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The Vineyard Journal

Grapevines hold many lessons for life…
and I am overwhelmed daily by the beauty of creation and the wisdom of its rhythms. The Vineyard Journal contains my occasional jottings regarding the growth and care of our humble two-acre vineyard. My comments also venture toward other crops, flowers and fauna, recipes, new wine releases, events, off-site wine experiences, along with a few philosophical side trips Although the names of family and friends are downplayed for their privacy, we treasure every soul who is a part of the vineyard. Come…watch us grow.

Prepping for Totality

Our tasting room is full of items to help you prepare for the upcoming Total Solar Eclipse, including a new label release, Totality. This Concord wine is a classic Midwest favorite with its lip-smacking and grapey charm! Pick up a bottle to celebrate with and save the empty to remember the special day!

Other merchandising includes tablecloths, napkins, dishware, and utensils to set a festive party theme. Thermal mugs and stickers from GreatAmericanEclipse.com are irresistible with their “starry night” artwork.

Roosters are a natural symbol of the sun so we had to add a few to the display. Shoulder-sling bottle totes are handy for wine picnics and we’re certainly hoping for a picnic-worthy day on April 8th! Check out the eclipse map to see who else you know living in the path of totality.

Finally, use the wall-size eclipse as a photo background for your group as you visit before or after the big day. This feature will remain through the summer along with Totality wine and our specialty wine beverage, Solar Eclipse.

Hamilton County Bicentennial 2023

The city of Noblesville is marked by many signs signifying its beginnings in 1823. As time has a way of passing by, it doesn’t seem long that we have arrived at 200 years from the date we have grown accustomed to seeing on those familiar signs. But 200 years is a long time and especially the last 200 years has contained the most dramatic changes known to mankind.

As the anniversary year approached, the Hamilton County Bicentennial Commission was formed with members from each city and town. Through the year, 45 events were planned allowing each community to celebrate in their own way. A traveling exhibit was created and scheduled to be displayed in over 25 different locations. We volunteered the winery to host the exhibit from May 27th through June 2nd. This inspired us to extend our normal Saturday hours and be open everyday through that week. It also inspired us to gather up some of our own nostalgic items and turn the tasting room into a small museum for those few days. We enjoyed many visitors during that time but in case you missed it, we have captured much of it here in photos and videos.

1) The traveling exhibit 2) The Noble-opoly game 3) Logo corner

The Traveling Exhibit is a 16-foot by 8-foot mural which fit nicely along our west wall. Filled with lots of interesting facts, the reader could enjoy a glass of wine while they took in the information. We created a perpetual game of Noble-opoly using a game board designed in the 1970s featuring prominent Noblesville businesses from that time. Adjacent to the game table was a display of our own collection of logo-bearing items from Hamilton County businesses and churches.

Other displays feature themes relative to the winery such as changes in agriculture and trends in food and beverages. Did you know in 1930 that farmers were 21% of the population and 1 farmer could feed 10 people? Those 10 people could easily be the farmer’s household. Today the modern farmers in Indiana are 2% of the state’s population and each one can feed 128 people. This reflects how improvements in technology have increased crop production and efficiency. It also demonstrates how workers moved from the farms to the factories (like Firestone) to create a wide variety of goods in a growing economy. We created 4 sets of work clothes to illustrate this story, the first accompanied by a photo of Brian’s great-grandparents. The last outfit represents us here in the vineyard as Hamilton County struggles to hang on to public green space.

1) Great-Grandpa’s scythe and saw 2) Milk can, milk bottle crates, butter churn and Starbucks 3) Work clothes through the years

“Tooling Through Time” was a theme which explored the progression of materials used in creating common tools. For example, sugar was sold in a fabric bag and then stored in a wooden bucket, but later in a metal canister and most currently a plastic Tupperware container.

Similarly, fuel types progressed through time from man-power to oil, gas, electricity and battery-power to accomplish the same task. This applied to tools used inside and outside the home. Even fabric types reflect moves in technology as we went from linen (flax) and cotton to micro-knits, permanent-press, and sun-guard UPFs.

Exploring “Food and Beverage Trends” seemed appropriate so we started with a look at the first processed beverage – milk, and discovered that milk sales per capita have continued to fall since 1970 in spite of aggressive marketing by the American Dairy Association. (Got Milk?) Even the coffee shop latte surge wasn’t enough to increase the over consumption of fresh milk. Today Americans consume 3 times the milk equivalent in the form of cheese, yogurt and butter compared to cooking use and beverages. The frequency of milk use is beat out by bottled water, coffee, tea, soda, and even alcohol in that order.

It was fun to research the origins of some beloved brands, discovering Dr. Pepper to have preceded Coca-Cola by 1 year. The pretzel is arguably the oldest concocted snack food for eating between meals, dating back to Middle Age Europe. The first pretzel factory opened in America in 1861. Automated food processing made snacks a large part of our culture. Soft drinks started as pharmaceutical products or, what we would now call, “energy drinks.”

1885 Dr. Pepper
1886 Coca-Cola
1917 Moon Pie
1924 Nehi Orange
1932 Fritos
1937 Big Red Soda
1942 Charles Chips
1985 Fritos BBQ

In the list above, I differentiated “Fritos” from “Fritos BBQ” because we were fortunate to meet the man who developed the BBQ version. During our Bicentennial week, a visitor entered the tasting room and almost immediately asked, “Are those BBQ Fritos?” I said, “Yes, but that is all I have,” since I bought only a small bag and didn’t find regular at the store the day I shopped. He said, “I made those!” and proceeded to tell us about his job in Plano, Texas where he developed new products for Frito-Lay. “Fritos BBQ” was his first project in 1985. He’ll never forget it and neither will we! Thanks, Mark, for sharing your story with us!

To continue the discussion of fabric evolution, these ladies’ garments feature elements of animal origin such as suede leather, wool, and horse-hair hems. A new chintz fabric was glazed with egg white for a shiny stiff appearance. Fibers include straw, silk and cotton. The art for our “Sunbonnet” wine label took a position near its namesake. Tea sandwiches were on the menu that week for a Victorian experience. I could not resist the opportunity to display a few quilts but kept it to a minimum.

The cobalt blue bottles we use for wine always catch comments. Our historical exhibit wouldn’t be complete without a nod to the element, cobalt, that creates the signature blue in compounds used for tinting glass and pottery.

Our bottles found places to be at home within the nostalgia. “Wapahani White” nestled near the photo of Potter’s Bridge and “Squirrel Stampede,” of course, has its place as a featured theme of the Bicentennial. If you haven’t heard the story of the Great Squirrel Stampede of 1822, come visit for a guided tasting and get your commemorative bottle!

Thanks for taking this little trip with me down memory lane.

The Sky is Falling

There was some excitement in our neighborhood recently! On the evening of April 21st at 8:48pm (EDT) a loud noise shook windows for several counties wide. Unfortunately, I personally missed it, mostly because I was baking cupcakes in the winery kitchen and had the exhaust hood running. Most people we talked with suspected an earthquake, but news outlets quickly attributed it to the sonic boom of a meteor. Due to a minimal number of eyewitnesses, no official report has been issued. Being up to my eyeballs in procedures for a big party, it was several days before I caught up with the frenzy caused by the mysterious shaking. Interestingly, it seems those who saw it did not hear anything and those who heard it did not see anything. And that would be the case for a meteor arriving at a steep angle where those at a distance see the trail in the sky but do not hear the sonic boom. Conversely, those near the entry point might only see a flash directly overhead but be subject to strong shock waves in its wake.

The story fell quickly out of the news and for lack of satisfaction I decided to contact NASA to see if they would comment. And to my amazement they did! The map above was generated by NASA official, Dr. Cooke, after my inquiry. The black arrows indicate eyewitness reports and the blue arrow estimates the location of the entry. Using the start/finish coordinates provided, I was able to generate a more detailed map (below) which indicates the burn path dropping from 49 to 29 miles high over towns and people we know.

With his permission, I have also posted here a copy of the email response I received from Dr. Cooke. I had asked him several questions actually, some regarding the fireball camera program. You will notice in his comment that the fireball was “pretty slow” for a meteor and more indicative of a “small fragment of an asteroid.” I’m not sure what the difference is except that everything moving in space gets its initial speed from somewhere and continues at that speed until acted on again.

If you are one of the lucky ones to have SEEN something of this event on April 21st, it is not too late to report it. You can find the file already open by the American Meteorological Society at this link https://fireball.amsmeteors.org/members/imo_view/event/2023/2268 and click the “Report a Fireball” button, referencing the event 2268-2023. Too bad the AMS doesn’t care much about what people heard or felt.

I know that thousands of such fireballs are generated around the world every year. Please forgive me for getting a little excited about this one that came close to falling in our front yard! A big shout out to NASA for all of the research they do in an effort to keep us safe.

Living the Dream

Remembering to sit and savor

Many of our visitors choose to sit on the porch of the log cabin and enjoy their wine. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to sit and savor. And it’s difficult to truly enjoy the view when we feel the distracting pressure of pulling an ostentatious weed. One July day I noticed the spring’s planting of pansies in the half-barrels were suffering in the extreme heat. Pansies are not meant for summer anyway and are expected to dwindle. I chose to capture the last remaining bright blooms, being quite edible, and added them to a fruity salad. Scones and muffins were a nice match. The wine is actually from another Indiana producer which I purchased at the Indiana Artisan show. Altogether, a nice moment yet far too rare!

Suddenly Susan!

A new family photo

Our tasting room is still under construction but a portion of it became the backdrop for a photo session when our nephew and his fiance came for some engagement photography. Indoor shots featured the newly installed spiral staircase and Grandma Bernice’s famous basement booth. Outdoor shots were very snow-covered! After a little wine tasting, we snapped this – the first of many photos joining two families. For many years, we have prayed for the little boys and girls who would grow up and marry our nieces and nephews. It’s so nice when we can finally meet them!

Unpruned

The Vineyard at Country Moon – photo by Bayette George 2021

The vineyard in its overgrown state is happy and healthy. The 2021 season was a Sabbath year for us. With the exception of some trunk training necessary in the Prairie Star block, the majority of the 2 acre vineyard was left unpruned. Grapevines have a way they like to grow but that way is not often favored by man. Untended vines will continually grow from the ends making lots of leaves but little fruit. Vines gone wild may cover the ground or climb a handy tree for support. Pruning keeps the vine growth closer to the trunk, creating more robust canes, and fruit better positioned for harvest cutting. A trellis-trained vine with regular annual pruning is desirable to maintain a predictable growth pattern of fruiting canes.

So why do we have a Sabbath year? After 6 years of focusing hard on producing fruit, the vines need a little break. On the 7th year the unpruned vines create more leaves that enable them to nourish themselves. It’s a refreshing year for the land and the vines. It allows the birds to nest undisturbed in the vineyard. It gives the vine keepers a rest as well.

This year we have the added perspective of dealing with the pandemic as a business and as a society. Perhaps the lockdowns of 2020 were a type of Sabbath rest. Although it was unwelcome – once a person could relax into it – many families enjoyed special times together, playing and eating at home. Pets relished more attention from their people. Some things were left to grow wild, like grass, hair and fingernails. It was a great chance to catch up on some sleep and yes, there was a slight baby boom 9 months later.

Now we are in a transition from our rest to getting back to work. Like pruning in the 8th year, it’s a little more difficult than if we hadn’t taken the break at all. We have to change our strategy and look for the new normal.

So Many Buckets!

Photos (left and center) courtesy of Connie Miller

A few weeks before we “opened the gates” I strolled through the unpruned vines. I saw so much nice fruit and sincerely hoped someone would come get the Sabbath harvest, free for the picking. My fears were quickly dispelled when shortly after 9 a.m. on opening day, September 8th, a caravan of cars arrived. People carried grapes out in buckets, baskets, bags – by the wagon load! A delightfully heavy crowd would persist for 5 days until most of the fruit was gone…and then I sadly pulled the Marketplace ad. Yet our website had promoted the event running through the 19th so we continued to welcome vineyard visitors and they continued to come through the following weekend. Generally buckets were less full, some finding only handfuls. But determined pickers amazed us by filling 5 gallon buckets right up to the end!

One bucket, two buckets,
Red buckets, blue
Old buckets, new buckets,

Many buckets…few

Photo courtesy of Bayette George

For many visitors, this was their first experience picking grapes. Several families were repeats from the 2014 Sabbath! Some came alone and enjoyed the peace and quiet. Some came as mother/daughter teams. One group signed in with 13 members! Bayette George, an accomplished photographer and filmmaker, shared photos he took of his family’s adventure. When I first saw the photo above, I was concerned about the large pair of clippers being used. Then I realized how serious and focused these two were, carefully wearing their gloves and I fell in love with the intense look on their faces. Their father had captured the precious moment I hope all our visitors experience – a connection with the land and its Creator.

As people depart, the patio’s overflowing clematis provides a nice backdrop for a farewell photo. These images (and a few more on Facebook) represent only a fraction of the crowd. I feel truly blessed to have chatted with as many as possible. Some left behind various gifts of their own which we will savor and treasure. I am already looking forward to Sabbath 2028 when we can do it all again!

“Opening the Gates” 2021

“Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and [collect] in the fruit thereof; But in the seventh year shall be a Sabbath of rest unto the land, a Sabbath for the Lord: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard. That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither [enclose] the grapes of thy vine undressed: for it is a year of rest unto the land.” – LEVITICUS 25:3-5

Our vineyard…
does not actually have a gate, but the concept of “opening the gates” means that the community is welcome to come in and get grapes, free for the picking. Our first Sabbath year was 7 years ago in 2014. At that time, we had 6 previous years of commercial harvesting so we decided to follow the Old Testament principle of allowing the land to rest on the 7th year. An additional detail forbids enclosing the vineyard which would normally keep out trespassers or animals while grapes were ripe and desirable. So the full objective of the Sabbath is to let the land rest (the owners, workers and animals too) but also to provide the community with an opportunity for free food. In 2014 we announced our plans on Craig’s List and, wow – we had an overwhelming response! (Check out the Vineyard Journal, archive link 2014)

Here we are 7 years later and able to do it again. The Lord’s promise to create an abundance in 6 years proves true that we can happily forego this year as a commercial harvest. Please come join us during this time of community as we “open the gates” again.

Summer Market Salad

This salad comes “in season” the end of July when you can get both fresh corn and blueberries at the farmer’s market! Then pick your spring blossoms before they finally surrender to the summer heat and add them for a special touch. Save any white wine past its prime for the salad dressing.
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3 heads romaine lettuce
2 ears of corn
1 cucumber sliced, quartered
1 c. blueberries
1/2 c. pecan halves
1/4 c. red onion, chopped
edible flowers
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Cook ears of corn, let cool and cut from cob. Wash and chop lettuce. Add all other ingredients finally garnishing with edible flowers such as violas or pansies.
Serves 3-4.

White Wine Poppyseed Dressing:
1/2 c. olive oil
1/4 c. white wine
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. poppy seeds
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. onion powder