on our Diamondback Vineyard on the eastern Black Sage Bench.   Block 2, row 45, vine 5 was planted in 1995. The vines all run North–South, allowing for great air flow and sun exposure on both sides of the canopy.  The soil is sand as far as you can dig and this helps to keep a normally vigorously growing variety like Cabernet Franc in check.

#CabFrancTuesday #East
Vineland Estates Winery

The 2012 #CabFrancTuesday Twist

I was approached by Brian Schmidt (@BenchWineGuy on twitter) from Vineland Estates Winery in Ontario.  Vineland Estates grows one of the best Cabernet Francs in Canada.  A serious wine.  And I’m not just saying that because he’s a great guy on twitter either.  He wondered if he could “sidecar” the #CabFrancTuesday adventure this year by chronicling an eastern vine from Niagara and our western vine from Oliver.  He has chosen vine 14, row 10 from Bo-Teek Vineyard which comes from a pretty nice pedigree…the vineyard used to be and Equestrian Training Centre for, among other horses, Northern Dancer. 8 acres of Cab Franc (clone 327 on SO4 rootstock) were  planted in 1998 after Vineland Estates took over the property.  It is slightly north facing toward Lake Ontario with clay limestone substrate soil.

So we will be chronicling the growing season in both BC and Ontario through the “eyes” (leafs? buds? berries?) of two Cabernet Franc vines grown 3,144 kms away from one another.

This is why I love twitter.  This is why I love connecting.

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The F-ing Bird

The Northern Flicker

I am trying to find balance.  Balance between running a business and the idea of being a steward of the land it sits on.  Recently, I am fighting a war against nature…specifically the Northern Flicker.  It’s a bird.  More specifically a type of woodpecker. It has butchered our barrel cellar since 2002.

Henceforth, I will call it the F-ing Bird (“F” for Flicker, of course).

Barrel Cellar

Le Damage--Barrel Cellar

Know your Enemy  First off, let me say that the F-ing Bird’s population is dwindling but it is “widespread and common” and it’s conservation status is “least concern”.  It makes its nest in excavated dead tree trunks…or in our case…in the exterior walls of our barrel cellar.  Click here to hear the little darling.  Back in 2002 this building was covered in a layer of styrofoam for better insulation before its final coat of stucco.  The F-ing Bird knows when it pounds on this building’s walls they are not solid and begins digging out a cavity 13-16″ deep.  The next year the F-ing Bird returns to this nest for its next little F-ing family.

…have you tried?  For a decade a parade of people have imparted their wisdom for eliminating or deterring this bird.  We have:

  • wrapped a wire mesh and even a metal strip of siding around the upper part of the barrel cellar (which looked ugly).  The F-ing Bird just went lower.  Then to the other side of the building.
  • played bird distress calls which, I guess, were meant to make the bird so sad it didn’t want to bang on our walls anymore.  Our F-ing Birds continued on like we had played a motivational tape.
  • hung a rubber snake on the walls.  Seriously.  It didn’t stop the F-ing Bird’s hole making but we did get to spend endless  hours explaining to tourists why there was a rubber snake hanging on the side of our barrel cellar.
  • contemplated the elimination route but really, that is a losing battle.  There’s always another F-ing Bird around the corner.

Plan of Action  I refuse to patch the holes yearly.  I am not a fan of patching problems but not fixing their root causes (I could refer to liquor regulations here but would digress).  At some point we will probably do one of two things.  We will rip off the entire exterior of the 5,500 square foot barrel cellar, take the styrofoam layer off and re-stucco OR we will add a concrete layer on top of the stucco already there, then re-stucco.  Both remedies are not in our budget for the next few years.

So until that time, here is my idea.  We will live with the F-ing Bird.  We will allow it to massacre our barrel cellar.  I have decided to post signs on the damaged walls so that visitors to our winery and restaurant understand we are surrendering to the F-ing Bird.  I am thinking the signs will look something like this:

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