Talking Heads—“Well, how did I get here?”
Turning points—there have been many but 1978 was a big one. I was living in Santa Monica CA and there were two choices happening. A masters program in American Culture at the University of Michigan or Enology and Viticulture at Cal State University Fresno. So in late summer I packed things up and headed to Fresno in the heart of California’s Central Valley.
I know, say Fresno, and lot of people will roll their eyeballs. But I was ecstatic. Unlike LA, I was able to effortlessly find a brand-new apartment with gym and sauna and it was a quick walk to the campus. I was on a mission with a real purpose and I really felt I was in the right place finally doing what I should be doing.
I got to farm a small parcel of old Carignane that I would ultimately make into wine. In addition to winemaking and grape growing I took a cheese class and a philosophy course or two. For Christmas 1978 I was giving gifts of cheese and peach wine that I had made!
I had pretty much intended to do at least two academic years, but that was not to be. In late 1979 I was in contact with Chappellet Winery about a possible opportunity that didn’t materialize. Tony Soter was the winemaker at the time and he relayed my name to Bill Hill (of William Hill Winery.) Bill called me for an interview late that year. He was farming vineyards for Donald Hess on Mount Veeder as well as his own parcel on Mount Veeder called Veeder Peak. That eventually became the highly acclaimed vineyard of Lokoya.
In December I once again was packing up. I was moving to work in the vineyards on Mount Veeder in Napa Valley.
Next: One of my most memorable wine moments.