I have always been with my fingers in the dirt. At two years old, I was helping my mom in the garden. While living in Germany, first as an exchange student and on subsequent lengthy visits, I became involved with the family vineyard located on the Rhine River. When I returned to the U.S., my interest continued and each summer for 8 - 10 weeks I gave of my time to wineries throughout Napa, Sonoma, Lodi, Paso Robles & Temecula, California and also to vineyards in Arizona. I wanted to learn and experience the wine industry. I would drive to California, set-up a small trailer and live on site for 3 to 4 months throughout the harvest, press & wine making. Working at several wine co-ops, I befriended many wine makers from Italy, Germany and other parts of Europe that had settled in California. What a wealth of first-hand knowledge and information I acquired from these experienced wine makers. I realized through the subsequent summers I spent in California, growing, harvesting and wine making, that there is no substitute for hands on experience.
Today I have my own vineyard and wineries. I make wine from the heart, giving my best effort based upon the examples set for me by my family work ethic and the many experienced grape growers and wine makers I have worked with over the years. Early mornings and late evenings are often the rule. The love of the grape brings forth a strong commitment to always do your best. Wine is a living breathing thing that grows and changes with time. Everything I do has me questioning myself, how what I do today will affect the vines and the grapes and the wine next year, five years, ten years from now. I work today so future generations of my family will benefit from my erstwhile efforts.
The first key to wine making is to be aware of what the plant is telling you as you walk the vineyard. The very earth itself will speak to the grower as does the vine and the fruit. Mother Nature, with cool nights and sunny warm days, will bring forth the best in the grapes. Sugar levels tell the wine maker when the fruit is ready to be harvested and made into the drink of the Gods. The wine maker can become a wizard or a fool. As I listen to the grapes, they tell me about the journey they will guide me through. We will travel together from the first bud though the ripening of the berries. A bountiful harvest is a direct result of my attention to every little detail as the vine grows and winds around the trellising. The vines release their bounty due to the tender care they have been given as they have grown. I taste and smell the developing wine and my finished product reflects my personal responsibility to craft the best wine I can in honor of the vine.
Wine is a wonderful gift that can be shared with family, friends and acquaintances. The cohesive intrinsic value of wine is that it invites us to slow down to taste the history in each glass. Wines bring together life, love, friends, food and experience in a manner other beverages are unable to. It behooves each of us to venture forth and learn the story of each wine and enjoy what we experience.