Like Hunting, Like Wine

Natirar Park

Like all roads lead some to Rome, my roads always seem to lead me to Gladstone. This is where I grew up, and where I default to between moves (DC->Seoul / Hong Kong-> New York) as a practical reset before the next best thing. After a failed attempt at working harvest in Napa, I find myself here again, in an unplanned, but much appreciated reset.

T Berkeley property

The original idea was to take a month out of the city to spend with my dear friend Sarah in Napa. We would make wine with her boyfriend Taylor (T Berkeley) and study for this beast of an exam we will (hopefully) sit in June. But wildfires had other plans. The last in a series of truly unprecedented fires, even by California standards, burned a significant portion of Taylor’s property (above), destroyed hundreds of other wineries, homes and businesses, and evacuated most of the Valley. As of today, not even the end of fire season, over 4 million acres have been burned throughout California. You can donate to relief here, should you feel so inclined.

photos: Sarah Bray

As disappointed as I am not to be there, this planned month “away” has already proven restorative. Even from the armpit of America.

These last two weeks NJ has turned it on! We’re smack in the middle of October bliss with brilliantly clear sunny days, magnificently colored trees, and pumpkins and PSL for days – jk I learned that lesson the hard way years ago.

On the first rainy day I didn’t want to break my steadfast routine of morning exercise. If it doesn’t happen at 7 am, it ain’t going to happen, so I put on a parka & boots, grabbed and umbrella, and hoofed it over to Natirar where there are beautiful walking trails. Day 1 of rain I walked in silence. I smelled the October foliage decomposing under my boots as it mashed with the puddles and gravel, and remembered what quiet felt like. Not the quiet of a lonely 440 square foot studio. For the trouserless man in the park across the street always had something to contribute, but a true quiet where streams and birds and [potential] bears dominate the conversation.

After feeling quite pleased by myself after a silent day 1, on rainy day 2 I popped on a podcast to bide the time. Tim Ferris is always a go to, but a recent recording with hunter/conservationist Steven Rinella peaked my interest, especially after my Montana summer. Steven is a wonderful storyteller, no surprise given his media influence @ themeateater.com.

What I found particularly interesting was the way in which he described a recent rethinking in hunting about sustainability. Previously, elk, wolves, and other endangered animals were relocated back to areas where they were extirpated. But recent ideology supports luring the animals back naturally via environments which will attract them; ie open lands with sustainable food supplies.

home.

Which got me thinking of the parallels with the recent shift in mentality in sustainable vineyard management. The agrochemicals of the 50s up through the advent of modern technology in the 90s and early aughts, quick fixes were the prescription of the day. But it’s been in this postmodern era we have been able to step back to see the detriments of past generation’s shortcuts. The world is just as interconnected as its always been, if not more so. 2020, case in point.

So here I am, lured home by wide open spaces and ample food supply amid fires and plague. Unclear whether I’m the wolf (“friendships end over wolves…the Middle East of animals…”) or the elk, but what I can say is that is sure is good to be home.

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