Thanks to Frei Brothers for Wine Donation to VCCOOL Benefit Concert 8/28 & more!

When I heard about the benefit concert for VCCool Saturday, August 28th at Zanzilla (2750 East Main Street, Ventura), I offered to contact Frei Brothers Winery to see whether they would donate wine for the event.

Why Frei Brothers? Because VCCool works on issues of sustainablity for people and planet, including bicycle safety, local food policy, natural building, sustainable community planning, and so much more. VCCOOL is a global warming or climate change activist group. They promote ways to reduce your carbon footprint and they organize events like the bike rodeo. VCCOOL Members live consciously and purchase food, wine and products that are produced  sustainably. The VCCOOL fund raising concert will offer traditional, old time good time music and room to dance for $20. Members are making treats and there will be non-alcoholic drinks as well as wine pours for $5 each from Frei Brothers.

And so why Frei Brothers? Because at the Wine Blogger’s Conference 2009 in Santa Rosa CA, I tasted the Frei Brothers syrah (yum!) and learned about their pro-environment policies. For a rather large organization (200,000 cases), Frei is trying its best to be good to the land that the brothers have been responsible for for for over 100 years.

Frei Brothers is driven by an “overriding principle to conduct business in a manner that will protect and preserve the environment.” This includes exceeding government regulations and setting aside an acre of land for every one planted with vines to protect the natural environment in which indigenous animals live. This blog post by Rob Bralow includes an interview with Chief Viticulturist Jim Collins discussing specifics. Not to mention that Frei makes great wine; just to make sure, I tested out a glass of the chardonnay last night–nice and balanced, it will be a pleaser today chilled down!

So enjoy Frei Brothers Reserve Wine while mingling with friends new and old, and getting down with the music of: The Jug or Nots (jug band), the Rachel Morris Little Big Band ( original works including “Earth Day” and “White Trash Boy”), and Mule Skynner (classic rock). The VCCool Benefit concert is held in yoga studio of Zan Ferris who graciously donated her gorgeous space for this event. This hidden oasis and the music too, can be found below Smart and Final off Main. Directions

Frei Brothers generously donated four cases (two syrah, one chardonnay, and one cabernet) so there will wine for an upcoming pro-arts and cycling event also Sept 3 at Art City. Thank You Frei Brothers, for doing right by the land and for your donation!

(Look for a response to the wines soon!)

What I inherited from my mother’s father

I was working on this piece in the week before my mother died last month…I never got a chance to share it with her.

I was raised in Ventura where I grew fruits and vegetables in our backyard under the tutelage of my father, Kenney Lawrence. Later, I was my grandfather’s eyes and his hands when he could no longer work his land up above Cemetary Park.

My grandfather, Manny Paquette, was a challenging taskmaster and so difficult to please that my mother, Suzanne Lawrence, didn’t want me to take the job. He knew exactly how he wanted everything done, he was a perfectionist, he grew up in the famous Shepherd’s Gardens in Ventura, and he had been working that earth for 50 years.

After my first week, my grandfather told me I worked hard, and more importantly, I worked smart. He liked how I listened, how I followed his directions, and that I asked good questions. He appreciated how I gingerly handled the seeds he had germinated, how I climbed deep into his fruit trees as he used to. The thoughtful way I pruned them pleased him also.

I paid attention to him and to the land, listening to it and loving it the way he did. I did what I was asked but also could tell him about the red tailed hawk, the quail, where the roadrunner roosted. I could describe for him the texture of the soil, the air, the chamise on the warm afternoons. As I worked his land, I understood it and him.

My grandfather always enjoyed wine and wanted to make his own, but he never did. He grew grapes but not enough to do anything with them. It was more of a dream.

When he hand built his house on the hill, the first item of business was digging a hole into the hillside. This was the 1950’s and his neighbors were sure it was a bomb shelter. Instead, it was a wine cellar. He carved by hand a massive door out of redwood and entered it into the Ventura County Fair: he won a first place prize.

When he passed away in 1997, I inherited his cookbooks, his wine making books, his wines, and his cellar.  But I’d already inherited his sense of smell, his love of fine food and decent coffee, his interest in wine.

And so much more.

Here’s a link to a video with images of his house, his land, and his cellar door.

The Case of the Absent Wine Predator

Today on Wine Wednesday, I want to explain yet another absence from regular posts as Wine Predator.

I’m sad to say that, just a few days after I posted the you tube by Jo Diaz of my adventures in Portugal and the you tube  by Zev Robinson of the Catavino trailer which features an interview with me, my mother Suzanne Lawrence passed away suddenly and unexpectedly at 72, and right on the heels of the accidental death my dear poet and blogger friend Paul Squires aka GingaTao.

I never got a chance to show her either video…and a lot more, of course. We were finally going to start transforming her extensive research and writing into a blog followed by a book.

While my mom wasn’t a wine drinker, she had a wine cellar which she loved and which I tended. For the past 18 years or so she lived in the house my grandfather built, complete with a wine cellar snuggled into the hillside. For 14 years, my mother took care of her parents who daily celebrated “wine-thirty”–I didn’t have to worry about my grandparents drinking my wine–by that stage in life, my grandpa was fine with inexpensive jug wine which they had with cheese and crackers every afternoon as they enjoyed the ever-changing view from their hillside home.

My mother enjoyed the view, also, and she lived there another six years. As often as possible, I would come up to say hello, at times bringing a friend to enjoy the view and a bottle of wine from the cellar. We would also come up for special dinners like Christmas eve, marked for me with a trip down into the wine cellar. Other times, I’d call to say I was running up to get wine.

Even though we never shared a bottle of wine together, we shared a cellar. Continue reading