Oct 2, 2012 11:19 PM by Jeanette Trompeter and Hope Hanselman
It's harvest season and a lot of vintners are working to get grapes off the vines and into barrels. And they all have their own way of doing that. But one winemaker in Templeton takes a very unique and old-school approach to the process. And it's more proof There's No Place Like Home.
The vineyard at Pipestone Winery isn't a real big one for northern San Luis Obispo County Wine Country. "10 acres doesn't sound like a lot but it turns out to be a lot of work because the organic work is a lot of hand work and it takes an extra amount of time. It's really just us. We do all the work." says owner Jeff Pipes.
And for Jeff and his family, it's plenty. "My wife is actually from Hong Kong. She grew up in one of the most densely populated places in the world. I don't think she ever expected to end up on a farm, let alone a vineyard and a winery."
Transplanted in Templeton, Jeff and Florence planted the seeds of what became Pipestone Winery and the whole process has been a labor of love. Harvest is no exception. It's all done with tender loving care. "So if your using a tractor on it you're constantly driving over the exact same spot, that compacts the soil, and changes the structure." says Jeff. In their mind, modern machines seemed too rough to for use on such extraordinary terrain. Something more harmonious to the roots of this area seemed more appropriate.
About seven or eight years ago they decided to switch to horses. They are Jeff's Employees of the Month. "This is Bobbi. They are sisters - full sisters - Bobbi's the older girl so she's about three years older than Betty." he says. The kids think they complete the family.
"I had always wanted horses. I didn't expect to actually get them though, so when my dad got two huge horses, I was in fourth grade and I was super excited." says Grace Pipes. "I wanted a guinea pig." says Gwen.
The horses put in long hours. "They really do two things in life well: eat, and work." says Jeff. Slow and steady, row by row, cultivation in the spring and collection in the fall.
"They know the job better than I do in many ways, they've got it figured out, and they do their thing." Are they more efficient than tractors? Doubtful. More Valuable? Definately.
"My girls love them, Jeff loves them you can tell." says Florence. "He's driven me to my friends' houses (in the wagon), he takes like an hour, but it's fun." says Gwen.
So in a business where so much depends on the right timing, Bobbi and Betty could be a tough sell. "It's a little bit slower, it's more precise actually, the equipment is different, and of course the equipment is all hand operated." says Jeff. "Every time I give them a bath it's like cleaning five cars." says Grace.
Yet on this piece of Central Coast Wine Country, it seems right in sync with the harvest ritual. "It's really the way people have farmed since the beginning of time, and so all those sounds and sights I think are part of the human experience. And I just love it when I see them working and it's quiet and all you hear is like gee, haw, stop back up girl." says Jeff.
More proof, there's No Place Like Home.
Pipestone vineyards does Rhone varietals. They'll be harvesting for the next few weeks but won't make wine until December. Jeff says the fruit was perfect this year.