March 1, 2003

By Michael Strickland

Strickland Cellars

Last year, I spent several days outdoors with my father Chuck, helping him convert a quarter-acre of hillside across from his house into a small vineyard. The amount of labor I contributed pales beside the countless hours he spent working the land, but I'm glad I had at least a small hand in the project. Today, row upon row of vines covers the small hillside. Nearly two hundred fledgling shoots peek out of the ground, waiting to spring forth and spill out bunches of grapes in a couple of years.

Next to the "Del Cielo Vineyard," Chuck constructed a small winery. Inside, the building houses a workroom complete with wine press, deep sink and bottle corker, as well as a cozy barrel room where the magic happens. Though it'll be a couple of years before the first wine made with Del Cielo grapes will see the inside of a bottle, my father has begun learning the art of winemaking by buying some local grapes and making his first batch of "Strickland Cellars" wine. The first press, in fact, took place last fall on September 11, 2002—hence the name of this vintage, 2002 "Patriots" Viognier.

Yesterday, Chuck took me over to the winery and gave me my first sampling of the "Patriots" wine. He boasts that viognier will be the next big grape, eventually outshining—and possibly outselling—chardonnay. I don't know if that'll happen, but it does indeed make an interesting wine. Viognier is a white grape, fruity like chardonnay, but very dry. The "Patriots" vintage seems like a great representative to my layman's palate. It has a robust bouquet of apricots, and it explodes with fruitiness on your tongue. Yet, there is only the barest hint of sugar, the fruitiness well balanced by a very dry (but not bitter) finish. And it's still very young; this one will only get better with time.

We also did a blind taste of his other product, the first merlot vintage of Strickland Cellars. Fifteen gallons age in a French oak barrel, with another seven gallons in large glass carboys. This wine isn't ready yet, but we blindly tested three variations of blends to pick the best combination of barrel- and non-barrel-aged merlot. Frankly, this wine didn't meet the same level of quality as the "Patriots" Viognier, but it also needs more time to "grow." I'll reserve judgment for a later taste.

I feel pretty lucky to have a father with such exciting hobbies. As if my family wasn't fortunate enough to have such wonderful parents living in such a beautiful country retreat. Now we can add to our list of fortunes a family winery, where we can sample great wines crafted by the hand of a great man.

©2003 Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Daily Chuckle:

I made wine from raisins, so I wouldn't have to wait for it to age.

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year, I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

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