Having always been a fan of the grand gesture, I (Chris) wanted to do something special to celebrate the new life I would be undertaking with my bride-to-be, Dolores (Dee).
It was 2015, and our wedding ceremony was to be held in an amphitheater of redwood trees above the bucolic west Sonoma County town of Occidental—the very town my family had been coming to visit since the 1940s. In fact, our home sits just around the corner from the little ram-shackle cabin my father spent his summers in growing up.
It was the trees, the fog, the river, the hillsides, the vineyards, the history and us.
So, I thought it would be a great idea to make a barrel of wine that my wife and I could dip into over the years of our happily-ever-after and reminisce about this incredible autumn day when we were surrounded by those we love most.
But I didn’t do it…
Weddings are stressful enough without having to manage a pick and figure out how to turn grapes into wine without blowing the whole thing. We knew we wanted to have a family one day, and perhaps this could be something special for when that time came, I thought. Having grown up in a family with many rich traditions, maybe something like this could be one of our own design—a gift of thanks we could celebrate year over year, bottle after bottle.
It was 2017 when we learned that Dee was pregnant, and the itch to launch the grand gesture re-emerged, and with it this crazed idea that I could make a wine–this time for my baby girl. I had always loved wine—an affection born out of exposure at the family table growing up—and by this point, I had been working in the wine industry for a few years—having changed course from a life in education and athletics.
When we met, Dee was much more a beer connoisseur, but over time we came to share favorite bottles, and we noted our affinity for cool climate Syrah. So there it was—I would make a Syrah to celebrate the arrival of my daughter. Oh, with one little twist…
I had no intention of telling my wife about it.
I thought it would be a cool surprise, not thinking how uncool the surprise the expense of such a venture would be if she discovered it—or if she didn’t think it was quite as “grand” a gesture as I did.
Oh, the follies of being inexperienced (read as “not very bright”) as it pertained to marriage…
With grapes secured and a couple of winemaking friends “in the know” to help me along the way, the pick date was upon us (me).
I told Dee I had someplace to be early the next morning, for which she cared little with her belly and feet swollen by pregnancy. So up in the dark and out before dawn I went to the little Syrah vineyard not far from our home in the Russian River Valley for the pick and the next stage of my grand gesture…luring my wife to the site.
A quick text message let her know I was having car trouble, which she responded to with a not-so-subtle reminder that this was the very moment that justified our membership with AAA.
I begged her to come pick me up from my location, and could she please hurry—I had important things to tend to in short order. I dropped a pin on the map and sent it to her, and shortly thereafter she arrived at the vineyard to find me standing alongside gorgeous rows of Syrah vines with a pair of pruning sheers in my hand.
“Would you like to pick some grapes for your daughter’s wine?” I asked.
After a pause and a quick scan of the situation, Dee took the sheers from me, gave me a kiss, and said, “I am picking one bunch, and then I am going back home to put my feet up…and you’re lucky I already got ready for the day so we can take a picture!”
I never thought this silly idea of mine would lead us to launch a wine brand of our own. I never imagined we would make another wine beyond these first two barrels. I just wanted to create a beautiful reminder of welcoming our first-born into the world.
But then we made my daughter another wine…and then we made her a brother, who would clearly need two wines of his own…and then we realized something else…this was becoming more than a grand gesture.
This was a new tradition.
Every family celebrates its own traditions, and we certainly have our fair share. The elaborate stocking ceremony on Christmas Eve, gin fizzes the morning after a family wedding, the turkey shoot on Thanksgiving Day (involving piñatas and a toy bow & arrow set), and so on. But there’s a limitation to these traditions.
Stockings are taken down after Christmas, the gin fizzes are just for those special mornings, and one can’t very well go bow hunting piñatas at-large without frightening the neighbors. These traditions, while time-honored and beloved, are private and not shared outside of the immediate family.
But this one—these wines and this winery—this is different. With this humble family project, we can transport others to our table, to a specific moment in time through these bottles and allow them to taste something special along with us.
And here we are!