Category Archives: Finger Lakes Life

Mama’s Goin’ to See a Man Who Turns Poop into Dirt

How else do you describe compost to a three year old when I was trying to explain the process to him.  He laughed at me and said “That’s silly!”  Yes, I was thinking it was pretty silly when I found myself on a back country road during an evening snow storm last week all because I wanted to talk to a man about custom composting.  After several moments of reflection, I came to my usual conclusion of “Yes.  I’ve lost my mind.”  Strangely enough that is somewhat comforting but also seems to be the most logical reason for most of my personal decisions lately.

Anyway, little did I know that I was going to go speak with a Geneva living legend named John Hicks.

I met Hicks, pictured above, at his office outside of Seneca Castle, NY.  He is 82 and has his hands in more pies than anyone I have ever met.  He mentioned at least 6-8 other businesses that he owns or is involved in while I was talking with him regarding compost.  He still runs full marathons and has his medals proudly collected on the wall behind him and he mows lawns on the weekends. He’s a retired DEC manager, ex-marine, and wealth of general life knowledge.  I only spent an hour or so with him and I can imagine how amazing more time would be.  One of the Johnisms that I came away with was “I work hard to be lazy so I’m always working.”  Boy, do I know how that feels!

We immediately bonded over our mutual love of soil microorganisms and we talked about the Biodynamic compost process compared to his worm composting process.  Yes, my goal is to end up with quite a lot of Biodynamic compost by this fall.  If we are going to start down the Biodynamic path, it’s best to do it from the start I think.  I’m not willing to accept that if we may never be able to be certified, there is no point in doing any of it.  John immediately understood what we are trying to accomplish and is excited to help us out.

In reality, I found out that John turns very little poop into dirt and uses mostly organic vegetable waste and leaves for his composting.  He uses the worm castings from a previous batch to get a new one started and then after 6 months once a batch is complete, it gets sifted into a finely textured velvety mass of fresh soil.  He also collects “worm tea” from the trenches and sells that as an easily applied, organic additive for lawns and gardens.  He points out that healthy lawns will eventually choke out weeds however he does note that with these treatments “You won’t get more weeds but you will get bigger weeds.” The good news there is a bigger weed is easier to find to weed out (no pun intended).

I left my meeting with John with a jug of his worm tea, a bag of worm produced soil, and a much better feeling about life in general.  We shook hands, excited to be new partners on a unknown adventure for either of us.  I departed back on to the snow covered roads although by that time the snow had finished falling so the ride home was far less treacherous than the ride there.

If you are interested in learning more about John’s worm teas and composts go to his website http://www.organicsoilamendment.com

Two Nights of Kinship at Kindred Fare

  One of the things Brian and I miss most about living in Napa is the wide variety of amazing food available there.  It was always a struggle to decide, when we were going to go out, where we should go because there were so many great choices, many of which did not need reservations 6 months in advance.  So of course, when a new restaurant in the Finger Lakes comes on our radar we have got to go check it out.

I had heard great things about Kindred Fare in Geneva, NY from many of my friends so I decided to try it, sight unseen, last week with visiting colleagues from San Francisco.  It was a Tuesday night and the crowd was full but not packed which was a good sign.  The wine list is a nice mix of local stars and global examples of mostly cool climate wines which are complementary to the restaurant’s farm to table offerings.  The list is curated by Bob Madill, a local fixture here in the region, likely best known as a tireless Finger Lakes ambassador and one of the founders of Cayuga lake treasure, Sheldrake Point Winery, who is currently working with Glenora.  My colleagues had never visited the area before and I felt that this restaurant, representing the rising foodie scene in Geneva plus their local wine offerings would be a perfect introduction.

  The kitchen sent out an amuse bouche of baked potato with two cheeses which was a lovely start to the meal.  For our appetizer we ordered the flatbread which had braised duck, caramelized onions, and delicious melted cheese topping a fantastic flatbread crust.  It was wonderful.  To pair, we chose the Ravines Single Vineyard Chardonnay (Stone and Chalk) from the White Springs vineyard.  To choose a Riesling would be obvious, but at this point, even the farthest wine lover here in the US has heard that we make good Riesling here.  Chardonnay from the Finger Lakes was an unknown to my two friends so it was a good choice to demonstrate the versatility of the region.

All three of us happened to be duck lovers so we each chose the Roast Duck with plum sriracha, mushroom, bok choy, peanuts, cilantro, and daikon-carrot pickles.  To pair we chose the Red Newt Glacier Ridge Pinot Noir (Elegant and Floral).  This one was exciting for me since I had just finished espousing my passion for Pinot Noir in the Finger Lakes and although many that I taste currently are not where they need to be yet, this one was showing very well and complemented the duck completely.  Yes, we were the three duck table! Dessert was a fantastic bread pudding which is one of my personal favorites.

I immediately went home and began talking about the dinner with Brian and how amazing it was.  As a twist of fate would have it, my mother in law was in town due to my son being sick that week and with him having to stay home from school, we needed backup.  She, always a fan of date nights, suggested that we should go out ourselves the next night.  Thus, I ended up walking back into Kindred Fare the very next night for a second fantastic dinner.  This time we tried the Boundary Breaks clone 239 Riesling (Zesty and Fruity) which was delicious and highlighted everything that I love about the variety.  It was a bit more sweet than expected but still went well with the meal which started off with a mixed bread basket and house made chunky style hummus.

I chose one of the nightly specials, the Coq a Vin (Roast Chicken with red wine based sauce) with various roasted vegitables.  Brian got the Braised beef shank goulash which was a meal choice that I had toyed with both nights that I had been there.  According to him, the meat fell apart at the touch of a fork and had a kick but was not overly spicy (that is why I didn’t order it myself since I try to stay far away from anything with heat spice).  It was mouthwateringly good.  We finished off dinner each with ice cream.  I chose Blood Orange and Brian chose Chicory.  Both were amazing but after the first taste swap neither of us were keen to share.

That is how I ended up two nights in a row at one of Geneva’s newest foodie destinations and I am actually contemplating going back this Friday as well.  Amazing food can be found in the Finger Lakes if one is willing to drive a bit to find it.  I find myself a bit envious of my friends in Geneva, which has become ground zero for the culinary revolution happening here, since they are so close to the action.  I highly recommend a visit to Kindred Fare if you happen to be in the region!

 

 

The Road Not Taken

Fall Field at Trestle

The Road Not Taken – Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I have always loved this poem by Robert Frost.  Even in American Literature Class in high school it was this poem that stood out the moment we read through it and has stayed with me for life.  It is a complex poem, covering different angles of choices in our lives.  I think writer David Orr said it best when he explains

“The poem both is and isn’t about individualism, and it both is and isn’t about rationalization. It isn’t a wolf in sheep’s clothing so much as a wolf that is somehow also a sheep, or a sheep that is also a wolf. It is a poem about the necessity of choosing that somehow, like its author, never makes a choice itself—that instead repeatedly returns us to the same enigmatic, leaf-shadowed crossroads.”

It brings me comfort to understand that many others including the esteemed Robert Frost, feel this way about decisions they have made in their lives.  This week I had the amazing experience of walking our newly cleared land that will be our vineyard and future home.  The land is exactly as I pictured it with a gentle slope running down towards the southwest and now that the leaves have fallen, a peek of the lake that is integral to growing grapes in this area.  It reminds me of the time, almost a decade ago now, that I lived here and had to make the decision to leave.  It was one of the hardest decisions of my life at the time.  The decision to come back was equally hard but for different reasons. I think it is natural to mentally relive decisions and try to imagine what would have happened if one had taken the other road.  For myself, I know if I had stayed in the Finger Lakes and not moved to California, I would not have been able to walk the land we have now.  I would not know what I know now.  Those years in California were essential to my growth as a winemaker and I don’t feel that I could have offered as much to the region now if I had stayed here.

I know if I had stayed in the Finger Lakes and not moved to California, I would not have been able to walk the land we have now.  I would not know what I know now.

However, it is natural to imagine what would have been particularly when faced with the reality of something that you have only dared dream of for close to 15 years.  Nearly every time I have ever walked through a vineyard over the 13 years I have been making wine, I have dreamt of the day when I would be able to walk through my own.  Walking the field this week and thinking of what clones and rootstocks we should use, what our spacing should be is almost surreal.  It is the point in your life where dream and reality blur and I did need to pinch myself.  To remind me that I was not going to wake up, still in California, but that we are really here and this is really our land.  The light was amazing with the sun setting in the west and blazing on the Trestle surrounded by the autumn colors of russet, auburn, and gold.

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One of the first things that was suggested to me earlier this year was that I should RoundUp (R) the entire field to make it easier to work the land next year.  I recoiled from the thought of that radical approach.  I realize my dream of a bio-dynamic vineyard in the middle of the Finger Lakes is probably well beyond any realistic possibility however I remain determined to use as little chemical intervention as possible without sacrificing the health of our future vines.  Looking over the beautiful wildflowers and weeds I am happy that we made this decision.  Even though some plants have been removed, it has been largely brush and small trees.  The larger trees we have left in an attempt to keep the site as natural as possible to the original layout.  A medium sized black walnut marks the western most end of the plantable area and a large white cedar stands midway up the Northern boundary.  Both of these were kept since they were the largest trees that had grown up over the 40 plus years the field had not been farmed.  The land is perfect for my husband and I.  Brian has his forest complete with a creek and a stand of large Norway Spruces, Sugar Maples, and Walnuts that he is so fond of in this area and I have my field now for grapes.  It is the perfect retreat for both of us.  I can’t wait to see what the winter brings to see the full cycle of the year on the land.