The end of a growing season is always a natural time for reflection, and this year I find myself contemplating larger themes and looking for meaning amidst the rows and barrels. Inevitably, I come to the conclusion that I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to spend my days working on a family farm.
Life on a farm is all I’ve ever known. It has been the constant that has shaped my personal relationships, my career and my thoughts. Sure, there were brief times when I seriously considered other callings, but a sense of duty and the love of a challenge eventually superseded any alternative ambitions.
My thoughts on farm life, stewardship and succession have evolved through the years as I’ve grown and matured. A young child can’t help but be ignorant to the challenges of succession, and is likely to perceive the passing down of land as a given part of the family story, the way things have always worked. But with each passing year and vintage, one becomes increasingly aware of how tenuous and vulnerable a farm can be, and how relatively small a window of time each steward occupies in the grand scheme of things.
I draw inspiration from the previous generations and land inhabitants whom I envision living a more mindful, “in the moment” lifestyle, one that I strive to emulate. Enjoying the here and now can add fulfillment to our lives, while devoting enough time to future planning is our moral obligation. The balance between these two is the burden that can weigh heaviest on farmers. One of my biggest faults is worrying too much in the moment, which is not beneficial to either of these pursuits!
Fretting about the failure of a crop can sometimes blind me from the mind-nourishing aspect of vineyard work. Just being outside, genuinely endeavouring to help things grow should be considered a triumph, not whether your Pinot Noir is squeaky clean (although that would be a nice consolation). Working in a vineyard can be equal parts exercise, meditation and stimulation – a payoff, of sorts, for the sacrifices that accompany a year-round farm operation.
In short, 2023 marked a wonderful year of rejuvenation for our vineyard. Young blocks that had struggled to get established, finally flourished, while the older blocks that were decimated by cold-induced trunk damage returned to full production. The crops were bountiful and we experienced a dream September for ripening grapes that made up for a less than ideal summer. The wines show great promise!
So my resolution, as I set out to make the first pruning cuts of 2024, is to view time in the vineyard as the unrelenting yearly cycle that is made up of individual vintages whose varied characteristics are formed through memorable daily experiences, both positive and negative. In other words, life.
It is filled with tremendous volatility, but there is also comfort in it’s reliable churn.