The goat looked me in the eye – a deep stare as though she needed to know my intent; my soul. Was I a friend or foe? I felt as though I was being put to a test; that she needed to accept me into her home; our new farm.
Yes, we did it. We sold the winery in the Stags Leap District (but not the brand or the vineyards) and we bought a farm in the Carneros. Not a vineyard, but a farm. Two goats, a couple of cattle, horses, orchards and a compound of structures that include an old prune processing building turned into an art studio with kilns and woodshop, a barn built in the early 1900’s, old houses, an early auto repair garage turned into an office and a cluster of buildings that served as a dining hall and multi-purpose room.
The whole farm is in a state of disrepair and I couldn’t be happier. It reminds me of the old Napa, the one I moved to in the mid ’80’s with a mix of vineyards, farms, orchards and cattle. A time when you could still find pockets where wine grapes were not the only agricultural commodity. However, it also reminds me of the farm I lived on as a kid on the Central Coast of California. It’s taking me back in a way that has me excited about the future.
I have been known to say that nature hates a monoculture yet farming grapes is, for the most part, monoculture farming. Sure, we can mix it up with different rootstocks, cover crops, trees and hedgerows but we want more. We want a bio-diverse farm where everything contributes to give back and enrich the soil, sequester carbon and help produce great food and drink again. A perfect circle. A healthy, regenerative farm.
We also want a farm whose produce informs the style of wine. Historically, wine was about the agrarian experience where the regional produce defined the wine; where food and wine grew up together with natural synergy. We hope to discover what wine varieties and style best express our farm and which wines have a natural affinity for the produce, meats and cheeses we will produce on our little piece of planet Earth.
We are just a few days into our journey and we have a lot to figure out. We don’t yet know what the County will allow us to do, but we do plan to throw some good parties, grow some great produce and continue to make delicious wines.
A sneak peek of “Wilding Farm” in the Carneros region of Napa. A work in progress…
Our goal is to balance the farm with wild habitat so nature can be natural and do what it does best… create its own checks and balances. The farm is already home to the largest heron rookery in the region and, with the recent rains, we have seen an explosion of wildlife I have not seen in my almost four decades in Napa. I am more optimistic now than I have been in years. The journey is just beginning.
The Inside Track
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