Glorious Harvest

This has been a fabulous year to be a grape farmer in Sonoma Valley, CA.  We had enough rain in the winter and spring to saturate the soil and fill the aquifers, and then a warm

Bud break early Spring.

and pleasant summer without too many scorching hot days and the big finish with a dry and pleasant fall.  What California grape growing is all about, and why we make the best wine in the world.

Going off. Early summer.

Being a grape farmer is, for me, the largest part of being a winemaker.  My winemaking philosophy is pretty damn simple:  farm or procure the finest grapes you can, keep your wine “clean” by extensive sorting of MOG (matter other than grapes) from the tank before fermentation and then letting the land, climate and place (terrior) speak for itself by keeping as hands-off as possible.  And I think our wine speaks for itself rather well.

Big, gorgeous cluster. Late summer.

All grapes are in and wine is being made.

Harvest morning. October 24, 2012.

The weather has broken with cold and wet being pretty dominant this week, and although the sun is about to shine again, the vines are going dormant and we get to concentrate on finishing the wine, putting it to rest in lovely oak barrels and taking it a little slower on the farm.

Checking the goods. Team Vino rides again.

Life is good.

Back in the (wine) saddle

It is surreal that just three days ago I was on my little bike riding into San Francisco after crossing this beautiful country,

Los Chamizol Zinfandel

and today I’m at Los Chamizol Vineyards in Sonoma while my Zinfandel is being picked.  Back to being a winemaker in Sonoma – my favorite life.

This blog will now focus on harvest and all the goings on at Annadel as we prepare to pick our grapes, make wine and then put the finished products to sleep in lovely French oak barrels.

The beauty of this life is the changing of the seasons and how our work and our life is so different depending on the time of year.  It’s been a very busy summer with weddings and selling wine and preparing for the Cannonball, and of course the running of the Cannonball.  AND FINISHING THE CANNONBALL.

Now we move into fall and harvest, the culmination of a years work.  This is going to be a spectacular vintage, epic actually.  Our fruit is gorgeous, the weather is perfect for fall and finishing the grapes and everything feels right.  More updates to come.

Bocci court Merlot
Full bins

Riding California and THE END

Crossing from Oregon to California was a true highlight of the trip.  We had been running all day, and I was at the back of the pack and had to pull over by myself and get a picture with the sign.  I obviously wasn’t the first as there was a great puddle of oil where I parked.

Welcome to California

Riding the Cannonball hasn’t been the most environmentally friendly activity I’ve ever done, however, somehow it seems worth it to see history recreated and to understand how far we’ve come.

The final night was in Cotati, a suburb of sorts for the City of Santa Rosa, CA, and about 20 miles from my home.  It was a fabulous greeting with some former employees, and now friends, from Golden Gate Harley-Davidson and my neighbor Charles who greatly helped building the bike.  We had a wedding on my farm that night, and it was surreal to return to my farm after securing the bike, changing clothes and heading out into the night to make sure everything was going smoothly and that the vendors were behaving.  I was back in my life with a day left in the Cannonball, and it was wonderful and weird.

The mornings ride to San Francisco was circuitous at best, heading back out to the coast to see Tamales Bay and further into Stinson Beach.  Lovely ride, groups sticking together now as we were limping along and everyone wanted to savor the moment of being together one last time.

Back in time


Through Sausalito and a bunch of surprised tourists to fort Baker and the staging for a panoramic photo in front of the most beautiful structure in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge.  I’ve traveled across that bridge maybe a 1000 times and have never tired of the beauty spanning the gate.  Now we were waiting around for a good hour and everyone just wanted to ride.  Crossing it was to be a highlight of the trip.

The lineup

The actual ride across the Golden Gate was a little anti-climatic, at least for me.  So many other riders had joined in at this point I was only concerned with  my safety and the safety of my fellow Cannonballers.  Everyone on the Cannonball was a rider, a true rider, and I was totally comfortable riding next to any of them on a bike that needs a runway to stop.  But the looky loos, they scared me.  I didn’t know if they truly knew how to ride, wether or not they had a couple of beers at lunch or if they were just a friggin’ idiot.  There was a lot of idiots actually.  Why they couldn’t ride behind us was a mystery.

After crossing the gate we were escorted by some SFPD solos, what they call the motorcycle cops, and there was some dignity in that, and then we crossed the SF line and all hell broke loose.  The SF Motorcycle Club did a great job of trying to escort us to South SF from there, but again the other riders made the whole of it insane.  I’m amazed no one went down.

We turn a corner into the industrial park that holds Dudley Perkins H-D, my first Harley dealer when they were actually in San Francicso, and there is a huge crowd in the thousands.  What a treat and I was lucky enough to see Abi and Anni at the corner with Anni screaming with glee.  I was home, the ride was done and it was a fabulous release.

I am a Cannonballer.  No one can ever take that away from me.  I say that with incredible pride not because of the difficulty of the endeavor, but because of the quality of the individuals who are also Cannonballers.  It is an elite group of men and women of whom I have the highest regard for, and am humbled to be associate with.  There will be one last true Cannonball in two years.  See you all then and thanks for riding along.  It’s time to make wine.

I am a Cannonballer

Limping through Oregon

Odd morning taking off as my riding partner, Scott Jacobs, has bike issues and I leave alone.  When we leave in the morning some groups can organically form, but we’re all riding cautiously now and every bike has a differnt comfort speed and as we get closer to our finish everyone is nursing their bikes and taking it as easy as possible.  The groups break apart and it’s a long and lonely road though Eastern Oregon’s high desert country.

We ride past an amazing alkaline lake that is a miles long mirror in the morning light.  It is in the middle of our longest stretch between gas stations, 110 miles, and I’m packing a two gallon spare gas can.  Alone riding, sublime on this old gal, then blast around a corner and a couple of Cannonball bikes on the side of the road adding gas.  It’s back in time and surreal, everyone in their groove now.

Later, I’m refuling as packs of historic machines blast by with an amazing sound of controlled fury.  The Hendersons especially, at speed, have this marvelous cacophony that sounds like a mix of a freight train and a sewing machine. When they go by in a group it’s insanely cool.  You just stand there in awe.  It’s truly amazing.

We stop at Lakeview, Oregon for lunch and the town is out again.  Some have driven a couple of hours just to see the bikes ride by.  One woman is outside her home waving an enormous American flag.  What a hoot, small time heros just a bunch of silly men having a time.  We don’t really deserve the accolades, but it’s fun.  I even do an interview for the local rag, trying, as always, to be a good motorcycle citizen.

We end the day in Klamath Falls and it’s good to get off a bike a continue to wonder at. My poor transmission is limping at best, but I know if bikes have a soul, this one does, and it wants to see the Golden Gate as badly as I do.

One final and epic surprize as an old friend Jim Perkins and his wife meet me at the hotel.  Damn, what a treat as they road few hours to greet me at the hotel.  Life is good, live it.

Long Road, Stage 10 and 11

A whole lot of Idaho.  Long, long runs without much but open range high desert and bald mountains in the distance.  Hypnotic.  Its nice in that there is nothing in a world full of a whole lot of everything.  Stops in the high desert are minimalist, gas, a shot of coffee and go.  Cold, cold mornings, slowly shedding layers and ending the day, every day, heading into a setting sun.

The bike is humming along, we’ve now finished 9 Stages in a row, but its impossible to know which will happen first, the end of the road and the end of our running bike.  They are like two lines that will intersect way out there towards infinity, and it could be tomorrow or hopefully the day after finishing in my San Francisco. My transmission and clutch are slowly desintigrating, every turn of the wheel one more turn less.  This late in the game there is nothing we can do about it but treat the bike very gently and pray.

At days end in Hines, Oregon with a large local and near local contingent to greet us.  Very nice, some even driving a few hours to see the bikes and maybe the riders.  The community puts on a nice bbq dinner in the parking lot, long tables and a few bottles of Bordigioni Estate Blend and Zinfandel.  Everyone seems to know us now.

Next its time to service the bikes, the nightly tune up with needed grease and adjustments.  Both bikes get a good once over from Marty and Chrys, and we all help in cleaning and getting done what needs to be done for the early send off.  Tomorrow only 230 miles, but I need to do them without shifting much and nursing the bike along maybe even slower than I’ve been going – putt putting around 45-48.  We are seriously going to finish this thing with maybe a mile left in my transmisson.  Down to the wire, all in, the Vegas kid has got to put it all on the line.



Stage 7, Murdo to STURGIS

On the road to Biker World USA.  If you don’t know anything about Sturgis, I guess the closest analogy would be Mecca for Muslims.  It takes a pilgrimage.  Over the years, 75 plus years, the town and South Dakota for that matter have come to embrace the wads of cash dirty bikers leave while vacationing on their bikes.  This area has even become a retirement village of sorts for like-minded souls who want long empty stretches of road, restaurants and bars that cater to them with a smile and an easy, kickback attitude about the life they’re living.

The ride itself was spectacular.  The group takes off in the classes from the hotel every morning, with the first class being the smallest displacement bikes, etc, and by the first gas stop we’re get pretty spread out.  This is an endurance race after all, not a speed race, and every rider knows his machine and that sweet spot where the bikes motors along almost effortlessly.  It’s critical in this vintage, you can’t push it, and I’m finding my sweet spot around 48 MPH, while Scott’s is maybe 50.  We separate a bit over the day, get it all evens out over time.

Have to fast forward now as we’re in Yellowstone.  Beautiful riding, obviously, bikes putt putting along in sweet bliss, all of it fab and maybe too good.  Bikes are broken in now and I’m amazed at the quality of the machine designed and manufactured almost 100 years ago.  Just think about it, the founders, the Harley’s and the Davidson, most definitely witnessed this machine leaving the factory floor.  Just fabulous.

Too much to say about how much of a gas this whole thing is, or I’d never finish a post, but the energy keeps building, and Team Vino keeps charging on, 6 finishes in a row and moving up to about mid-pack.  That’s all good with me.  I just like to ride the damn thing.

Chrys will fill in some photos tomorrow, and at the end of it I’ll fill in a bunch of road shots.  Thanks for being part of this epic journey.

One life, live it.

Stage 6, Spirit Lake, IA to Murdo, SD

This trendy notion of calling middle America “Fly Over States” is a bunch of uneducated BS.  Riding through Wisconsin and Iowa we traveled through some of the most beautiful farm country I’ve ever seen.  I went to college in Indiana, Purdue University, and I came to know and understand the simple beauty of a well maintained farm, the pride of ownership and how pretty gently rolling hills and patchwork farms can be.  We rode through gorgeous countryside in these states and it was a true pleasure.

One of the most delightful stops on this trip so far was the small town of Graettinger, Iowa.  After 200 miles of rain and then almost another 100 miles of howling, in your face wind, the little town was set up as a late day coffee stop.  At first I was a little irritated as we still had some 30 or 40 miles to go and the bike was humming along, and while humming you just want to ride, however, we did get off our bikes and the whole town was out to greet us.  Amazingly sweet with homemade cookies and everyone willing to hold this or offer water etc.  Small town America doesn’t get any better and it was truly memorable.

After crossing into South Dakota we had another 25 miles to Murdo and the end of another day.  The road, however, was by far the worst of the trip and quite possibly the worst I’ve been on, and that includes Cuba and South America.  To keep this hard-tail bike on the road and not crush my spine, I had to ride most of the 25 miles off the seat.  This is not easy ergonomically on a motorcycle designed for someone 5’10” at best, while this rider is 6’3″.  To compensate I underhanded grab the bars next to the headlight where it’s strongest with my left hand while my right stayed on the throttle.  I know I went both wheels air born at least twice and the rear wheel came off the ground every two or three seconds.  It beat my spin.  The funny part came after about 22 miles and just before the town of Murdo with a sign in the road saying rough road.  Really?

Three finishes in a row, and we’re slowly climbing up the ranks, but we have a LONG way to go.



Stage 4 and 5

We finish both stages.  Yea!  Bike running great now that all timing issues are resolved.   All day, ALL DAY, on the bike, then working on it at night and on and on and seriously I don’t have time to floss.  Seriously.   And I know that’s lame, but there isn’t time for anything but ride and work on bike and sleep less than you need by a long shot and then ride again.  Today, Stage 5, was way easy, relatively, as the bike ran strong and I had the confidence in it to not spend the day listening for odd sounds.  Just rode the damn thing, average speed about 50 mph, maybe a little faster than I should be going.  Ten hours and about 300 miles covered on a 1923 motorcycle.  Damn.

We went old school serious on the ’23, with no front brake and marginal rear breaks.  My transmission is leaking in a stream and the rear break and tire are getting soaked in tranny fluid.  At a short stop in country today, within a crowd of fellow Cannonballers, my rear break wasn’t going to stop me in time as a car comes about the corner in the lane I was going to take.  Only option was to Fred Flinstone it with right boot hard on the brake and left boot hard on the pavement, and damn if it didn’t work on this bicycle with an engine.  My boot, however, now has half the tread of the right one.

The best part of this road is the people.  Seriously.  I don’t even like people, but damn, these riders are making me reevaluate that.  Serious humanity here, serious talent and I’m just giddy to hang with the giants.  In this world, the motorcycling world, money, fame, none of that.  It means doodly.  Talent, wrenching talent, riding talent, all of it creates respect, not all the trappings of modern life.

I do bring my wine to our group dinner and certainly gain some cred.  You can’t deny good wine, talent, and pitty the poor fool who doesn’t understand that.

Tomorrow 320 miles.  Bad asses all.