One of Sonoma Valley’s iconic winegrowers just released a personal memoir and, if you know anything about George MacLeod, you’ll want to read it.
If you don’t know George yet, you’ll want to after reading his book. Because, not only is George a legendary, pioneering farmer in Sonoma Valley, he’s also one of the region’s most proficient yarn spinners and spokespersons.
In JOURNEY TO HARVEST: How To Grow Great Grapes, Make Distinctive Wines & Live Forever, George overlays the story of his own personal journey with a year in the life of a grape vineyard. In the process, he manages to teach us some important insights into winegrowing, local history, family and, oh yes, the secret to eternal life.
Learn more about George MacLeod’s wines here: www.macleodfamilyvineyard.com
Click here to see George in conversation as part of the Sonoma Valley Legends Series.
Here’s a seasonally appropriate preview from a chapter titled: AUGUST: THE WAITING MONTH
The ranch goes pretty quiet in August. We’re busy enough, catching up on maintenance projects and the like, although we may take a couple of days off to go fishing or drive down to Monterey.
But no matter what we seem to be engaged in around this time, what we’re really dong is waiting. We watch the vines…and we wait.
We’re waiting for harvest, which usually arrives late in August or in early September. The earliest harvest I can remember on the ranch was in 2004, when we harvested the Sauvignon Blanc August 14-17, nearly three weeks earlier than normal.
One of the yearly harbingers we all enjoy at this time has come on the scene: the beautiful “Naked Lady” lilies (Amarylllis Belladonna). They were planted here more than a century ago in what had been the front yard of a pioneer grape grower’s home. I often wonder about the circumstances of that planting. Did the pioneer wife ask for them? Did she bring them as a remembrance from her previous home? Were they a surprise birthday or anniversary present? We located our present home so that construction activity wouldn’t disturb the Naked Ladies in their long-time bed.
You see these lovely flowers of August blooming in the most out-of-the-way sites in California’s Mother Lode region. A gold-mining engineer friend of mine told me that wherever he goes in that region he sees Naked Ladies; their presence is a tip-off to the fact that he’ll find the ruins of a pioneer house or evidence of gold prospecting nearby. Clumps of Naked Ladies can be found throughout Sonoma County–still thriving, though the dwellings to which they once belonged have long vanished.
How and why were the early California settlers so partial to these plants? And where did the they get the bulbs? Whatever the answers, we MacLeods are happy to have our pioneer Naked Ladies as our official good luck icon for the ranch, emerging each year to signal that harvest is near.
And so, surrounded by our beautiful Naked Ladies of August, we continue to wait.
Sure, there’s tension while waiting–but we’re optimistic. Without optimism, there would be no farmers. Perhaps the weather will be perfect. Perhaps the crop will be bigger than our estimates. Perhaps our efforts at quality will help the winemaker convert our grapes into a Gold Medal wine. Perhaps this year there will be enough revenue for a trip to Maui.
We have almost reached the finish line of the year’s Journey To Harvest. It’s hard to be patient, but Nature is in the dealer’s seat and there is just no way to know what cards she will deal.