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Monday was March 17th, a date celebrated in Ancient Rome as Liberalia. Liber was the name of an early Roman version of Dionysos, a God of Fertility and of wine.  The day was like a Bar Mitzvah for young Roman lads, and afterwards– after the procession of giant phallus symbols, the public drunkenness  and whatever it was that they did– they would switch their boy’s toga with its effeminate purple sash for an all-white grown man’s toga, and could vote and do pretty much whatever they wanted, I guess.

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On Tuesday I saw my first spring barn Swallow, returned from his winter sojourn, flying about the barn.  It is a beautiful bird, the swallow, and has been married to mankind since we first began to build structures.  I mean, jeesh, Virgil wrote about them like 2,000 years ago flyinga bout the rafters of the roof.

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Wednesday, was the Spring Equinox and as the earth was briefly balanced at 10:48 pm, the winter died and the spring began.  Persephone returned to Demeter.  It was sunny and warm and we’ve almost very nearly finished our pruning for the seasons, and have already begun mowing down and disking in our cover crops.

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On Thursday, we disinterred a batch of biodynamic horn compost- those the cowshit-filled horns we buried on the fall equinox.  We unearthed some wine we’d buried alongside them and drank the two bottles, some 12 or 15 of us thirsty vineyard workers in the shade of a fig tree just beginning to glow green with the spring’s new growth.  in place of the horn compost we placed a crushed quartz-filled horn and another bottle to drink in another 6 months.  Covered by soil, I danced my version of a Mexican hat dance over the site, and went back to work.

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And today, on Friday, I did it all again at another vineyard, but this time I was filmed by a TV crew, and I was miked and interviewed, and directed to do silly things for the sake of telling a story, and will someday, in like 6 or 8 months, be seen by those who watch “In Wine Country” (on the Bay Area’s NBC 11) and I will become instantly, incredibly, and annoyingly famous.  I will be blogged about by Perez Hilton.  I will be seen stumbling out of clubs with my vagina hanging out.  I will finally, finally be recognized while pissing in a bar.

It is a full moon tonight, and I really ought not to drink as much wine as I’m about to drink.  As the last good Friday before all my anonymity is stripped away from me, I’ll enjoy it by myself, relaxing in the silence before the helicopters descend to capture me embracing whatever starlet’s career could best be furthered by being seen with the likes of me, the famous Winefarmer.  Probably Natalie Portman, I hope she speaks kindly of me to the press after we break up.  I hope, I hope I don’t accidentally lose that tape we made drunkenly screwing each other.  I’m sorry for that Natalie.  I’m sorry for everything.

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pruning

December 22, 2007

2.jpegLast week, dawn was cold and rosy-fingered on the horizon, the skies clear and Perseus still lingering in the sky as we started pruning up in the Mayacamas. Tomorrow will be the winter solstice, the sun in its southern-most arc of the sky and the shortest of the days. It will correspond with a lunar perigee, at a time when Mars is just days from reaching its closest proximity with the Earth. I’m not sure what it all means. I heard we’re supposed to have nice weather.

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It’s pruning season. I like to prune. It is the most difficult and exacting of vineyard operations. It takes years of hands-on work in the vineyards to become truly adept as a pruner. It is also the most fundamental, most important activity or the growing and making of quality wines. I’ll be honest: I’m not the best. Possibly the slowest. Most easily distracted and confused, I have the least amount of hands-on vineyard work of anyone out there pruning for my company. I work with plenty of guys with great, gray moustaches (bigotones) who do this shit with jedi-like abilities, taking into account:

1. The general architecture of the vine

2. The general vigor of the plant

3. The variety

4. Sun exposure

5. Predominant winds

6. The vigor of each individual shoot, based on diameter and length between nodes

7. Risk of exposure to winter-season fungal agents such as Eutypa

8. Evidence of viral infection

9. Future exposure to growing-season fungus like Mildew and Botyritis

10. The trellis system

11. Desired crop-load

12. Previous year’s crop

13. Age of the vine

14. Overall beauty of the vine

15. General disposition of the vine

16. If the winemaker in charge actually knows anything, and
17. Whether or not he comes to the vineyard.

All these considerations and probably more I can’t right now think of need to be weighed in a moment’s notice, without any real thought, because when you slow down to think, that’s when you really mess up, do stupid-ass shit.

But, as it is, I’ve got two weeks off. I plan on hiking in the mountains with my dog, kayaking in the bay with my ladyfriend, and drinking perhaps much too much wine.

Cheers!

Equinox, Yom Kippur, Harvest

September 23, 2007

It rained. I told you so. We farmers know these things. We also have the internet, so it makes it easier to predict.

Equinox

Today is the fall equinox. It seems like always around the equinox, at least since I started to pay attention, the clouds are a bit more swirly, and rain or hail is a lot more likely. The Earth is now balanced upright but the atmosphere is still in flux.

It’s also, or was recently, Yom Kippur. I’m a lousy jew of a jew, and instead of repenting and fasting, spent my Friday practicing the neo-pagan rituals of biodynamics: I unearthed some cow horns full of crushed rose quartz powder and buried some others filled with fresh cow shit. I sprayed a bunch of the shadier blocks of our vineyards with the quartz powder, dynamized into water.

From my recent studies of the ancient roots of the Dionysian religion, much of Jewish law seems as if it were written to prevent its members from participating in the worship of the wine god. For instance, a typical greek sacrifice to Dionysos was to boil a kid (goat that is) in the milk of its mother, something strictly forbidden under Kosher rules. Another injunction was the story of the Egyptian slaves and the worship of the Golden Calf, something intimately linked to the worship of Dionysos. It would seem that I’ve made my choice, wouldn’t it?, between the religion of my mother’s family and the spirituality of my vocation. Although biodynamics isn’t truly rooted in the worship of the wine god, it’s supposed to be some sort of rebirth of sprituality that might mimic or replace what once was practiced by the first civilized farmers for thousands of years.

That being said, there seems to have been some confusion amongst the Greeks as to the origins of the Jewish religion. In Plutach’s Convivial Questions, one of the guests claims to be able to prove that the God of the Jews is really Dionysus Sabazius, the barley god of Thrace and Phyrgia. In Tacitus’ History he writes that “some maintain that the rites of the Jews were founded in honour of Dionysos.”

So, if I were a real academic, instead of a part-time, half-assed one, I might look into the link between the Jewish and Dionysian religions. I’ve read that it’s the ancient city of Obeid that the man later known as Abraham probably left from to found his own religion. There in Obeid, the central religious compoud was formed in the shape of, well, ahem… the female genitalia in all its beauty. Poychrome mosaics found among the ruins show a company of priests at their holy task of milking cows. The figure of Dionysos was probably known better as Tammuz at this time, son of the the Earth mother and a vegetation god of rebirth and death. He had horns. The Earth mother was represented by a cow.

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It all gets mixed up in prehistory, and that’s what I love about my profession: what I do and what I think about can be traced back to the foundations of civilization. I might never really figure it all out. But I get to think about it, see how I feel about things, and enact ancient rituals of my choosing when i want.

The grapes aren’t ripening. The flavors are developing but the acidity remains high and the sugars low. the rain won’t help the thinner-skinned varieties’ tendency to develop botyritis. Tomorrow I’m picking 3 tons of Gewurtztraminer in Sonoma. Old vines we tend and tend to neglect a bit, but the fruit is delicious and makes a great wine.