In the Vineyard with Dai Crisp
Once a leading man, always a leading man
by Amy Paul, January 22, 2008
Perfect timing and delivery is the mantra of many an actor, which coincidentally serves Dai Crisp, a classically trained actor well in his second career as the manager of Temperance Hill Vineyard. After spending a day in the vineyard with Dai, it is easy to see why he consistently receives a standing ovation from his crew, customers and community members.
Making our way north from Corvallis, we lumbered up the hill of the west Salem vineyard in Dai's vintage Mercedes army wagon, stopping briefly to discuss the pruning schedule with crew member and tractor specialist Brigido. The pruning regimen began a few weeks ago starting with younger white varietals and will move towards older blocks of pinot noir.
at right, Dai and wife PK....
We continue up the hill, and what initially seemed like a small vineyard opens up into a sprawling 100 acre vineyard hodge podge -- old vines and new vines, vertical shoots and draping shoots, pinot gris, gewurztraminer, chardonnay, and pinot noir, disparate row spacing, hilly spots and flat spots, watery spots and dry spots. Yet, somehow, Dai juggles all the idiosyncrasies with ease. Dai takes his time pointing out blocks of the vineyard that are contracted to Willamette Valley wineries and I begin thinking that Dai should have been a director instead of an actor. His clients range from the large and well known, to the independent newcomers.
We make our way back down the hill and stop to chat with the crew leader Javier. As Dai and Javier brave the Oregon elements (pouring rain) to discuss vineyard maintenance, I make my way into the utility shed to stay dry. As a cook, I overlook the very sturdy, and I'm sure very impressive farm machinery and harvesting equipment, to be immediately charmed by a makeshift tortilla warmer which has front and center space in the break room. Dai explains that the mostly Hispanic crew ingeniously fashioned the large propane fitted tortilla warmer by refurbishing a tractor disc and soldering on a few bits and bobs from the farm to form a community lunch attraction.
Below, Temperance Hill Vineyard (image by Dai Crisp)...
Dai has taken the time to buy new gloves for his crew and searched three farm supply stores for the right length of twisty tie to attach the grape cane to the wire. Other ties, though less expensive, take more time to attach and frustrate his crew members who will attach thousands of ties during the pruning season. Though this may seem like a small thing, his kindness and attention to detail has brought a loyal following. His crew has very little if any turnover, which provides greater efficiency and a higher training capacity which adds up to higher quality fruit at the end of the season. And it is not only his crew that respects his work. He is highly regarded by the winemaking community as well.
"Temperance Hill is a vineyard that is often overlooked by the press, but a great deal of really good fruit is being grown by Dai and going into some great juice ... I mean I share a side of the plot by Rick Mafit (of Mystic Wines) but loads of other people get some fruit from Dai ... St. Innocent, Bergstrom and the like which is being made into some fantastic wine." Chris Heider, 720 Wine Cellars
It is important to note that it is not just the crew and customers that benefit from Dai's gregarious and kind management. Giving back to the land is important to Dai. He is helping with OSU sponsored mildew research, which will hopefully cut down on the number of spray cycles in the vineyard. He farms organically, piling brush in every other row so the compactor tractor has less impact on the land. He ensures ground cover is managed to decrease soil erosion and he makes a continual effort to monitor change in the land.
His attention to detail has earned him an encore performance. Though the bulk of the fruit from the vineyard is sold to other wineries, Dai does see the fruit of his labor quite literally in the winery he runs with wife PK McKoy. Founded in 2000, Lumos Wine Company makes small batch pinot noir and pinot gris which showcases the hard work of in the vineyard and the payoff of organic farming.
For more information on Lumos wines please see: http://www.northwest-wine.com/Lumos-Winery.html