Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Sunset Valley Vineyard, Nelson, Nz... the ultimate hands on experience for Alexia

Hello Everyone,

We were very fortunate to stay at Sunset Valley Vineyard.  I loved staying here and we were able have an amazing hands on experience working on the vineyard for a short time.  Ian the owner was so patient and it was so much fun learning from him how the vineyard operates and how to make wine from the very beginning, picking the grapes, to the bottling process.  Alexia has a real interest in becoming a wine maker and owning her own vineyard at some point in her life so this was an incredible experience for her.  Ian brought her into every aspect of the wine making process and her actually do most of what he did explaining every detail over her shoulder.  He told her about all the reasons what grapes were for which wines, when you would want to pick them, what concerns could affect the quality of your wine, what to smell for, what to look for, what levels sugars, acids and Ph balance should be.  I can really see Alexia walking her own vineyard down the road.  She is so at peace out here in the country that I truly feel it would be something she could be very passionate about.

One of my favorite days here on the vineyard was the day we all helped Ian harvest his grapes for next years Pinot Noir.  Growing up on the farm I didn't really appreciate the value and work ethic it instills in you as a person and I am often telling the kids my working on the farm stories... As I am talking I get the usual rolling their eyes, hee hee.  I truly appreciate the time I had on the cherry farm and the memories and values it helped to shape me.  I know at the time I was a beast to get out there and participate in the operations and work on the farm.  There were many times I really didn't appreciate it and all I wanted to do was go play with the horses or the dirt bikes, but was not allowed until my work was done.  As one grows older and they say wiser.. Hee Hee you really do appreciate the past and your experiences with a new set of eyes.  It seems to me there have been many more articles coming out about parenting and how we do too much for our kids.  In reflection I used to feel that my mom was nuts letting us do the things we did without supervision.  Often times when my cousins and I would get together and talk about our lack of supervision and our exploration and dangers we faced on a daily basis in our adventures, nearly killing ourselves falling off of cliffs we were climbing, taunting demented horses and teasing each other as we were racing through pastures trying to race the now mad beast that was trying to run us down and narrowly reaching the other side of the pasture... locking each other in outhouses and literally walking away for hours.. Making pretend rafts out of drift logs and trying to row them across fisherman bay to the candy store in town.. not thinking about the current that could sweep us away out the channel until the crap hit the fan and panic set in...  UGH... the fun memories of childhood and how all these learning lessons taught us to be brave, confident, smart, logical, and strong people.   The value of childhood play I think is a lost art and one I am trying to get back for my kids and let go... It is just scary doing so and so hard for me.  People say it is my control freak that wont let go... I think it is more my anxiety of the bad thing happening that makes it hard for me... I am a worry wart.

Anyway I really had a great time with the kids seeing them dive into this project with such enthusiasm and fun.  They really enjoyed it and loved helping Ian get his grapes in before the rain came.  Even the little girls grabbed some shears and buckets and did a great job and snipping off only the ripe grapes on the bottom section and if they weren't sure they left them on the vine for us to check.  We worked from 9am to 5:30pm running buckets back and forth from the vineyard, to the truck, to the press and then the cycle started over again.  It didn't seem like such a long day with all of them having a great time.  Plus the grapes were good to eat so little snacks along the way.  Amaia even woke up early the next morning running throughout the house to get ready saying she has to hurry because they were already starting to pick the grapes without her.  So cute and made me smile to see her frantic pace and scurrying to run out to the field.

Listening to Tristan and Alexia giggle, tease and toss an occasional grape at each other reminded me so much of working with my brother and sister in the cherry orchards... We had so much fun while we were out there... I know there were times when we would yell at each other, stomp away or through a crate down on the tractor a little to hard to make our point.. maybe even shake a ladder or two while someone was on it.. but it all adds up to super cool memories for me now.  Darren still runs the farm and we were able to go visit them the summer before we left and still to date there isn't a month that goes by where the kids ask to go back to visit the farm.  I think I got the farm bug started in them and I hope it continues.

Here are the boxes off the back of the truck backed up to the machine that separates the stems and leaves away from the grapes.

This is about 70 boxes of grapes and now is the grape pulp.  This will then have yeast added to it and will then sit for a few days before going through the next process.
The girls had so much fun with little Frankie and Molly (the big horse).  Cate, Ian's daughter, was so patient with the little girls and took them for a little ride around the vineyard.  They really loved being with the horses.  Often times Amaia and Alina would take off and run down to the pasture grab a bucket and pick some grass for the horses to eat and then brush them while they stood still for a few minutes.  Super sweet to see them tramp back up the hill together talking about their plans and how what they were going to do with the horses later.

Here Ian is having Alexia run some tests to check the levels of sugar, acid and ph balance in the grapes and explaining what is a good level to have for a nice tasting wine and why each is important.





Dreaming and imaginary play (awesome)....

Ian's vineyard was on a smaller scale which was a great for us.  It really allowed us to see everything that was happening each day or night... Our house to stay in was right on top of the warehouse area so we could just pop in below to see what was going on.  One night we came home and Ian was having his wine pumped slowly into a truck to be carted away to be bottled the next day.  Here Alexia is checking to see the level inside and to see if it was almost done.  Thank goodness she didn't drop the torch inside.  Although he said it had been done before by one of his kids.  Hee Hee

While the last harvested wine is being pumped away to be bottled Alexia was helping Ian add yeast to the batch that we picked the day before.  Again he checked some levels and then they were ready to add the yeast.  

Most of the wine was pumped into the truck the night before but Ian had two other containers of chilled wine that needed to be bottled as well.  He converted his horse trailer in order to load the wine container with a fork lift to it.  I love how it always comes back to problem solving and thinking outside of the box.  Ian was saying that he thought Chris would like running a winery because like boating you are always problem solving, tinkering, toying and solving problems.  There is always something to fix, something that needs to be down and your are surrounded by beautiful country.  There are definitely some similarities to the boating life except of one big detail, you are stationary.  

Bringing the wine down to be bottled... 

Because Ian is a small production winery he also uses a guy that runs a small bottling operation.  Mitch was quite a character, super fun and loved showing us how his bottling plant works.  He took the time with Alexia and us, to explain each stage of the process and how it all works.  He can do about 3000 bottles an hour, and this is a small company. 

     Maybe one day our dream will come true and we will have a family compound that produces wine, lavender, honey, along with a few alpacas, sheep, a highland cow or two, maybe a goat and then a few homes on the property for the kids or to use as an Air BnB and a boat on a dock down below.

Hugs and love,


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