Chele is a Zimmerman friend from San Carlos, Mexico who actually believed all the tall tales of the “Fly Farm Estate Vineyard” having lush vines, whispering waterfalls, abundant floral displays, gourmet food and award winning wine.  She soon discovered that the most lush of the grapes had already fallen off the vine, were eaten by birds or shriveled to raisins in the sun prior to the harvest; the whispering waterfall was located just below the septic tank; the abundant floral display had already blossomed and died one hot afternoon in July; the gourmet food consisted of whatever she could trap, skin, clean and cook; and the award winning wine was produced by a neighbor.  She also learned that the real purpose of her visit was to work, chained side by side, with the rest of the gullible few…

Although many of these covered bridges are still in use today, they all have posted weight limits which prohibit crossings by both recreational vehicles and rotund elderly men piloting Jeeps.   I just don’t know how fat old guys got around during the covered bridge era.  As you continue your travels along this road, you will sooner or later run into one of these…

If you look very closely you will see a glass on the table where the wine is being siphoned into bottles.  This glass, in industry terms, is referred to as “spillage” and is  expected to be abundant during any bottling endeavor involving both Norwegians and Irishmen.  There was a 2-day lull in the action as we waited for the must from another varietal to be ready for pressing.  We had assumed that during this “down time” we would be able to tend to a few personal items which had been left neglected for a spell, like brushing our teeth, but the brother-in-law hired us out to a couple of the neighbors to help in pressing and tanking their wine.  As it turned out, Keith has a rather unique method of pressing the grapes which incorporates the modern press with a variation of the Lucy Ricardo method of squeezing the juice out by foot…

And finally the finished product, which has been aging for years, months, or in this case, several hours, is transferred to bottles…

“The road less travelled.”    Where, exactly, is that road, if indeed, it exists at all?  The term is most often used by “OTHERS” to describe someone engaging in an activity beyond the bounds of normalcy and lacking the common sense to quit.  In our case, however, we believe it IS a road…

Of course, you do have to pull to the side of the road occasionally to spend some quality time with Mother Nature…

And, from time to time, if you pay very close attention, you may encounter another adventurous soul similarly sharing your encounter with the wilderness…

It was fortunate for him that I spent some years riding with my buddy, Phil, who owned an old Harley panhead that disgorged parts at a rate which kept those of us riding behind him as busy as a bunch of frat boys on a sorority house panty raid gathering them up.  After gluing, taping and wire tying as many parts back on the bike as was possible, I was putting my tool box back in the Jeep and happened to notice that I had two truck-tire sized cans of “Fix-a-Flat” and asked Mark if he carried any on his bike.  He said that he didn’t and hadn’t had any tire problems thus far.  I pointed out a fact that he had apparently not considered:  Mechanical problems can usually be fixed along the road but a flat tire on a bike cannot.  You are simply down for the count or until a tow truck or a Good Samaritan with a pickup comes along to haul you and your bike to the nearest motorcycle shop.  UNLESS you happen to be carrying a can of Fix-a-Flat!   He graciously accepted our roadside gift, continued on his way and 2 days later, sure enough, got a flat tire 50 miles from Hyder, Alaska!  He sent us a poison pen e-mail shortly thereafter for jinxing his otherwise semi-flawless ride.  The “road less travelled” occasionally takes a detour into the past and presents you with images of Americana somewhat different from the present day…

If you otherwise spend all your time merely looking at that ribbon of blacktop rolled out in front of you, you do tend to miss a lot of what is happening on the periphery…

This winery near Eugene, Oregon, is one of the most impressive you will ever visit.  The vineyards and surrounding gardens are immaculately manicured and the tasting room and restaurant are on par with any we have ever visited.  Had my navigator not taken Yogi so literally and insisted on taking both forks, we may have been able to continue this narrative as a travelogue of the southern Oregon wine country.  Instead, the second fork led us along a dark and desolate trail, replete with howling wolves and circling buzzards, which abruptly ended at the enclave of the Vineyard Vixen and her ne’er-do-well accomplice, aka: THE brother-in-law…

The wine is then transferred to a stainless steel, secondary fermentation tank.  The variable volume tank is equipped with an interior floating metal lid with a surrounding air bladder (much like a bicycle inner tube) which is inflated to seal the container, with an airlock that allows the CO2 gas to escape, until the fermentation process is completed...

Placement of the interior lid is an exact science using calculations of formulas requiring the assistance of NASA caliber engineers or, absent that, a couple of wine aficionados.  Meanwhile, back at the press…

A picture of the Zimmermans without a pitchfork seems in some way incomplete.  At this time of year, these two are scrambling to find as many bodies as possible from among their dwindling list of friends, acquaintances, dumpster divers and shopping cart ladies to help with the harvesting and manufacturing of a product which occasionally passes as wine and is used extensively as aircraft fuel.  Their California contacts exhausted, they are now reaching out to nearby Nevada for naive “neighbors” willing to participate in the Zimmerman vineyard mayhem…

The press is disassembled, and the compacted “cake” of skins and seeds is removed and discarded…

Mark, a retired ship’s engineer from Florida, spent the night in Dease Lake on the Cassiar Highway the same night we did and left a short time before us the next morning.  (We had yet to make his acquaintance.)   While stopped on the side of the road to apply some tape to the face shield of his helmet to serve as a visor, his bike toppled over and landed in the drainage ditch.  I believe this was caused by simple angular delineation and inertia compounded by weight and inattention to vehicular placement.  We came by shortly thereafter and found his forlorn and hopeless image pleading for help through our windshield.   I, being the practical one, immediately recognized him as a highwayman and determined to add him to the bug detritus adorning our front end.  My bride, boasting a direct familial descension to that most infamous band of sea-going highwaymen, the Vikings, viewed this haggard stranger as a kinsman and insisted on rendering assistance.   I reluctantly pulled to a stop and slowly emerged from our Urban Assault Vehicle armed with the only means of personal protection the Canadian border Nazis hadn’t confiscated, rotten fruit.  We soon discovered that Mark was as pathetically woesome as he appeared to be, was not harboring any ideas of the pillage and plunder variety and was badly in need of some stocky individual to help him right his bike and gather and re-assemble some of the assorted pieces that had broken off and scattered in the fall…

One of the absolutes you may discover in getting nose to nose with Mother Nature in her backyard is that mankind has not yet discovered a way to produce a vehicle that can get you there and back again without the occasional hiccup…

We have discovered that nature has reserved the epitome of her magnificence for those willing to make the extra effort required to get to that one spot on Earth where you can best enjoy it…

The flunkies with least seniority routinely perform this task as it usually results in hands permanently stained purple and hordes of fruit flys following you for the rest of your days.  As the grapes are added to the press, the “free flow” juice, that which naturally flows from crushed grapes, runs into collection buckets…

After the grapes are harvested, they are run through a crusher that also separates grapes from the stems.  The resulting “must,” consisting of the crushed grapes and skins, is placed in special food quality plastic containers, yeast is added, and the mixture spends about a week fermenting.  The must is then scooped into the press…

(Note the “free flow” in the above picture.)  The top is then assembled on the press and a chunky guy, fattened for a week on Ben and Jerry’s Cookies ‘n Cream, turns the screw to press the rest of the juice from the must…

As Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”   Just ahead, over the next rise and nestled on a hillside we discovered the King Estate Winery…

When Keith enters his wine at the Nevada County Fair it is usually found to have “an essence of shoe leather and compost, with a nose of toes.”  We actually find his approach to pressing grapes preferable to the newfangled all work and no play method in use today at the Fly Farm Estate Vineyard.  Perhaps the “OTHERS” are right after all; we truly are on the “road less travelled.”  See y’all next time, Chuck and Zookie

  The Road Less Traveled                                              October 18, 2010