It's taken forty-one years, but I have finally found my dream job! As of August 27, 2008 I will be working at an estate vineyard on the North Fork of Long Island. This blog will journal my adventures, from seed to vine to wine and back again. Pull up a stool and I'll pour you a story.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Parting Shots

A '37 Packard

The hood ornament reminds me of a
Quidditch player catching the golden snitch.

Color: "Casino Red"

Note the analog clock in the dashboard - way cool!

Now THEM'S running boards!

What cat through yonder window sneaks?

'Tis I, Cat Skywalker!

Mere mortal, you can never hope to attain
the heights to which I have risen.

Nor will you ever be able to camouflage yourself
with such skill...

... or cuteness!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Paradise Lost

Sunflower skeletons being scavenged by blackbirds

As the saying goes, "All good things must come to an end". As fate would have it, my securing a better job has coincided with the end of the "goodness" of working at the vineyard.

Without going down too much of a long and whining road, I have discovered that the vineyard owners' definition of their request that I "be flexible" translates to "never plan anything on your own time in case we need you to do something at the vineyard."

I was subjected to a hostile and very unprofessional session of berating and nastiness when I informed them that I would be unable to work a nighttime event due to having tickets to a show (which, incidentally, I had purchased over a year ago, and which will be my only outing with my husband this year). This verbal flagellation occurred in the presence of another employee, who tried her best but failed to vanish into a crack in the floor from sheer embarrassment.

In addition to this, I found an email (on our company email list, which my job requires me to utilize and read) from the boss to a former employee, informing her that my schedule would be switched around to accommodate her wish to come back and work for a few days. None of this had been discussed with me, and when the boss came to me at the end of a workday to inform me of a schedule change less than twelve hours in advance, I was, as you may imagine, less than inclined to "be flexible".

Alfred Hitchcock would have loved this place...

It really is a shame, because the vineyard is so lovely and it could be such a great place to work - if the owners would just treat people like... well, people.

Not to leave you on a sour note, here are some neat photos I took in and around the vineyard recently...


For some reason it's not so much the house itself
as the contents of the front porch that make
this one seem so haunted...

This house is yet another one which features an
uber-creepy upper window...

And, if you look really closely...

You might just see a HAINT!

The quality of light around this old place
really made it eerie. I took these just as the
sun was going down.

I took them rather quickly. I was - uh -
hungry, and wanted to get home to dinner.
Yeah, that's it.

This one is my favorite of all...

I drove past it quite a few times working up
the courage to get close enough to take
some really good shots.

Don't even try to tell me you don't
know there's something living under there
in that big black hole at the base of
the bay windows...

And what do you think shredded the curtains into

These are things I thought while I ran back to my truck.

Monday, October 20, 2008

It was a dark and stormy day...

Unlike the weekends, which are non-stop action and crowds of people wave upon wave, the weekdays at the vineyard are rather peaceful and even a little lonely. As autumn moves on into winter, they will become even moreso.

Last week, we had a dreary, cloud-filled day that prompted me to take some pictures. I find that gloomy weather puts more feeling into photographs, gives them that little "Sleepy Hollow" sentiment. It can turn a picture of an old rocking chair into a ghost story.

Up in the loft, I had a little impromptu photo shoot. I hadn't realized the views from up there were so interesting before, perhaps because the brilliant sunshine made it hard to see out the windows.

This building was originally constructed in the 1880's and has been refurbished in the original style. Note the mortise and tenon construction - using tension to hold the puzzle pieces together, rather than nails and screws.

An aerial view of a tasting room table.

View of the front table from the loft.

A few more lofty pictures...

The path leading from the tasting room to the
main house, past the last of the roses in bloom

Someone, possibly the kids of the original owners, carved a picture of a house and a tree, and the words "A Farm House" into the door leading from the fermenting barn into the tasting room.

The first member of my fan club.

Outside the fermenting barn, just to one side of the parking lot, stands an old tool shed which is so picturesque I just couldn't help myself. I opened the door and took the following shot through the window, which gives me the strange feeling of looking out at the modern world from the past.

What is it about barrels that make them so photogenic, I wonder? Is it the beauty of things that are still hand crafted by artisans? Is it the perfect shape, the geometric lines of wood grain, or the steely strength of metal bands holding things together? Or the thought of the wine that has slept inside, dreaming of the bottles to come?

The vineyard also has a garden, and these are the end of season beauties I found there. Golden cherry tomatoes and brightly colored lettuces.

The vines are shedding their leaves fast now, even though all of the fruit has not been harvested yet. The Sauvignon Blanc was harvested two weeks ago, and we are now in the midst of our Merlot harvest. Next come the Petit Verdot and Malbec grapes, and the last to be harvested will be the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Some flowers that neighbors brought in mourning for the passing of the first vineyard dog. I added the bits of lavender for scent. Eventually the whole thing became a fruit fly nest, so it was moved outside onto the deck where it could be beautiful but pest-less.

Some succulents that must soon be brought inside or
lost to the frost.

The view down the ladder from the loft. I climb this ladder many
times a day, as we keep all our office supplies, paper towels for the
bathroom, flyers, pamphlets, and magazines up there.

Early one morning when we had no B&B guests to serve breakfast to, I was invited out to help harvest some grapes. I walked out to the middle of the vineyard, and found the pickers by sighting the farm truck piled high with yellow "lugs", those plastic bins used to carry grapes. I grabbed a pair of clippers and searched around until I found Brenda, who was down on her knees harvesting grapes alongside the field workers, most of whom are from Ecuador.

She showed me how to clip the grapes from the vine, and what to look for. Surprisingly, the grapes at harvest are not the round, shiny, beautiful grapes usually depicted in artwork or photography. Grapes properly ripened for wine are rather ugly. They must be left on the vine until they begin to "raisin", or shrivel up a bit, which concentrates the sugars and intensifies the flavors.

A local farmer lady stopped by the vineyard the other day to drop off some brand new bat houses, which are still leaning in the corner of the tasting room waiting to be put up. With harvest still in full swing, I think it may be a while yet before they are up on poles. The above photo is of one of the pre-existing bat houses on the property. Bats are one of the best methods of organic pest control in the world. They eat millions of insects that might otherwise be feasting on our grapes, and keep down the mosquito population so that visitors don't get eaten alive while trying to enjoy the great outdoors.

The grapes ready to harvest are a bit dusty and wrinkly looking, as I mentioned, and before pitching a bunch into the bin, any grapes with "betritis" (a green mold) must be removed. Moldy grapes occur naturally, as Long Island tends to have heavy morning dews. If a bunch of grapes has one or two offenders, a flick of the hand clippers can remove them, but if there are quite a few bad ones a good hard shake will send them flying, while the healthy grapes remain attached to their stems.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

There's a new girl in town

She's very small and very soft, and she's only been in the world for twelve short weeks. She's friendly and smart, and fits right in at the vineyard like she's been there all along.

She also has one ear that sits up, and one that flops down. How cute is THAT, I ask you?