Friday, January 20, 2012

Stephan Way Chardonnay - Part 1

Last summer was an epic fruit year on Stephan Way. Well, all except for apples. We have an apple tree in our yard that in many years produces hundreds of large crisp apples but in 2011 had exactly 3 to offer us. But the cherries, grapes, pears and plums produced by our neighbors were outrageous. Especially the cherries and the grapes. In fact, the cherries and the grapes were so bounteous that my discussion of them requires two separate posts. This first, is the grape post. And this, in two parts.

Stephan Way is the cul-de-sac of 11 homes that we live on in Quincy. If you have read my blog, you know that I complain about the shade on our side of the street in the wintertime. I do not, however, complain about the neighbors. On the contrary, I have never experienced anything like the rapport that our family has with our neighbors. Growing up on acreage in a country setting, this is the first real neighborhood I have lived in for any length of time.

At first I was a bit uncomfortable with the close proximity of the other houses. I felt self-conscious as I walked from room to room or spent time in the front yard, like everything I did was on display for all to see. Two things happened over time. I realized, of course, that no one was really bored or interested enough to watch my every single move. But the other, more subtle change that has occurred, is a shift in my perception of the monitoring that does occur. The feeling of being watched has slowly transformed to one of being watched over. Our neighbors care about us and we about them. We keep an eye on one another and the neighborhood as a whole. We offer a hand when we see that one is needed. 

And we share food. As my neighbors have become aware of my aversion to waste, my love of fresh produce, and my proclivity for food-related projects, I have become the happy recipient of surplus fruit in the summer and fall. 

One beloved neighbor, named Marilyn, has lived on our street for the past 56 years! She and her husband, now deceased, planted four Chardonnay grapevines around their patio over 20 years ago. Now the vines are huge and sprawling, covering and cascading over a large wooden arbor that shelters the patio and provides summer shade. The trunks are gnarled and mighty. In 2011, for whatever combination of reasons, the vines produced more grapes than they ever had before. Marilyn hand-delivered bags and boxes of grapes to many neighbors but nothing made a dent. Finally, I decided to take on the task of trying to make wine from the grapes. My previous wine-making experience was limited to 5 small batches of honey wine, or mead, and a 5-gallon batch of Zinfandel made from a Central Coast juice concentrate. But I had the necessary equipment and the prospect of being successful intrigued me. In order not to let all of these lovely Vitis vinifera grapes rot on the vine, it was time to make some wine!

Look for Part 2 soon! It will have photos and more of the nuts and bolts of the process.



  1. I will try to remember your neighborhood experience if I ever need to leave this rural place i love.