Our thirty year journey

Our story starts in 1989, the first post "Meeting Jim" lays out the framework for the events that follow. The subsequent posts will build on that narrative.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Burnt Vines

During the summer of 1991,  David Garcia our live-in vineyard worker sulfur dusted the grape vines in 100 degree weather. When I heard, I went out to see the damage and it looked like a war zone in the vineyard. I began to cry. I thought it was the end of my ranch experiment. I would not be able to continue to operate the ranch, the crop was gone, my family was right.

Over the next days, the  grapes that were burnt shriveled up and underneath there were many more bunches of grapes that hadn’t been affected.  This disastrous act turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The Zinfandel and Chardonnay vines had been overcropped and the sulfur only burned the exterior grapes; once they shriveled up and died and the rest of the grapes underneath were exposed, they flourished and we had a good harvest. In fact, we had a bumper crop of Chardonnay and we weren't able to sell it all. 

Although we were still under drought conditions in 1991, we had some rain and the vines were able to benefit from that rain and produce a good crop.

Jim and Susan get Married

In early 1991 my family had lost their patience with Jim’s and my ranch experiment.  They began looking for ways to remove us from the ranch.  It started with a March meeting with my Dad, Stewart and Anita at the ranch. They wanted to know what our plans were for the ranch.  It was at this meeting that I announced that Jim and I planned to marry sometime in the fall. No one said a thing.  Graham later heard about our plans to get married and was the only family member who wished us well.  


In mid June my mother came up to the ranch unannounced with potential purchasers who ran a vineyard acquisition group, and Graham joined them for a tour of the winery and property.  It was an extremely uncomfortable situation, especially since my mother made it clear to them that Jim and I were interlopers and told the group in our presence that Graham was the real winemaker. So Jim and I retreated to a hill nearby and waited for my mother and her entourage to leave.  I was worried that the family would try to find a way to move Jim off the ranch, so we decided that we should get married right away.  


The very next Monday, Jim and I went to the Napa County Courthouse and got our Marriage License.  The court gave us a list of people who could marry us, so I got in a phone booth and started calling people on the list. The attorney who married us was the first to answer his phone. His office was right across from the courthouse. He ushered us in and showed us a binder of marriage vows.  We read through them and picked a simple but well written ceremony; according to the lawyer who appeared amused, it was the shortest of his marriage ceremonies. He married us and his legal secretary was the witness.  I cried because it was beautiful and meaningful and I was in love. That evening we celebrated at Piatti in Yountville. Then we came home, folded laundry, made love and went to sleep.  The next day Jim took off for L.A. to sell wine.  About two weeks later I had cards made announcing our marriage.  I called my dad before I sent the announcements, so he would not be surprised. (He and my mother were divorced and he had remarried.)   I didn’t inform my mother and I heard later that when she received the announcement in the mail, she was so upset that she stayed in bed all day.