When Craig and Becky Kreeger retired to Sonoma they never sought to buy a home with a vineyard. In fact, the thought had never crossed their minds. "So imagine our surprise when the perfect home became available - vineyard and all. The former owner tried to be helpful. He explained the various tasks to be done on a vineyard; and he advised us the essential equipment we should have in order to evaluate when the grapes were ripe for harvesting- basically, a refractometer and a pH meter. He shared the name of the guy he had been using for many aspects of vineyard maintenance - a retired vineyard worker with decades of experience. And he introduced us to his winemaker who agreed to continue making wine for us. The only downside was that the winemaker was a 3 hour car ride away. And it all seemed fairly daunting to us neophytes. To further our vineyard management knowledge, we watched countless You tube videos and read even more online articles on all aspects of vine care. While still total novices, we felt we could handle caring for the vineyard. Winemaking was a totally different story. The thought of making our own wine was very scary, but there had to be a winemaker closer to home that could help us with our tiny vineyard.
We decided to find a local winemaker for us - basically someone who would do a custom crush for our small vineyard of 63 Cabernet Sauvignon vines. According to the seller, historic yields were anywhere from 300 to 600 pounds - more or less. Armed with this information, we reached out to all the custom crush folks in Napa and Sonoma - or at least the ones we were able to find. Surprisingly, almost all of them responded, but in the negative. We were simply too small! Fortunately, Robert Rex from Deerfield Ranch Winery set us straight. He said, "You have a hobby vineyard, so make it your own hobby vineyard! You can make your own wine!" YIKES! Robert referred us to Les Boschke, Vice President of the Sonoma Home Winemakers and a long time friend of Robert Rex & his wife. We reached out to Les and were introduced to the Sonoma Home Winemakers. What a life saver that was!
After three years with our vineyard, we’ve learned so much through the Sonoma Home Winemakers. Some lessons were learned on our own such as don’t leave the vineyard too long during the growing season. Canes grow so quickly, you can end up with one massive canopy across the entire vineyard which takes days to sort out! We’ve gained a great deal of hands on experience at the Tex Juen Vineyard and Park, a city owned vineyard tended by members of the Sonoma Home Winemakers. We’ve become much more confident in caring for our small vineyard - everything from pruning to spraying and all steps in between. Other lessons have been learned at the Mt. Pisgah Winery and Cellars under the guidance of Doug Ghiselin, one of the original founding members of the organization. Known as the “Leveroni Group” for short, several wines from the Tex Juen Vineyard and Park are made at Doug’s Mt. Pisgah Winery and Cellars. We’ve gained experience with everything from crush to bottling which has prepared us to at long last make wine in our own garage in true garagiste style. I can’t wait to try the results!”