Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Mom, the Magic and the Cookies

An integral part of the winery’s story, obviously, but many don’t know why.  Of course, there’s the Kupferschmid Red that we occasionally pour in the tasting room, a popular red blend of Rhône varietals grown on the estate.  But, many of you don’t know about the cookies she makes for events around the holidays.  Mom brings the tradition and the flavor of the midwest to the winery, and in deliciously addictive form.

We hold a holiday release for one of our clubs during the holidays, and I didn’t want my 70 year-old mom on her feet pouring.  So, she offered to make cookies.  “How many do you need?” she asked.  “About 500,” I told her.  She wanted to make three or four kinds of cookies.  I said she could just make one.  But I told Mom the next year, after the club had grown quite a bit, we needed 2,000 cookies.  Mom looked at me, just trying to figure out how we’d find the space to make this large cache of cookies.  It took quite a bit of time, believe me.  I mean, we had to tie the little ribbons, make sure they were all presentable for the party.  Oh, and she made around 15 different kinds of cookies.  That’s Mom.

As the years went on, my brothers started to get quite angry with me, letting Mom make all these different types of cookies, prepping all year hunting for new recipes.  By this time, she’s around 75 or 76.  And the club had grown even larger.  So… more cookies.  “What do you mean you want Mom to make 4,000 cookies?” Steve blared at me.  “She wanted to, Steve, she wants to!” I shot back.  We agree to have my brothers’ wives help Mom our, cooking tireless in the house on the winery’s property.  The storage fridge was full.  And I mean FULL.

We couldn’t get the cookies the club members got.  The cookies had to be broken or not up to Mom’s standards, then would could get some.  So, when Mom wasn’t looking, we’d break one and say something like, “Whoop! This one broke!”, so we could get our own.  That was the only way we could enjoy Mom’s amazing cookie recipes.

Eventually, we would make bundt cakes for the members, as the cookie got to be too exhausting.  Mom still insists on taking care of the wine club family, bringing the midwest traditions to the winery.  Where I come from, when you have people over for dinner or any kind of gathering, you make the food yourself.  You don’t order in.

Mom still insists on helping, as I said.  For this holiday season coming up, we’ll be doing the Bundt cakes again, and we’ll continue to give out some of Mom’s favorite cookie recipes.  I won’t lie, I miss the cookies, but I don’t want her doing too much.  She’s done more than enough for me, and the winery.  Member, as well.  They depend on her magic at every holiday gathering.  Oh… and then there’s the peanut brittle and caramels she makes.  That’s another blog post, I promise.  But just know this: there’s nothing like Mom’s cookies and cakes, and her dedication to feeding the people that come over, treating everyone that comes over like family.  This is a family-owned winery, and no one reinforces that like my mother.  And her cookies.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

How Dutchess Got to Dutcher

A lot of people think Dutchess is the one and only dog of Dutcher Crossing.  Well, she is the one and only, but not the first.  In March of ’07, I had all the moving taken care of, and now I have a job where I can have a dog.  So I was excited.  One Sunday night, I was online looking for a dog.  Found a golden retriever, an old girl.  She turned out to be very laid back.  A rescue dog named Gwen.  But, the poor pooch had trouble even walking from the winery office building, or “cottage”, to the tasting room.  The foster mom who brought me to the dog, took back the dog the weekend of an event after saying she would take her to the vet, leaving the check on the doorstep.   The foster mom claimed the dog would be happier with the her.  Didn’t expect this to happen, at all.  I mean, I told the adoption agency, “She stole my dog.” But, for the better, I found.

Then we had two Blue Heelers my friend Tina Maple turned me on to, but they wouldn’t stop marking their territory.  One time on Tina Maple herself.  Their owner was handicapped, and constantly needed attention.  That was going to be a problem here at the winery, as everyone here is always, always moving. They didn’t eat that well, but never really caused any trouble.  But, they always needed attention.  Being an owner or anyone working at a winery you can’t give a dog constant attention.  It just doesn’t work.  I even had to sleep with my legs hanging off the bed so they could touch me.  Needless to say, I wasn’t sleeping, and I knew it wasn’t working.  I told Tina about everything going on with the Heelers and she recommended a dog therapist.  I’m thinking, “Of course, only in California.” The sister dog took on the alpha role, and it was all a mess.  I mean, it was one thing after the other with these pups.  Still nice dogs, but not a good fit, so I gave them back to the owner.  I still occasionally see them when I visit Tina, and they’re very loving and excited to see me, which feels nice.

Then Dutchess.  The sweetest dog I ever could have hoped for.  Some wine club members knew of some businessmen over in Taiwan that had a dog shelter.  There was a litter of abandoned puppies on a roof.  I said, “I’ll take the chubby one.” The wine club members went to go get Dutch, flying her into L.A. then up to the Bay Area.  Met them in Napa, and we’ve been together ever since.  It was destiny, it really was.  Little Dutchess I knew would have a great life with me, in my new life here in the wine country.  The timing couldn’t have been better, just as my new life in the wine country was taking off and I was starting my new life in California, I have this loving, adorable, social lab.  I don’t know what life would be like without my Dutchie, and I don’t want to know.  I don’t have to know.  She’s here with me, with all of us at the winery, and we couldn’t be happier.  If you come by the winery and see her, walk up and say ‘hi’!  She’d love to make another friend.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

I Don’t Know…

When we’re out on a winery cruise, I handle it a little differently than I think people expect a winery owner to.  Yes, I like to be prepared, but I don’t like to overdo it.  We have an incredible travel agent that handles all the logistics for us.  All we need to do is get the wine on the boat and make sure people have a good time.  The first cruise we hosted, wine club manager Kali Hoffert and I, and it was the first time for both of us ever being on a cruise.  We didn’t know what to expect, we only knew that we wanted cocktail parties every night, have fun at every place the boat docked, and that was about it.  People would ask me, “So what do we have planned today?”, and I would answer, “I don’t know,” it somewhat took them aback.  They’re used to seeing me running around the winery trying to put out fires and meet guests and club members, walk around with Dutchess before getting into something.  Just always moving.  On a cruise, it’s not like that.  At all. 

I truly didn’t know how they worked, cruises.  It was an adventure, that’s how I looked at it.  When the boat docked, there was no planned outing or van pickup, nothing like that.  We all shared in cab costs, and went out where we went out.  True vacation, why not?  One stop in particular, in Rome, we walked 19 miles in change.  Everyone went in their own directions and made the day their own adventure.  Dinner that night, our winemaker Kerry, Kali, and I were nearly the only ones standing that night at dinner.  I laughed a little, but people did what they wanted.  What vacation should be.  Freeing.

One thought I have is that I’m prepared everyday at the winery to talk about the wines, and prepared for tastings and appointment.  On this cruise, all I need to do is be prepared to talk about the wines and make sure everyone was having fun. We were in the Mediterranean, in the Baltic's, Italy as I mentioned, and a couple other places.  I’ll figure it out when I get there, that’s what I say, that’s what I’m thinking when I’m on the cruise.  Long as the wines are there, everything else will be handled.  It’ll all work out.

A cruise is supposed to be laid-back, and that’s what it is.  Some would say to a fault, but in my mind it’s just right.  All I need to do is make sure the wine is there, know where we start and where we finish, see everyone having fun, enjoying their vacation.  When I’m back at the winery, then I can be planned.  But, I will say that I’ve become more like I am on the cruise when I’m here at the winery than I was before.  What I mean is, just going with the flow sometimes.  You can only plan so much.  Just enjoy the moment and where you are.  Life is short, and if you plan too much then you spend a lot of life in planning mode.  Sometimes it’s better to just live, have the basics in place, and go from there.  That perspective is what I want guests and club members of Dutcher to appreciate.  And, what’s our next cruise’s itinerary?  I don’t know.