Monday, May 23, 2005

So, you want to live in a vineyard...

Your in-laws marvel that you’ve ‘made it to the top’. Your coworkers are all envious. The corporate secretary asks how your spouse is, hoping to hear that you’ve broken up, so he/she can put the moves on you. That girl you had the crush on in high school hears the news and starts emailing you on the sly. Acquaintances from ‘back east’ want to know how many famous neighbors you have, how many winemakers you now know...
Your family’s already planning sleepovers at your gorgeous country estate without your knowledge.
So who are you? Retired Hollywood pornstar? No…
The latest cast contestant on reality TV? No…

You are…the proud new owner of a vineyard ‘trophy’ home in the heart of Wine Country.

Yes! You’ve made the escape, taken the savings from your high paying jobs and leveraged them into a fantasy house in California’s veritable Eden. You don’t care about commuting – it’s a price you’re willing to pay, both in fuel and time so that you can live a bucolic existence that others only dream about. If you’re truly the golden child then you get to telecommute…

Maybe it’s your retirement, the return to nature. The gentleman farmer’s retreat form technology and stress. Or your time to play fantasy winemaker with 2 tons of high end Cabernet every year in your garage.

Too dreamy?
Ok. Let’s look at some of the reality that you bought unknowingly with your new house…

“Honey, what’s that smell?”
This can sometimes be a fun game, if you’re blindfolded and the sources chosen are seductive and (ooops! Better stop here and save that line for another forum!)…
Anyway, this game isn’t nearly as much fun when it’s forced on you at odd hours of the early morning (think 3 AM) and the aroma ISN’T Pinot Noir…
“Bullsh*t.” you mumble, and try desperately to roll over and reclaim what’s left of your sleep.
Congratulations, by the way! Your guess was correct.

“Honey, what’s that noise?”
Similar to the above, only it’s not an aroma.
It’s a tractor. And it’s not going away for several hours.
(Other variations on this theme can be vineyard workers pruning vines, harvesting, leaf pulling, etc. You’d also be surprised how much noise frost protection sprinklers can make.)

“…is there anymore lemon Pledge?”
Dust. Disking, plowing, mowing, harvesting…all these operations happen when the weather is nice and warm…and you’ve probably left the windows open.
Pretty much any activity in the vineyard will raise some dust, which inevitably will deposit itself inside your beautiful home on your priceless heirlooms.
(BTW, lemony aromas help cover up the manure notes from the “what’s that smell” exercise.)

“I’ve got this rash, Doc…”
Pesticides and herbicides are also applied, depending on who’s growing the crop around you. Sulfur also is distributed through the rows (go back and play “What’s that smell?” again.)
There are periods after spraying some substances that you shouldn’t enter the vineyard. These can range from a day to several weeks, again, depending on what the substance applied was.
Not the type of thing you want your kids/grandkids playing in…

“I like to meet new people.”
Hope this applies to you.
If there’s a winery next door, then prepare to meet LOTS of new people, maybe a hundred thousand or so per year. If they have vineyard tours then get more Lemon Pledge, there’ll be even more dust.
Don’t be surprised if they show up in your front/back yards unannounced either (“We thought this was the tasting room…”). Plan on spending 3 hours a week rerouting people off your property. Even if there ISN’T a winery next door, people get lost and show up at your house anyway.

Nothing ruins that relaxtion you've worked so hard to get than a group of lost tourists showing up in your yard, looking longingly at your BBQ chicken...

“I hate parties…”
Good. You weren’t invited to the wedding/family reunion/ anniversary anyway. It’s not even your family/friends that are over there…all 200 of them. And they’re staying up dancing ‘til midnight. Then there’s concerts, and barrel tasting weekends, etc.
(Hope you got the 5 car driveway. You’ll be lucky if nobody’s used up all the spaces, or if you can even get up the drive to the house.)

“Bring it on!”
You’re a fighter! You're thinking it’s no problem. You’ll just call the cops. The Sheriff will shut these people down so you can sleep.
But maybe not.
It’s a good chance it’s in their use permit. And if it’s the vineyard operations you object to, then you’re even out of luck there too. Read the
Right to Farm information here. These ordinances were passed because of people like YOU who move in and expect the world to change to fit their expectations. This ain't the city, Bub. You don't like it? Then move back where you came from...

Don’t get me wrong! Living in Wine Country can be one of the most rewarding experiences ever…there’s good reason that people from all over the world aspire to this lifestyle.
It’s fan-frickin-tastic.

But ‘caveat emptor’ applies here. Look around and make sure you’re ready for it.
Because there’s NOTHING a local hates more than some city slicker showing up and thinking they’re going to make the country bumpkins change the area to their liking.
It’s the country. These are farms. That noise you hear incessantly starting at 2:15 AM everyday may be a wild turkey…or a rooster…or wild pigs roaming through the vineyard. And sometimes there’s mountain lions as well…
It’s called agriculture.
And ‘NO’ I don’t care what you paid for your house or how much you have to dust it.

And for Pete’s sake, TALK with your neighbors, people! Don’t jump on the phone to the Sheriff the first chance you get, you’ll only make enemies. Find out what’s going on. What they’re doing, how they’re doing it.
You’ll be surprised what a little common courtesy and civil dialog can achieve.
After all, your neighbors are people just like you…


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