"Why did you start a vineyard?" I am asked this constantly and have never felt I had the answer. You know how you hem and haw at saying the right thing? I thought my answer needed to come from some great epiphany.
Now, after 18 years, I realized it wasn't some epiphany but the acceptance of who I was. The vineyard came together when I accepted that of all that stuff that never “seemed that important”, that I dismissed as being “trite” was indeed the important, least trivial part of who I am was. All that stuff that lived under my skin, made me smile and gave me happy memories. I wished I could say that it propelled me to start a hedge fund or a startup software company in Silicon Valley. But no, it sent me back to the land, great skies, birds and bugs, sun, wind and faith.
I blame (or thank, depending on how you look at it) this all on my grandpa in Holland, Michigan and four years of running through vineyards in Calistoga, California. First, grandpa was a blueberry farmer and I was a 10-year-old blueberry picker during my summers when Mom needed to find something for us to do. Although I am pretty sure we were not his star producers, he graciously kept us busy all day and I was proud to be the boss’ “kid“, even though it brought no favors. He loved his land, the rows of bushes and the product. Because of him, I loved the land, the smells, the bushes and just being a part of it. He always had some “saying” of great wisdom that I would ponder for days. When you are 10, the white haired guy who owns, and thinks he owns, everything, holds rank.
The other catalyst was Calistoga. In early 1982, we owned a cottage in Calistoga, CA and as a runner, the vineyard rows were my trails. The vines, the dirt, the air were mine. They were my being, my home, however, there was something more. They were sculpture. The trunks, massive and gnarled, a marvelous shade of gray; the sweet vine tendrils curling fingers around the wire; all standing in perfect rows. Some people paint or build to create. I wanted this, to grow. It was complete beauty. And since my grandfather, way back when, had divulged one of his sayings that I held dear “Never be a dirt farmer, Liebchen! (Sweetheart)” As these were vines… I figured I was on sacred ground.
Although that is not the beginning of the first planting, it was the true beginning of what became an understood, accepted and not so unusual idea of planting a vineyard. It never seemed foreign to me. Why not? Growing stuff is my love, so why not do it? I had a lot to learn and when the time came to start, it was the blessings of other’s, much sage and great advice, the availability of the most beautiful piece of land in the entire world and the encouragement of my husband that opened the doors to the creation of Vogelzang Vineyard.