Thursday, 1 October 2015 | 13 comments

Harvest & Chardonnay-braised greens

I arrived home from Botswana to full-on fall. No matter how how much of a jaded, ungrateful traveller I become, I don’t think the whole other-side-of-the-planet thing will ever get old. One day, you’re sweating it out in the southern part of the African continent, in the country that is seventy percent Kalahari Desert, in a city that gets eleven inches of rain per year. After thirty hours hurtling around in metal tubes, you begin descent into the mid-Atlantic U.S., the first pops of orange and red flashing up at you from the ground. Stepping out of the airport, your hair curls from the damp. It smells like dead leaves. A hurricane is coming. What a world.

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Monday, 14 October 2013 | 8 comments


Last week, the sunsets beggared description. The daylight always dwindles just as Ben’s workdays become long. They picked, sorted, crushed, and pitched 16 tons of grapes last week, which is a lot for a 5,000-cases-per-year operation, but a pittance for someone more Napa-ish. The difference, of course, is that Ben, the winemaker, and the small crew put their hands on all of it.

I see the sunsets from the car, when I’ll head over and jump in at the sorting table. The Oaxacan crew puts up with me because my Spanish is decent. There’s no shortage of romantic commentary about the wine harvest, but being surrounded by the Mexican crew—whose faces are not usually associated with winemaking—reminds you that it’s real work, long hours of manual labor, on your feet with your hands stuck in chilly, sticky crushed grapes. For me, it’s a change of pace, but they’re going on two weeks with no day off yet.

But still, there’s something about the team effort of harvest–showing up at dawn, staying until late, a round of beers after clean-up—that just feels really good. I guess you’d call it esprit de corps. Ben and I have such very different day jobs that it’s impossible not to compare: this is what’s missing for those of us in an office. An orienting point; the cycle of a year all geared toward the same big push before a quiet winter. I get something similar to this from the garden and from cooking, but it’s not the same.

The creases of Ben’s palms are stained red-violet. I have three plane tickets in my name before the year ends and the holidays are looming. But for now, all I need to do is pick up his hand for a reminder of how grounded we can be in what we reap today.

P.S. Tell me you didn’t read the title of this post and think of this song. It’s been in my head the entire time I’ve been writing it. HELP. 1998, you must have had something good about you, but that song was not it.

Friday, 7 September 2012 | 11 comments


I am back from Kenya, and things are in full harvest swing here. Ben works long days, every day of the week, and I take a million gratuitous pictures of grapes. (If this sounds familiar, it’s because I did it last year.)Ben manages a pear orchard, too, and they harvested those while I was gone (pear brandy in a few months, anyone?) I’ve been stockpiling lots of pear baked goods and want to share a recipe with you next week for one of those. Until then!

Monday, 29 August 2011 | 7 comments


Did you know the word “vignette” comes from the french, and even earlier latin words for “vine” and “wine”?Nowadays, we use it to reference a short story, or a scene or tableau.Which is all very appropriate, I think.(All you local folks, get yourselves out to DC’s wine country to see how gorgeous the vineyards look just before harvest. These merlot and cabernet sauvignon grapes will be picked any day now! And for everyone else—a wine grape-inspired recipe is in the works.)

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