I seem to say this quite frequently [pardon the pun], but it has been a while since my last post. My last post was 1 Nov 2020, just over six months ago. I have thought about several new posts, but it just seems the words or the time to write the words are hard to find.
Let’s talk about a bit of good news. We entered three wines this year in the 2021 NC Fine Wines competition, and all three had medal-winning scores. The 2019 Figment and 2019 Structure both won silver medals, and our very first sparkling wine, Wish [non-vintage], won a bronze medal. We did not make it into the top-12 wines this year, but as the competition director points out, there were 41 wines within two points of making the 2021 NC Fine Wines case. It was an extremely competitive field, and we are always pretty happy to see good scores from this competition.
That you are reading this blog suggests that you are the very folks who are supporting their local, independent, small businesses. Thank you for that. The pro-sports-sponsoring chains do not need your dollars, but your neighborhood restaurant/pub/bookstore/winery[!] certainly appreciate your patronage. What about the weather you ask? I mean, I know you didn’t, but if you have ever read any of the rest of this blog, you know I am just a bit fanatical about it. A year ago today, we were hit with a devastating frost. I wrote then that I did not think we would have a 2020 harvest, and we mostly didn’t. Where we normally pick anywhere from 8-10 tons of fruit, we harvested 200 pounds, and even that was an experiment, not really intended for a commercial crush. This year, while a little cooler in terms of heat accumulation so far in the growing season, is going to avoid that late frost. I think we can relax and be confident that we are not going to have that kind of damage this year. We still had some late frost [22 and 23 April], and it did a little bit of damage in the vineyard, but because bud break was delayed this year, we only had about 5% of the vineyard exposed to that frost. In the winter of 2019-2020, we had very little cold weather. We had no snow that year. Our average high temp in March 2020 was nearly 64F, and the average nighttime low was 44.7F. In other words, March was warm, and that just got the vines all ramped up to go. For winter 2020-2021, we had at least eight different snow events. Our average temps in March were about 3 and 5 degrees cooler, respectively. It doesn’t sound like much, but believe me, those few degrees matter.
On a more personal note, we had started down the path of building a modest house. We found a plan we liked, and we worked to modify it to make it ‘ours.’ We got the plans finalized, and started the process of picking out the ‘right’ spot on the farm on which to build. Interest rates are creeping up, but they are still at historical lows, and if we are ever going to be able to build, now felt like the time… Until we started calculating our framing budget. Holy crap, building material is insanely expensive. Our estimated framing budget [the one I put together without doing any actual pricing based on my experience with building] was almost exactly 33% of what the actual material cost priced out. And that put those plans on indefinite hold. Maybe lumber comes out of the stratosphere, or maybe we are in a new place with respect to material costs. If it is the former, we move forward. If it is the latter, I don’t foresee a scenario this year or next or even in the next five years that allows us to build.
In a bit of irony, we have been milling some lumber on the farm. Building code in NC won’t allow us to build with rough lumber, something the larger lumber companies lobbied to have codified. It isn’t about anything other than forcing homeowners to purchase lumber rather than mill their own. We have milled a little bit of pine that will ultimately become roof trusses for a barn extension [barns are exempt from the kiln-dried requirement]; a huge amount of oak [about 6000 board feet, maybe just a touch more] from trees that were dead or dying, and it milled out some really, really beautiful 5/4 material. We also milled about 1500 board feet of cherry, and again, what beautiful lumber. We sold all of that oak and most of the cherry in partnership with the mill operator. I kept two logs of the cherry; one of them was a 6′ log from the base of the tree, and we milled four 3″x12″x6′ mantels from that log. Those will one day be used in the house that we hope to build. The other was an 8′ log from which we milled about  4/4 x 8″ x 8′ boards. I don’t have any specific plans yet for that material, but that will likely become a table or two. I have a vague notion of building a coffee table and at least one end table from that material. I may have to purchase some 3″ or 4″ square material to make the legs. Or maybe get our local blacksmith to fabricate the base? I don’t know. As I said, there are no exact plans yet. We have just a little bit of poplar left to mill, maybe 1200 board feet or so. We are going to keep that material, and half or so will become 1″ x [6, 8, or 10″] x 12′ [and some 10′], the other half will become mostly 2″ x 6″ x 12′ with six 2″ x 12″ x 12′. The 1″ material will eventually become siding for a barn, and the 2″ material will be framing material for the barn.
The milling has taken quite a bit of time. I think Dad cut more than he realized, but it was all going to be past saving by the time fall comes around. All of that oak and poplar was either dead or dying, and that it milled out as beautifully as it did is something. Those trees will now have a longer life. If we had waited, they would have only been marginally acceptable to use as firewood. Most of the cherry was also in distress. I dislike cutting trees, but I know that we are doing what is best for the health of the wooded areas and the farm.
Our tasting room is open for our summer hours starting this past week. “Summer hours” means we have reservations available Thursday through Saturday, noon to 5p, and Sunday 1p to 5p. The link for tasting reservations is in the main navigation bar on this page. Come see us!