The Kitchen in The Cellar

A Recipe for Reinvention


“Let each generation tell its children about your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power.” Psalm 145:4

Every once in a while I get on a trail. This time the trail is the word “generations”. Like the wisp of a rabbit’s scent carried in the wind, then wildly sniffed out in hyperventilating fashion, I can’t seem to shut it down. Perhaps it’s from recent exposure to 8th generation winemakers in France that’s stoked this obsession or that both of our children are maturing into adulthood, at lightening speed – growing more curious about family history and its influence in their lives as their futures unfold. Whatever it is I keep reflecting on the newest generation of winemakers that we’ve had the pleasure of meeting in the past year, many the children of winemaking families going back as far as seven generations. It is these winemaking “kids” that defy their generation’s stereotype.

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The 2015 Vintage: Short, Sweet…and Spontaneous!

Fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year in El Dorado wine country. The intensity of harvest winds down as fast as the vine’s leaves turn shades of crimson and gold. Pomegranates, pumpkins and persimmons start showing up everywhere. The ground is covered with acorns and a carpet of dried pine needles blankets the entrance & winery. Fall also marks the harvest finish line and gives Frank some breathing room to reflect on the 2015 vintage, communicate daily with our winemaker daughter in France, and throw together our own spontaneous trip to France!

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Taking Ground

When we launched into our dream, of owning and operating a winery, our idea of what it would look like versus what it actually looks like today is much different. I remember, in 1997, sitting at our dining table in Huntington Beach watching our two little ones, a one and five year-old, play in the living room. Frank loosened his tie and threw his suit coat over the back of the chair, the single Cabernet Sauvignon vine he planted in ‘95 sprawled across the outdoor stucco wall that filled the four foot deep side yard outside the dining room window.

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Unsettled Ground

“He is before all things and in Him all things hold together” Colossians 1:17 NIV

I admire Frank’s dad, “Franco”. He’s almost 90, never owned a laptop, barely uses a cell phone, and spent the first half of his life just working hard in his auto electric repair shop in downtown Woodland, California repairing tractors, trucks and cars for the locals. He did so well at it that at 50 years old he sold his interest and retired.

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Words of Wisdom

Wisdom, like love, is nearly impossible to define and even though it does not come easily, or naturally, at some point in our lives we are told we need it. Continue reading

How I fell madly in love with a winemaker

Nearly 30 years ago, when I married Frank, I had no idea then that the long-range plan included Narrow Gate Vineyards. I first laid eyes on Frank while working as a clerical intern in the Intimate Apparel buying office of a major fashion retailer, named, ironically, The Broadway, in Los Angeles while finishing the second of a two-year fashion merchandising degree at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM). I was 19 he was 22.

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The Buck Stops Here

In 2008, when United Airlines changed their mileage award program, all those who were ancient “Premier Executives” were given a specific window of time to either “use or lose” their award miles. Those miles were hard earned by Frank in his former life as a fashion industry executive flying around the country, mostly to New York, and everywhere west of Arkansas, over the course of his 22-year career. He’d only escaped from there barely four years earlier and trust me when I say “Mr. Waste not, want not” wasn’t about to “lose ‘em”.

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“We’ll drink a cup of kindness yet for times gone by.”

Autumn is for preparers, dreamers and doers. We remember October 1999 well. After what seemed like our twentieth eight-hour drive from L.A. we landed in Placerville to look for land, one last time. The town was ablaze in gold and crimson landscape. Just a month before, after discouragement, obstacles and financial pressures almost made us quit, we decided to give it one more shot and keep pushing on to find the right parcel to plant our vines and build our new life. October’s landscape reminds us it’s time to fan into flame the nearly smoldering hint of passion that first ignited on New Year’s Eve when we toasted to our resolutions and sang Auld Lang Syne. It must be by design that the almost instant change of seasons from summer to fall reignites, annually, a desire in Frank & me that wants to finish strong.

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Secrets of the Narrow Gate Vines

Frank, slowly rising with the sun May 24, 2013, stretched out his arms, back and calves, all aching from the previous day’s pruning marathon, wondered just how cold it got last night, the Wednesday night before Memorial Day. He made his way to the mudroom and stumbled into his “uniform”: dusty 501’s, Cabela’s sun protective shirt and, that morning, a big, heavy canvas jacket. I could hear 4-year old Lacey, her tail beating against the door in anticipation of his emergence. Goldie, the other 13-year old yellow lab, still grounded began to sense the familiar daily threat of being left behind, slowly readied her old, achy, hips for the “one, two, three, and up”, shaky hind legs barely lifting her to standing.

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“The Wine Business – it’s so glamorous”

After watering the winery landscape and pulling a few weeds I sat down at the office computer, alone. I was finally responding to emails I’d put off in order to focus on the two “Frank Sinatra” themed Passport event weekends when all of the sudden I felt something move under my snug fitting, pullover, long sleeved shirt. I quickly reached up and over my right shoulder and down to the middle of my back and felt a large lump and quickly gripped it through my shirt. Frantically jumping up, I stood there, heart racing, unable to let go of the wriggling thing in my grip for fear it would travel somewhere else on my body. Although I hadn’t exactly connected my brain with what was in my hand, nonetheless, panic set in.

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