Through the holidays and into the New Year, we began mulling over which varietals we wanted to grow and how many of each. Things were understandably slow as we still just had a patch of land with zero growth on it and Apfelwein silently making its daily transformation in the carboy. But alas, we had a bit of a (major) breakthrough. Various conversations had occurred over the holidays by which my parents heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend who heard it from another that the owners of a nearby vineyard needed some help and that my brother and I might be interested. Interested indeed.
Dave and Marchall Fansler own Grey Bear Vineyards just south of Stover. They have been making wine for the majority of my lifetime and graced Morgan County with a grape touch from California and Colorado. When their restaurant was cooking on all cylinders, I was still in my “silver can” stage of life and didn’t fully appreciate the wine that was being poured from grapes grown from the very ground of the plot of earth that we know and love (to be fair to the silver can in my life, I have not turned my back but merely developed a diversification strategy).
My brother, Ana, Katy and I have spent many afternoons in the presence of this couple absorbing all we can from their knowledge and passion for wine (not to mention graciously absorbing some of their vintages that maintain character and flavor year after year) Dave is a self-proclaimed “mad scientist” and can do things with growing and blending that we can merely aspire to at this point. Folks around the Stover area can attest to the memorable tastes of Chicks & Tiggers, Pride of the Osage, Trail of Tears, and personally; I haven’t found a Norton of theirs that I don’t like. In fact, I would say the 2007 and 2008 rival any contender. These are earthier than most, a touch sweet, and strong hints of oaky goodness. Morgan County shines through every bottle. Without naming names, I recall a certain Norton Reserve pulled from under the counter at a wine convention that didn’t even compare to one of Dave’s. It is evident when talking to them that they are proud of their wines- and they should be. We would also come to realize that in his lifetime he has developed a knack for addressing issues in wine. Not that we have an especially dire need for this, but just in case…
So, just like that, and instead of needing to wait three years or more for our own grapes to grow, we are managing a vineyard with mature vines that look to yield a bountiful crop this fall alongside two pros with a passion for growing grapes and making wine. More on this as it develops, but let’s just say this was an unexpected yet welcomed leap forward that helped a budding venture take root. Dave and Marschall felt comfortable with all of this simply by way of their positive experiences with us and our family.
“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.” – C.S. Lewis
Of course, it’s not all fun and games with these two as they know better than most the amount of work that goes into this. I nearly called the whole thing off when Marschall informed me that snakes just love hanging around in a vineyard.
February was approaching, they were leaving the vineyard in our willing (yet novice) care for a few months, and they warned us it was nearing high time to start pruning; followed by mowing, spraying, netting, watering, thinning, and various other opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. Sounds great!…. What’s pruning?