I used to go to Peace Valley park for guided walks. A ranger would explain what was happening in the woods at that point in time and why. A friend heard I was going on these walks and introduced me to the Peace Valley Winery, a pleasant little winery just outside the park. I rather liked their “Spring Fling”, a Spring wine with a touch of woodruff. In a stunning sign that I am no longer in tune with the seasons, I thought it would be nice to take Lieve for a visit to the winery and a walk in the woods. It hadn’t crossed my mind that Spring wine wouldn’t be available on the Autumnal Equinox.
We had the good fortune of finding Susan Gross behind the tasting counter. Susan founded the vineyard in 1968, and we have several mutual friends and acquaintances. There was a fair amount of laughter about “the good old days”. Susan had been mentored by Dr. Konstantin Frank, and the story of their meeting is in many ways the story of American vinifera wine making. Dr. Frank initially rebuffed her, but when she strongly stated her credentials and her German heritage, he warmed to her, eventually considering her his star student.
You will hear me say from time to time that winemakers are lazy. It is a self depreciating comment. Winemakers harness natural processes, and whenever possible let nature do the hard work. Susan feels that she very well may have lost her business long ago, when an abundance of Fredonia had given her more root stock to graft than she could keep up with, and more fruit than she could market. She decided to open the vineyard to a “pick your own grapes” day, and housewives from the area picked a few hundred pounds of grapes, leaving her with just a few tons more than she could use. At the end of the day, an elderly Korean man showed up, and carrying as many grapes as he could said “Why do you grow Korean grapes?”. Apparently, American scientists studying China had introduced Concord grapes, and they had flourished and worked their way though the peninsula, picking up local names. There had been an influx of Korean immigrants in the area, looking for a taste of home. The next day, the entire congregation of the man’s church showed up with buckets, and the local Korean influence has caused Susan to now grow Korean vegetables in her garden. This is what makes winemakers successful, working with the local environment in every way.
After packing half a case of wine into the car, Lieve and I proceeded to the park, and actually found some leaves that had turned, although we will have to return in a few weeks when the colours are more vibrant. It was very peaceful, now with a paved jogging trail around the lake, and a number of cyclists who have no idea of riding etiquette. I hadn’t brought any drumsticks, so they will never learn the importance of announcing yourself when approaching pedestrians from behind.
Sometimes I forget that even in my solitude, I’m staying on the beaten path. It was rejuvenating to walk in the woods.