Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July 2013 - Part 2

It's amazing what a little rain can do.  In the desert, things happen quickly.  Our mountains are a deeper shade of green than we have seen.  And the flowers . . . it's amazing!

Prickly beauties!

And blooms of a softer sort!

One early morning we looked out the door to find a woman modeling in front of the bodega.  You just never know what you might see.
Later that evening this young woman came by to visit.  She knew we were from the United States and said she wanted to practice her English, which was already perfect.  We asked if she would like a glass of wine and she said, "Sure."  There didn't seem to be anything she couldn't talk about.  So much poise.  I almost fainted the next day when her mother told me she had just turned 15.  

Last Friday night Perote put on its wedding clothes.  I'm always amazed at how elegant it can look when it's all dressed up for a fancy occasion.

The following Sunday afternoon this great bunch of friends from Torreon came by for a visit.  The tall guy in the middle grows different varieties of agave.  Anyone interested in starting a desert garden?

In other news, my baby brother turned 50 this month!  For some reason that makes me feel older than my own 65th birthday in May.  

Sarah and David have a new foster child.  No, they didn't turn the first one back, they just added on.  Sweet Pea is still just as sweet as can be and we are still waiting for the courts to make a reasonable judgement.

Panchi has been transferred from Principal of Alpine Middle School to Principal of Alpine High School.

Jesse is in Alaska for a short time.  I know he is glad to be off the island of Guam for a while.

I'm actually making progress with my study of Italian.

The XM radio broke and so now our only news is the digital New York Times.  I miss Bob Edwards.

With white wine fermenting in the fridge, I have learned to deal with one shelf quite nicely.

Stanley is still my best friend.

And that about wraps it up.

As busy as July was for us, I know that August will be even busier.  Of course, we are looking forward to the big celebration, but it comes with long days in the vineyard.  Always fun, but sometimes exhausting.

Wishing everyone a great month ahead.  

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

July 2013 - Part I

July got off to a roaring start in the vineyard.  Very early on the first day of July, I was invited out to have a look at the grapes.

Luscious Sauvignon Blanc grapes in near perfect condition.

When Stanley gets the grape shears out, it's time to start thinking harvest.

My job is always first and foremost to sort through the grapes, removing any imperfections.  If all grapes were as clean as these, I'd be left without a job.  Here's the first of them, ready to go through the crusher. 

Free run . . . the best of the juice.  That's the part that just runs out of the grapes without any pressure.  

One of Stanley's favorite jobs - Lab Technician!  You can read all about the white grape harvest at  

These happy pictures were made on July 1.  On July 7th it started raining.  Between the 7th and the 22nd of July, we had about 6 1/2 inches of rain.  Not good grape growing weather.  On the 10th we crushed the remainder of the Sauvignon Blanc and the Chardonnay from Jardin Botanico.  

 That's Rosie, Nacho's sister, at the sorting table.  Nacho's mother was supervising from a safe distance.  They are both spending the summer here, glad to be away from the intense heat in Mexicali.  We have certainly enjoyed having them here.  Rosie has been a great partner at the sorting table and for morning walks.

Here's a familiar face to readers of Day by Day.  Antonio is our Number 1 Man.  The only reason we can travel is because we can depend on him to check on the vines during the spring and to top up the barrels in the fall and winter.  Anytime he senses a problem he sends me an email and we work through the issue over the internet.  He is a jewel!  

Homero, the tractor guy, cleaned out under the pecan trees next to the vineyard.  Stanley went down to do some finishing work and found this little hummingbird nest.  

New friends:  Jesus Garcia Garza and his wife Angeles Madero Cantu.  They own Rincon de Montero and want to add a small vineyard to the attractions around the hotel.  They came to our place one evening to have a look at our small operation and then we had dinner with them the following evening at Rincon.  

We don't have a lot of variety in the garden this year, but we do have abundance.  One of the nicest surprises is the bean crop.  Enough beans to have all we want, whenever we want.  

Not much variety in the insect world this summer either, but this guy was particularly handsome.  

I had a thing or two to say about the rain earlier.  Well, this was the view from our front porch on July 18th. It came within two inches of the bottom of the door jamb.  Fortunately, it started receding and didn't come back up.  It washed out some plantings and the steps to the patio, but the tree got a good watering.  

It rained all morning the 19th, but that afternoon the sun came out just long enough to dry out the outdoor furniture.  Good thing because we were expecting company!  The occasion:  Alida's birthday and the 1st Cosecha of the new vineyard she shares with her husband Ernesto.  

 From Left to Right:  Stanley, Ernesto, Alida, their daughter Silke, Eduardo, Annai and her parents Hortensia and Yoyo.  What a cool group.  

Sunset that night was a study in subtlety.  There was nothing subtle about our celebration.  

Alida brought enough food for a small army - all delicious The wine was a sample of what they produced last year. Unfortunately since it was a first harvest there weren't many grapes last year and the birds feasted on those that were there so there wasn't much wine to make. Prospects are much brighter this year.

The next day, July 20th was one of those days that comes along every once in a while and drives people crazy!


First, it rained almost all day. Hortensia and Annai came to the house about 12:00. We had a nice visit. Ernesto showed up about 1:30 with the grapes they had picked that morning. His intention was to make 5 gallons of rose. That's a small request and when I left at 1:45 for the art show, I thought Stanley, Yoyo, and Ernesto were going to crush and press enough grapes to make 5 gallons of wine, and clean the equipment. I visualized Silke, Annai, Hortensia, and Alida supervising or staying at a safe distance according to personal preferences.

More about the Art Show in a separate post.

I didn't count on Annai taking a walk through the vineyard with Stanley where they found Zinfandel grapes beginning to show signs of Nobel Rot. It was really no surprise with all the rain we've had. The surprise was in how fast it had spread. There was a choice to be made. The grapes were not ripe, but they had to be cut immediately or we would lose the whole crop. They decided to cut.

And this is where I need to introduce Annai. She has a Master Degree in Enology. She has studied in France, Spain, and Italy and is presently employed by an import/export company in Copenhagen. She knows her stuff. She was here visiting her parents Hortensia and Yoyo. I wasn't here to witness, but I am told she and her parents cut almost all of the Zinfandel by themselves.

In the rain. Box after box. Over 400 pounds of water soaked berries.

By the time I got home, they had almost finished the sorting. Between berries that were infected and those that were too green to process, we lost about 80 pounds of grapes.

From the remainder we retrieved about 21.5 gallons of juice. The grapes were so soft and so full of water they were oozing out the sides of the press. It was impossible to get more juice. We are processing it as white Zinfandel to reduce the risk of spoilage. Mom would be so proud!

Without Annai, I'm not sure what we would have done. She was so gracious and humble about the whole incident, but to us she was an angel come calling.
Two other angels played an important role.  Jose who works for Ernesto just wouldn't stop.  We can't thank him enough for all his hard work.

And then there was the indefatigable Eduardo.  Everyone else was either stressed out or physically exhausted, or both, but he showed up looking fresh as a daisy with a huge piece of meet and the determination to fix a fabulous dinner.  Even though it was very, very late when we finally sat down to eat, I must admit it was worth the wait.

The following day, Stanley and I cleaned the equipment in the rain and then tried to mop the floor in the winery.  Everything was so muddy it was hard to stay ahead.

Quite frankly, I couldn't wait for sunset.  It did not disappoint.

July was far from the finish line, but I'll put the rest in another entry, July 2013 - Part II.

Art Contest 2013

I have some of my best ideas early in the morning.  This must have been an excellent one because it came to me about 4:00 AM. 
We should have an art contest.  The winning work could be photographed and used as a souvenir poster for those attending the 2013 Alianza Vendimia.  I ran the idea past Eduardo, Stanley, and Conchita.  They all approved, but nobody had time to really help so I suckered my friend Estela into the combined roles of translator, guide, and public relations administrator. 

Together we went to the Casa de Cultura.  The director agreed to let us use the museum as a venue.  We gathered up judges, visited several prospective entrants to encourage them.  Together we wrote the invitation, designed the poster and then went all over town taping them on store windows.  Estela was a world of help.  I could not have done this without her.

According to the invitation, 4:00 PM was the deadline for entries, but at 2:00 PM we only had two paintings on display.  I started to panic.  Conchita came about 3:00.  She told me not to worry.  She assured me that we would have entrants.  She helped me set up the room and brought in trays of delicious and beautiful canap├ęs.  The tables were set with tall vases of lilies, blue and white table cloths.  Still we only had two paintings.  It was depressing.  

At about 3:45, just as Conchita was bringing in the chocolate covered cherries and grapes, the place began filling up.  It was amazing.  In the end we had 11 entries from seven artists and a room full of parents, wives, husbands, children, and well-wishers.  We could have used more food and more chairs, but no one complained. 

Eduardo delivered a very nice talk about the importance of art in the community.  

The judges talked about the importance of encouraging art in the schools.  The director, the judges, and the participants were all acknowledged.  

At last it was time to present the winners.  Can you guess which one was first place?
I have 200 copies of the poster ready to distribute at the vendimia. 

I did not send the official invitation to very many folks in the United States because in the past there has been a definite lack of interest among my friends there.  However, I want to make it perfectly clear that we love to have visitors.

 Just in case . . . here is the invitation.  And the deadline for confirming could certainly be extended.  Just let me know! 

By the time everyone cleared out, I was exhausted – mainly from the stress of spending several hours believing I had hatched the biggest failure of my life. 

Back at home, folks were exhausted for an entirely different reason.  The Zinfandel had demonstrated its complete inability to cope with rain and humidity.  The decision had made shortly after I left home that afternoon to pick.  Of course, that meant that the grapes also had to be sorted, crushed, and then pressed.  Usually, we start this process early in the morning, not in the middle of the afternoon, and never in the rain.  But this was the day for a whole new adventure.

For your viewing pleasure, here are some of the other entries!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

June 2013

Aside from a one quick trip to Texas we were in Parras de la Fuente the entire month.  We probably wouldn't have gone to Texas at all except for three things:  One, another check of Stanley's dental work.  Two, another court hearing for Sweet Pea.  Three, the retrieval of my camera which the fine folks at Chicago Union Station Hertz had sent to me.  

As expected, Stanley's dental work checked out fine.  Absolutely nothing of any consequence happened at the court hearing.  But as for my camera, I was delighted to have it back.  I couldn't face the prospect of learning all the dos and don'ts of a new one.

In Edinburg, camera at the ready, one of the first things that caught my attention was a Gold Finch feasting on basil seeds.  In Parras, Gold Finches are a dime a dozen, but this was my first sighting of one in Edinburg. With the plethora of basil that we have in the garden, I'm sure he'll be back.

On our first morning back in Mexico, we heard the familiar call of the Vermilion Flycatcher.  Hiding in the holly bush, he was working hard to clear the area of mosquitoes.  

We had about half an inch of rain and the Texas Ranger couldn't wait to start celebrating.  

Aren't those flowers just beautiful?  They look almost good enough to eat. 
 We shared some good times with friends from Monterrey, Saltillo, Torreon, and Parras.  June 9th was one of the best days in June.  We are very fortunate to have such good friends here.  

And on the last day of June, we had a group in the back yard to enjoy the sunset and a bottle of wine.  It's hard to ask for more.