“In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.” William Blake
There’s something magical about harvest season when you live in wine country. It’s a current of electricity that runs through the everyone and everything. I always think of Dr. Seuss. Ya know those giant machines that come in to clean up after “It 1 and 2 and the kids? Well, there are grape. Picking machines driving on the roads at this time, and Dr Seuss is at the forefront of my thoughts…I kind of giggle like a child when they get in front of me. I can take it for a mile or so, but then I have to pass them, but not without waving like a deranged lunatic. It is just exciting!!
We don’t use machines to harvest our grapes, we have to hire people. My husband as well as our winemaker get out in the field and pick with all the other people working in our fields. Just this past week we have already processes several tons of grapes, and pressed them. So, the fermentation process is already starting for the 2017 wines. I believe the Merlot for this year has already been picked, destemed, and pressed.
These were photos of the grapes before some of the fruit was dropped. We have to drop fruit so the healthiest grapes will get the most water, and the best sunshine. Depending on the variety, canopy may have to be cut back to get the right amount of sun, or less sun. We want to pick at just the right amount of Brix, which is the sugar content in the grapes, too high, and the wine is too sweet, you want just the right amount to make great wine.
We try to maintain a sustainable vineyard, and keep the dropped fruit for compost. Once the grapes are pressed the must will be used for more compost to mix back into the soil and boost the soil with microbes that recondition the soil. Our ducks are always in the vineyard taking care of the slugs, and soon we want to introduce babydoll sheep and chickens. The sheep will help with the grass and cover crops, and the chickens will take care of the insects in the vineyard. The chickens will also give us fantastic eggs to eat. It all makes for better wine every year. A wine that you can enjoy and feel good about drinking. We look forward to getting closer to becoming more biodynamic!
I met Jennifer when I first came down here to SLO county. She is one of the warmest most genuine people you will ever meet. Being around her, you just feel like you may be family. She and I have been telling each other how we were going to get together. In fact, we had to make plans a month in advance. We are business owners, and our days are filled with making our businesses stronger.
She and I finally got together. I went to the Groves on 41, and she showed me the property. The last time I was there, I was there for a party, and did not get a private tour. Jennifer took me around to the their vacation rental, wedding venue, and into the groves.
Being out in the groves was fun. It was super muddy that day, and she and I were talking as we were walking. She was educating me about olive trees, and things to look for in the grove. As she talked, and we walked, we also were picking off the fruit that was still on the trees. I felt as though I left with a whole new understanding about olive groves. We also agreed to carry their line in the tasting room.
Here are some of the photos from the day…
We moved from the city to the county almost four years ago. It took all of us a couple of weeks to learn to sleep with so much silence. In the spring, there is one refreshing sound that is heard on our farm at night. When it is silent, we know there is a predator lurking around the house, office, garage, or stalls. Most of the time, this is the sound of spring in the country…
We finished with harvest, we have started shipping boxes and cases out to members. We got new products in before the holiday season too. Savannah Bee Company body butter both regular, and sensitive skin. We also have the softening hand soap, we sold out last time very quickly. Menagerie animal for spouts to aerate wine, and also to use for olive oil. We have so many other great gifts, so it’s worth it to come in and buy some items for the upcoming holidays.
Look at all our luscious grapes, before they become yummy wine. Roberto is modeling some of the bundles that were pulled off the vines.
Next up, we have our pick up party, and party plans for next year.
The other day, a lady comes to the winey and ask me to allow her to release her duck. The name of the duck Aflac. She even brought a giant bag of food to feed her duck, and ask me if it was ok to bring some apples to feed Aflac. We took the very large cage over to the pond to allow Aflac to see the water. Here are some of the photos of his release…
The other duck with the red bill is Matilda, and she is the other loner that I believed might be a friend or buddy to Aflac. The two mallards are the bullies of the pond. Once Aflac got into the pond the two mallards went after Aflac. I have found myself looking for Aflac in the afternoon, and making sure he has food. It is a little heartbreaking that he hasn’t made any pond friends. Maybe, he just needs time to fit into the pond with the other ducks.
September 9th is our anniversary day, we have been winery owners for one full year. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and there was lots of work to do. We got grass added to the back patio area, bocce ball court, a beautiful fountain, and Reale Leone Inn open.
After I had it all decorated, and ready to go…Roberto tells me, “Honey, there needs to be a pressure pump for the water.” Tears started welling up in my eyes. I didn’t want to cry in front of everyone, so I went over to the Inn. I went upstairs and starting wailing like a baby. We’ve spent millions of dollars and we still can’t make money until we have the Inn open…Oh, what have we done?
I hear someone is in the Inn with me. I see our air conditioning technician. He tells me “Kimberly, we may have to open this wall to get this air conditioner to work correctly.” What? We just finished the place, and you may have to open the wall? He reminded me that it would be the last thing they would do if nothing else worked. I hid upstairs again, and cried, and cried, and cried. I’m not exaggerating when I am telling you that I cried all day long!
I have learned that it takes a little while (months) for people to spread the word about a place of interest. Before we opened, people would tell us “Oh, I can’t wait to rent the whole Inn.” Well, that hasn’t happened as of yet. We have been full for several days at a time, and now, most weekends are full. It took a while before it happened though.
We just opened our “Casa Dell Arte“, a place where young and old can learn paintings, crafts, yoga, dance. A destination where people can learn. Paint and sip classes for adults, and painting classes for children. Yoga classes in the morning, and dance classes in the evening. Craft classes for fun and exciting activities.
We are about to open
The big house on the hill that is 5,000 square feet. The last few items that need to be finished are wireless, washer and dryer need to be installed, and direct tv. The villa has a wrap around porch. Huge kitchen for several people to gather at the same time. Comfy and beautiful rooms, super spacious bathrooms.
We love our winery, and it’s even more gorgeous than it was when we purchased it. We are expanding on the dream of the original owner, and trying to preserve his legacy as well. I’m sure I haven’t spent my last day crying, but most days are fantastic. We are going to carry on, and get better with every year!
Riverstar Vineyards is an 80-acre ranch located in the heart of San Miguel, in the Paso Robles AVA. There are 60 planted acres of grapes, including six varietals that they use to produce their estate wines. They are a family owned and operated winery, and pride themselves on utilizing the fruit grown on their vineyard to create well balanced and easy drinking wines. Riverstar is a beautiful piece of land, with a scenic meadow in the front of the property that is used for concerts, weddings, and events.
Their boutique tasting room is open Thursdays through Mondays from 11-5, where you can taste their award- winning wines and fun red blends that Riverstar has been known for. They offer a wine and cheese pairing with six of their red wines. They will soon be featuring sparkling wines as well, stay tuned!
Extend your experience at Riverstar by staying in one of their vacation rentals. The “Ranch House” is three bedrooms and two bathrooms with a wrap- around deck, just perfect for watching the gorgeous sunsets over the vines.
The “House on the Hill” is nestled in the middle of the vineyard, with a private pool in the backyard. This home is three bedrooms and three and a half bathrooms, with a fourth room that has a futon and couch to fit all your guests under one roof. More information and photos can be found on our website and on VRBO/ Homeaway.com.
Riverstar is hosting some great concerts this fall. Saturday, September 10, 2016 the Blimp Pilots, a rock n roll cover band, will be playing from 1-4 pm on the meadow. Chaco’s Mexican Grill food truck will be on site cooking up delicious tacos. Bring a blanket or lawn chairs and come hang out with them to listen to some awesome tunes, and enjoy some of their great wines!
The next event will be Saturday, October 15, 2016 and will feature the JD Project from 1-4 pm, as well as Chaco’s Mexican Grill food truck. Come celebrate this year’s successful harvest with live music and flowing wine!
Last month, I made it my goal to finish the house in less than 90 days. I still need to get the rails to two beds. You would think that “standard rails” are easy to find, but everyone has to order them. UGH! Why are they called “standard”?
The great room, with views into the kitchen, dining room, and the bar.
I love visiting Villa San Juliette, they are the neighbors of Ranchita Canyon Vineyard. The beauty there is magnificent, the grounds evoke an image of European splendor. The artistically rendered gates open at 11am, the driveway is punctuated by cypress tress, and olive trees. The statuary, and landscape transport your soul to a place of divine harmony. I feel as though I am in an ancient Roman painting…bring on the banquet!
I have visited VSJ many times, but have never had the opportunity to meet the two gentlemen that own the winery. Ken Warwick and Nigel Lythgoe are the owners, and I am told that the two met as schoolmates in Liverpool and a friendship bloomed. Both young men loved to entertain and as they grew into adulthood, this shared passion led to careers that often intersected, as dancers, then as choreographers and as producers of entertainment enjoyed by millions of people all over the world.
Despite their demanding schedules, in 2004 these two friends made time to catch up over a dinner in Las Vegas. They asked the sommelier to surprise them with a bottle of Cab, and, when both glasses were poured, the conversation took a momentous turn. The wine was spectacular, spurring an interest in the Paso Robles AVA that would grow into a love affair. And thus, in that first sip, the dream of Villa San-Juliette Vineyard & Winery was born.
Smitten as they were, just one year later Ken and Nigel purchased a pastoral 168-acre property located at the northern edge of the Paso Robles AVA in the small town of San Miguel, California. A healthy vineyard was already established across rolling slopes and ideal soils, so Ken and Nigel directed their energies towards enhancing the natural beauty of the vineyard with a tasting room styled after the Tuscan villas that Nigel had enjoyed during trips to Italy.
Ken and Nigel’s belief in Paso Robles wine country comes to fulfillment in Villa San-Ju- liette’s comfortable tasting room, superb wines, and idyllic vineyard views.
The two are the producers of American Idol. They also produce many other talent shows, as well as own the winery. In 2013 the winery became SIP certified, which is no easy feat. One must be able to demonstrate their sustainability, water, animal conservation, soil health, and the overall carbon footprint are measured.
Their wines have won several awards too, so it’s so worth a visit. Every time I have visited, I have been fascinated by what appears to be a sculptured wind vane. I recently was told that the “Fat Monk” is a second label. I can’t personally attest to it’s yumminess, but the Fat Monk looks super cool.