Wow, lucky me, I am done with winter quarter classes and exams just in time to discover the MWWC8 writing challenge word: Luck. I am happy to participate with such illustrious writers and humbly submit my entry at the last minute.
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of attending the 30th Anniversary Celebration of the Walla Walla AVA. Seven men sat on the stage discussing their early years making wine, growing grapes and incubating one of the current world’s ‘Top Wine Tourist Destinations’. They said many times over how lucky they have been.
Lucky would be a single vintage succeeding, a single person making a go of making wine from red grape varietals that weren’t suppose to grow in our climate. Luck must like it here; these seven men, their families and many more like them (we have over 150 wineries and many independent vineyards locally) have been making world-class, award-winning wines for thirty years now.
Once, about twenty years ago, I had an opportunity to go to Long Acres, what used to be a horse racing facility. It was father’s day and many family members were present for the festivities. Typically not a gambler in any way I figured I could place one wager for the fun of it. The closest I had been to horse racing before this was helping my high school friend care for her horse when she went on vacation; not much of an education there. After flipping through the day’s race guide I decided on a horse, although at this point I can’t recall what made me think this was a good choice. When I got to the booking area I realized I had to decide what I thought this horse could accomplish (come in first, show – place in the top three, etc.). I made a choice, again, the rationalization is again gone from my memory. Back up to my seat I enjoyed visiting with out-of-town family and the lovely late spring day in western Washington. My wager was such a long shot in my mind that I hardly thought of it. At the end of that race, but a few minutes after it started I had won $200! That my friends is luck in my book – I couldn’t have replicated that experience again.
Back to Walla Walla’s budding wine industry and the ‘lucky’ people involved. They did the back-breaking work of laying irrigation lines, planting grape varietals that weren’t suppose to grow, tending these plants for several years without producing anything, eventually picking the fruit by hand, filling the destemmer bucket-by-bucket, foot stomping in those same five-gallon buckets to be sure all the grapes were crushed, fermenting, hand pressing with basket presses, barreling, hand-bottling, hand-corking, and hand-labeling. The materials they used, glass, corks, etc. had to be brought in from afar as Washington’s wine industry was too young to have local distributors or service available. They drove their wines to restaurants and stores themselves since there wasn’t a distributor that would take them on at first.. Walla Walla is not close to anything of real size in Washington and we are talking presently – thirty years ago there was even less!
These same lucky people had to work to get state laws to accept them, distributors to carry them and people to drink their products… while they were doing all the vineyard tending and wine making. A few hard freezes and some vines were lost, lessons learned, choices made accordingly; more planting and waiting.
The sharing of labor, equipment and wine set the stage for the present day industry; it’s all in the neighborhood. Stories of trials in the early years included overflowing tanks, split barrels, fruit spilled before getting to the winery, wine spilling before it made it to the point of sale – besides the frozen vines. Yup, lucky they were.
Observing these seven men the other night, you know they were raising their families, probably working ‘day’ jobs to support themselves and still they pursued their dreams and made their wine.
Are they lucky? Sure, they lived everyday with Lady Luck as a neighbor and the Leprechaun’s pot o’ gold coming with the next vintage.