Tag Archives: Vines

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.

Taking a Chance: One of the Best Decisions of my Life.

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Last week, I went to the one place on earth that I can honestly say I found my people. Most of my biographies mention my degree from Cornell which I am exceptionally proud of but what most of them fail to mention is that I would have never been at Cornell if it weren’t for my time in the Horticulture Department at Morrisville. In 2002, I transferred to SUNY Morrisville, now known as Morrisville State College (That’s State University of New York for the outside of New Yorkers). There are moments in one’s life that set the course for the rest of it. My decision to leave South Carolina when all of my friends were staying and travel to a place pretty much alone (my now husband was 45 minutes away) was daunting but it was one of the best decisions of my life.
In the amazing greenhouses, I learned to care for so many plants. I learned that in each tiny cell, there is the ability to create a whole new plant under the right conditions. I learned that I could make a hibiscus bloom three different colors. Most of all, I learned that there were people that were as passionate and excited about plants as I was and accepted me completely for the quirky, anxious, awful dresser, older than my years person that I was at 19. I had a one track mind, completely focused on roses. I wanted to grow pretty things. Flowers that would make people smile and bring color to a house or even a room. I had worked in a floral shop for my first year of college and the fun of floral design is something I have kept my toes in throughout my career. The teachers in the Horticulture Department encouraged me to look beyond that single species. What I found was grapevines, and that love affair has driven my entire career. They encouraged me to go to Cornell. They showed me that I could be more than I had imagined. They became my family and support structure. They cared.
Walking back into Spader Hall last week after being gone for 12 years I was struck at how little it had changed. The smell of soilless potting mix hit me as soon as I opened the door. The greenhouses still has the moist but sweet scent of humidity, damp earth, water on tile floors and the slightly metallic smell that makes up a greenhouse. My professors welcomed me back with open arms and we talked about what had transpired in the past years. I met a student which could have easily been me over a decade ago and I couldn’t help but wonder where life would take her after she was launched out into the world by the catapult of graduation.
I graduated top of my class in 2003 with a 3.99 GPA only kept from being perfect by a 1 credit hour microbiology lab in which I received an A-. No one has ever asked me about my grades and after working my tail off to achieve it I learned sometimes it is better to relax and enjoy life rather than strive for perfection.
Even now, whenever I walk through a vineyard, there are times when my mind is not on the fruit, but it is on my first love, the vines. Bright green leaves facing up to the sun. Tiny tendrils reaching for something to grasp. Shoots unfurling with miniature cloths covered in a fine coat of silken hairs. To me, they are incredible. The vines are the reason I do what I do and I would never have found that love if I hadn’t taken a chance so many years ago to find a place where people understood my passion.