Summer feels good
Hey friends, I hope this little note finds you warm and well. I’ve been intending to write a newsletter for some time now, and I was finally prompted by the kind note I received from one of the grandson’s of Charlotte Young. The note read, “I was touched to see the pictures of the vineyard I grew up in flourishing with life the way you have it. As a child in that space I was effected by the bareness that was enforced between those vines and I always longed for it to be cared for in a holistic way beyond the utility of the vines-as-product. I hope if a quiet moment falls as you’re working there, that you can feel the solidarity of all of us who want the land to be cared for rather than owned, and who trust and encourage the flourishing of life…” This little note brought me and incredible sense of serenity and courage. It feels good to be giving back to the land and have the blessings of those who came before me. I can’t deny, it feels good to be acknowledged for the hard work and intention I’ve put into this land.
The beginning of the growing season looking over the young vines and the Santa Ynez Mountains. Photo by Nate Page.
So now I’m sitting here having a quiet moment at the table in the middle of the vineyard in the cool shady breeze writing to you. I sit here calmly hoping that not only do I have the blessing of the ecologists, the holistic farmers, the want-to-be-better consumers, but also the blessings of the Chumash ancestors who walked this land not too many years ago. I like to think that they would appreciate my patient way of farming, my tendencies to observe before reacting, and my consideration for the native ecology. I like to think that I honor the respect they had for the balance of the natural world. We can learn to pay attention to the elements and can learn to evolve with our changing climate. It’s not all doom and gloom, we can adapt and do our best at preparing our plants for our new weather patterns.
currently in the vines This growing season has been a dream down here in Los Olivos District thus far. Although its been extremely dry, we have had a fairly cool and consistent climate since bud break in March. We have only had 1 or 2 days over 100F, the nights have been cool, and the mildew pressure has been extremely moderate for us. The Los Olivos District has somehow avoided the heat dome trends that most of the regions north of us have endured this year. All of the varieties we grow are currently starting to soften and turn color throughout veraison. The Tempranillo is beautiful and almost entirely its final deep purple-blue color. The Syrah canes are starting to lignify and its berries are starting to swell to their final size. The Marsanne and Mourvèdre blocks look impressive this year after two seasons of sheep, chicken and duck fertilization and the Graciano has made a remarkable comeback after the scary heat spell last September.
I can finally feel a soft layer of decomposing organic matter under my feet as I walk down the vineyard rows. This is the product of three years of no-till farming. Even our rockiest sections are starting to feel a little less like walking on a fire-road. We are slowly re-building our top soil after many years of tractor work — and it feels good!
2021 is looking to be a good vintage. A growing season that will be amplified by these moderate and even temperatures. Even if the heat does come, the vineyard and I are much more prepared to tolerate a heat spike than we were last year. Last year I learned a lot about how to manage water and vine stress. I continually welcome all the hard lessons I’m sure to overcome in the future. Thats one of the most beautiful things about nature. It’s never the same each growing season. There are patterns, but never replications. It is our job as land stewards to learn to listen to what it needs and not overreact.
Mourvèdre beginning veraison.
let’s talk about wines! I look forward to sharing my next release with you this September. The Fall 2021 release will be made up of two Estate wines from Ibarra-Young Vineyard and one Santa Barbara County wine. The Estate wines are extra special as they are the creation of our first full year farming Ibarra-Young. They are the expression of what nature provided us throughout the 2020 growing season. You can look forward to: 2020 Ibarra-Young Vineyard Marsanne - Los Olivos District AVA 2020 Santa Barbara County Gamay noir - Presqu’ile Vineyard and Shokrian Vineyard 2020 Ibarra-Young Vineyard Syrah - Los Olivos District AVA I will send out another email when the wine is live and available on the website. If you would like the wine earlier than everyone else, I invite you to join the âmevive wine club.
The fall wine club shipment will also include a respectfully foraged little goodie from me, courtesy of the California sunshine. Thanks nature! If you signed up for the provisions club, you can also expect a set of freakin awesome postcards created by my friend, Summer Staeb (www.summerstaeb.com). She is a very talented photographer and creator and has picked five California scenes to share with you. Being in the club is fun! I’ll try to always include something sustainable, curated, and useful. Join by clicking the button above if you want in!
Ducklings only a couple hours old!
life and death This leads me to a bittersweet portion of my note to you… Something that has been tugging at me to “come clean” about for a few weeks now… If you follow me on instagram, maybe you’ve seen that I’ve been hatching ducklings and chicks, they are adorable and I love them like my children. Seriously, I have never felt this weird motherly instinct so strongly. Every time a chick hatched, my eyes welled up and I had a little burst of giddy! And then I would walk over to the incubator and talk to the chick and tell it it did such a good job getting out of the egg! Anyway, I’m not just hatching chicks for fun or because they’re cute… As you probably know, we graze chickens and ducks year round at the vineyard for our pest control, soil management, weed management, and fertilization. They are always surrounded by a 10kv electric fence and go into their coops at night to protect them from predators. Well a few weeks ago, I got lazy and didn’t make the trip out to the vineyard to fully put them to bed in their huts assuming that the electric fence would be enough to keep them safe for the night. Unfortunately, I was wrong. We had a predator breech our electric fencing and kill 23 of our birds, more than half of our flock. The next morning I walked up to a traumatizing massacre. After I gathered my composure and got some hugs from my sweet brother who was there with me, I had the idea to collect all the the eggs that were left uncollected from the last few days and try to hatch them. I picked up an incubator from my friends at Motley Crew Ranch and was determined to hatch my first birds. I have a hunch that it was a bobcat, but there is no way of truly knowing as my game camera didn’t pick anything up. But that isn’t the point of the story. The point is that I made a mistake. If I want to farm this land with the grace of these amazing animals, it is my responsibility to make sure they are safe. We know our system works if the birds actually go IN their coops at night, so that is what I must do! In the future, there will be no “they’ll be fine,” they must go in every night. That’s that. The SWEET part of this story is that the next generation of chickens and ducks are the offspring of our last. Their genes have an extra edge in foraging for themselves on this land, they’ll be more accustom to the weather and will ultimately be a hardier bird than any ol’ bird we could get from the farm store. It’s part of farming with animals. Although I feel guilty for the undignified departure of our last birds, I find solace in the Chumash’s approach to death. “Death has beauty; death brings birth. When we talk about life, we don’t talk about death. But they go hand in hand.”-Chumash Foundation. I hope to formally welcome you out to the vineyard sometime next year to see for yourselves what we have have been working on for the last few years.
Spring time at the messy table post shoot thinning. Photo by Nate Page
Looking to the future, I’m excited to make these 2021 wines! It will still be a few weeks before we start harvest, but the Tempranillo will probably be first. There will be a lot of fun new wines available next year and this incredibly cool suitcase clone of Pesquera Tempranillo is only one of them! Overall, I feel at ease entering my second harvest at Ibarra-Young. The vineyard feels healthy and balanced. It feels really good to begin to see the results of my intuitions. Thank you reading along, and thank you for all of the support. Lots of love, Alice and Topher I hope you feel inspired to consume yourself with nature, be a part of it in some way. Only then will you build a connection and strive to protect it.