People do ask us a lot about what it was like to start a winery without knowing how to farm or make a drinkable bottle of wine. That is, of course, the interesting part of our story, i.e., how could anyone be that gutsy (or clueless, brave, desperate, nuts, crazy, lucky, foolish, and so forth). But there were a number stories about the early days that were much more subtle and sublime in their weirdness as we went from city life to a life, not just in the country, but on a farm.
We moved out to the farm in February of 2004. We wouldn’t even begin to plant until that May. We just moved in early to get established, having rented our city house (so that we would have a place to crawl back to should this adventure go badly…). The first thing I remember noticing about the country was that it was dark out at night. Really, really dark. And in that first month it snowed. And, in the snow, it was really, really quiet at night. And dark… One evening I had gone out on the porch to get some firewood. As I dusted the snow off the pile, hunched up against the sharp of the cold, I heard footsteps crunching the newly fallen snow. And they sounded like they were approaching. I looked out and couldn’t see more than a foot or so out into the snowy night. I stood there frozen, literally and figuratively, straining to see into the night, as the sound of the approaching footsteps continued. “Hello?” I yelled. Nothing but more footsteps. “HELLO?” I yelled again. This time, Jules poked her head out the door behind me and asked what the hell I was doing. I explained and she got silent and we heard the footsteps together.
I stepped off the porch and into the snow to get a better look. Pitch black – I saw nothing but still heard footsteps. Heavy footsteps. This dude sounded huge. The city guy in me kicked in and I ran back inside with Jules and got a flashlight and a baseball bat – my weapon of choice – and went back out, calling for someone to answer as I walked toward the footsteps. I will admit I was getting panicky. I walked up our driveway in the snow toward the road. I was pointing my flashlight down on the road and casting it to one side and then the other. Nothing. But the heavy footsteps were getting louder! I was cursing loudly, now, alternating between angry and scared in increasingly rapid succession. Just when I was sure the place was haunted or I was going insane, I stood right at the edge of our road and raised the light straight ahead for the first time and saw a huge pair of eyes! I yelled, stumbled back in the snow as the flashlight beamed up at 10 large horses. They were four feet away, directly across the street behind a wire fence. They all ignored me, taking turns lazily pacing around crunching loudly in the snow. All except one – the one with the eyes that continued to stare right at me as he stood calmly still, wearing a bemused and horsey expression that unmistakably said…