We planted our first five acres in 1990. Most of our family and many of our friends helped us with it, from deer fencing, to planting, to training the vines and waiting what seemed an eternity for the first crop in 1993. We had a concern that other growers would not want to see new growers and would be secretive with their knowledge. What we found was just the opposite. From the first conversation we had with Ted until today, we are impressed with the openness of this industry and with the help and shared knowledge of growers and wineries alike. It's like a big family.
Our first planting was of four varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay (The Chardonnay was removed this fall). In 1995 and 1996, we planted a second five acres, all reds this time, as Merlot and Cabernet Franc were sought after varieties and grew well on our site. This spring we will plant eight acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and have an additional 15 acres to plant (our philosophy has been slow growth and to reinvest the cash back into the vineyard, this is not just a labor intensive industry, it is also capital intensive). Every grape we have sold has gone to Foris! Ever since Ted told us not to plant, we have had a great relationship with them. Winemaker Sarah Powell visits our vineyard several times a year. At harvest she comes out to taste the grapes and make picking decisions, but earlier in the year, she is also here to make suggestions to enhance grape quality before the fact. We work together to provide the best quality grapes we can grow so Foris can produce high quality wine for the consumer.
We believe in integrated production to provide for sustainable agriculture for generations to come. Weed control is primarily mechanical, insect control is via natural predators, and mildew control is primarily with sulfur, all of which serve to reduce the amount of chemicals going into the general environment and make the Earth a better place to live.
Villa Novia Vineyard - Orange Ave., downtown El Cajon, CA, 10:23 AM:
Suddenly there was a great commotion out in the street! Horns honking and someone was using rather colorful expletives in a most derogatory manner! Dashing out, I found our pigs had gotten loose, again! Two buckets of grain mixed with considerable pushing and shoving brought them back within the confines of our property. My husband looked around and stated, "we need a place where a more bucolic lifestyle is the norm." So we left San Diego heading north to Southern Oregon, land of soft winds, warm days, gentle rains, and open space.
Achieving the "more bucolic lifestyle" required forty acres of land, a barn, a chicken house, an acre of vegetable garden, a milk cow, a few ducks, and some cattle, "for business purposes."
The soft winds came in the middle of the night, replete with eighty-five miles per hour gusts blowing the doors off the barn, which let the cattle into the stored hay! Then the gentle rains turned into a flood that was only exceeded when Noah had to build the Ark! Chickens had to be rescued from the fruit trees; fences were destroyed letting our cattle out and the neighbor's cattle in! But, then summer came...with a vengeance! Day after day of temperatures of 100 degrees or more! Well… the 27-foot travel trailer complete with two adults, two children, dogs, cats and boxes of baby chickens took care of the "open space"! Where's my San Diego?
Then came the revelation. We said,"let's do something with that pasture that can't knock down fences and wander away, let's grow grapes! You know, put some cuttings in the ground, throw a little water their way and stand back. Well why not, couldn't be that hard now, could it?"
To make a long story short, that was 1982 and anything was possible. It is now 1999 anything is still possible. One just goes at it a little differently. Some of the grapes that were planted in 1982 are still around, while others, "the mystery block" seem to come & go on a rather regular basis. You learn to pay attention to soil types, irrigation techniques, frost protection fungicide applications, insects, deer, ground squirrels, hoards of birds (they usually come in flocks, but not in wine-grape country), and the many aspects of vineyard management.
But now that the dust has settled, and the right decisions have been made, there exists a beautiful vineyard consisting of five acres of Pinot Noir, soon to be ten acres, ten acres of Chardonnay, soon to five acres, and three acres of Pinot Gris. Time to kick back and enjoy that bucolic lifestyle…Hey, did you see that 100 acres for sale just down the road?
Epilogue - Villa Novia Vineyards is located near the small town of Selma, OR. Deer Creek meanders through a lovely valley ringed with forested mountains. Over the centuries, this creek has moved back and forth across the valley floor creating soil conditions that range from gravelly loam to rocks. Chardonnay loves the rocks. We enjoy warm days and cool nights. Bud break generally happens around the early part of April with harvest starting in late September to early October. In 1997 we instituted an intense nutritional program to bring balance between soil conditions and plant needs. That program is still in progress and working successfully. Plant spacing ranges from 11 by 7 feet to 10 by 6 feet. Production runs between 1.5 to 4.0 tons per acre depending on the age of the plants and the desires of the winemaker.
The lifestyle may not be as bucolic as anticipated, but is much enjoyed.