A Mutha of a Vintage


There is a gentle humility that comes with expecting and then delivering a baby.  Something intrinsic in your wiring switches and your life is no longer all about you.

Motherhood literally changes the brain.  There is plenty of research demonstrating how having children – even childbirth itself – changes a woman’s brain.  Did you know that after giving birth the brain actually grows?

There’s no question for me how important the prenatal experience was for my child’s early development.  Pregnancy did not happen without some external intensity for me – and, really, that was regarding my work.

I could not abandon ship during the most critical season – harvest.  I had to figure out how to see the 2018 vintage through while carrying my son in the second and third trimester, and miraculously get the white and rosé wines bottled weeks after giving birth while struggling through a difficult and painful recovery.

It wasn’t easy.  To be honest, it’s been a mother of a struggle.

Five months postpartum – and I have to maintain barrels of red wine, prepare for bottling the red wines, and prepare for the 2019 harvest.  My brain is narrowly focused on one thing – my son.

I don’t understand how any mother can return to a full time job during the first 6 months postpartum.  I am one of the lucky ones.  Being an entrepreneur means I create my own schedule – to a point.  As a winemaker, the seasonality of my work drives my schedule.

My brain is still fixated on the track of mothering.  It is a full time job – and then some.  Work-life balance is a challenge.  As an entrepreneur the business never really shuts down for you.  You have to create healthy boundaries to ensure you stay in business, that you are engaging and taking care of your customers, and, of course, keeping the process of production on schedule.

I was a little late in the game with bottling and releasing my white and rosé wines this year – with good reason.  Still, it made it more challenging for me to release and sell these important wines.  I am relying on my distribution partners to see the benefit in a later release with aromatic and rich Sauvignon Blanc and bone dry, savory rosé.  Truth be told, the 2017 vintage wines that are still out in the market are really tasting amazing at this time.  Holding off a little on releasing the 2018 vintage only means the wines will evolve and taste better with a little extra bottle age.  This is a good thing!

Still, bills need to get paid.  A delay in releasing and selling these wines means a delay in bringing in capital to pay for our production costs.  The dance between production schedule and related costs against sales schedule and bringing in capital for the business is complicated and stressful.  It never pans out just right and I’m constantly squirming to pay our bills on time.

This is stressful as a business owner.  Add pregnancy and motherhood to the mix – it’s pretty daunting and emotionally draining.

Something has to give.  And it’s not going to be at the detriment of my son.   I work hard to produce world class wine.  I’m confident that I am making among the best expressions of Cabernet Franc wines available anywhere.  But making wine is no longer my first priority.

I am taking some of the pressure off of me to perform perfectly.  2018 will be an exceptional vintage, I am certain.  But, I am awaiting a major learning point here.  I relinquished some of my obsessive tendencies regarding winemaking to care for myself and my son during this precious time.  I called on some help to see things through in the cellar.  I hired a part-time employee to do some basic cellar work for me – like washing tanks and topping barrels.  My husband came to the rescue a few times to check on and top barrels and to clean up our cellar space.

This is a big deal because for the past eight years I have performed pretty much every bit of the work load by myself.  It’s been an important lesson to let that go and get help, as needed.

To be a creator or a maker… and to follow a disciplined schedule… AND to evolve into a new mom – it’s no easy undertaking.  There are a ton of emotional ups and downs.  I even resented my business for quite some time.  I just wasn’t feeling it.  I even lost interest in wine while I grew my baby and began nursing him.

I feel like I owe others a piece of me, via my wine, and it gave me such anxiety as I struggled to work.  This was especially true during the weeks after giving birth when I had to prepare our white and rosé wines for bottling.  I was an emotional wreck.  My body hurt and a part of me didn’t care about what I was doing.

It was my husband who was my greatest cheerleader, who pushed and encouraged me to get things done when I didn’t want to work at all.

I’m coming around.  Working part-time feels right for me right now.  I will need to pull some longer hours in the coming weeks when we prepare our red wines for bottling.  Harvest will require a lot more from me and I hope I am up for the task!  I am currently pulling together a couple of smart, capable people I trust to help me out during the most intense part of the wine production season.

I am asking my kind customers, business partners, friends and family for continued support, patience and understanding.  I always mean to make thoughtful, expressive wines that continue to excite and engage wine lovers.  I am also a new mom trying to find my way.  Some days are harder than others.

Each vintage tells a unique story.

For me, 2018 wasn’t just about the weather, the season of wildfires, the climate and long growing season, the effects of global warming and having scrutiny over the physiology of the grapes coming in after exposure to an ever increasing warming pattern (note:  I write extensively about the effects of global warming on wine grapes, especially regarding the increased population of spoilage microorganisms, like pedioccocus bacteria, that come into the winery on fruit that is sustainably or organically farmed, and how I need to mitigate the start of my fermentations to ensure cleanliness, purification of fruit and eliminating spoilage microbes by creating an environment for healthy fermentations completed by desired saccharomyces cerevisiae yeasts with the goal of reducing byproducts, like biogenic amines, that can taint wine).

The vintage was about all of those things and how I navigated my work while growing my son – enduring many symptoms of pregnancy including edema, Braxton Hicks contractions, and exhaustion.  Even getting the calories I needed via holistic nutrition was challenging – but, I made it a priority.

I don’t know if the 2018 wines will be my best wines or not, but, they will be reflective of the major changes  that came along during my journey as a winemaking mother.  In the coming weeks I will be tasting through barrels and evaluating each lot and making decisions about what will be the final blends.  I am excited to see how these wines will transform over the next few years while I watch my baby grow into a toddler and little boy!















Not Another Mommy Blog


black hole with gravitational lens effect in front of bright stars  (3d illustration, Elements of this image are furnished by NASA)

This gets sorta sciency…

When I first decided to get back into blogging my intention was simple:  stoke some creative fires and recommit to a writing practice.

I never intended on writing a blog about a specific subject.  In retrospect, perhaps I should have had the discipline to be more focused with intention to draw in a larger and more dedicated audience.

Instead, my heart was elsewhere.  I wanted to cast a wider net to tackle topics that came to me at any given moment, topics I felt passionate about exploring and sharing, topics that spanned the vast range of my personal interests – art, travel, books, opera, microbiology, quantum physics and more!

I’m not a business-minded writer.  I’m not strategic about growing an audience or even getting paid via advertising – all which I am open to implementing in this, here, lil bloglet.  All in due time, I suppose.  But I wish I had more energy to run my blog like a business.  I wish I had more stamina to write!

I mean, I initially set out to write a few times a week.  It seemed like a good plan without over-committing myself to another responsibility alongside running my business, serving on a non-profit board, and being a new wife.

Then the baby arrived.

Days turned into a few weeks.  Weeks turned into a few months.  I have barely written a word.  My wide net of interesting things to write about quickly shrunk to one thing – being a new mom.

Lately I’ve been in deep with things I had never really thought about before giving birth, or, in some cases I never even knew existed.

The list includes:  the fourth trimester, placenta encapsulation, c-section recovery, diastasis, hip injury during labor, pelvic floor restoration, Mayan abdominal massage, postpartum depression, postpartum hair loss, postpartum pain, postpartum anemia, sleep deprivation, thrush, vasospasms, breast engorgement, breastfeeding pain, baby’s four month sleep regression, sleep training, teething, cradle cap, baby eczema, baby’s growth phases, and so on.  Yes.  There really is more.  A lot more.  No.  I’m not joking.

So it seems I’m writing a “mommy blog”.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  I read many of them!  But it’s not like I’m doing independent research, offering product ratings or creating any new material that hasn’t already been perfectly explored and shared online.  The mommy blogosphere does not need my additional three cents worth.

Then again I find community and normalcy in reading about different perspectives and experiences – because they (pediatricians, experts, moms, etc.) always say every pregnancy is different, every birth is different, every baby is different, every mother is different.  There are no two exact experiences with having a baby.  There is room for more consideration and contemplation.

So here I am in it.  Really in the trenches of it.  I am in awe and overwhelmed at the same time, all of the time!  I am experiencing the phenomenon called “mommy brain”.  I have a difficult time in conversations – especially when it comes to staying focused and remembering things.  I used to be an eloquent speaker and I took pride in my communication skills, especially regarding my work as a winemaker.

I recently conducted a private consumer tasting with my wines and I felt like a bumbling fool.  It was embarrassing.  I told my husband that was it.  No more pubic speaking for me until I get my brain back.  Then the fear sunk in.  What if I never get my brain back?!?!

I read a lot of blogs about new mothers creating a balanced life – especially those who are working moms.  After reading these blogs I’m typically reduced to tears.  Here’s why…

Something strange happened to me after I had the baby.  I lost all motivation to work.  I realize this is not atypical for a new mom.

I struggled with my relationship with my wine business.  The business became this chasm or void – or, maybe a black hole.  I intuitively dodged the event horizon so as not to get sucked in.  Because once you’re sucked into a black hole – it’s over.  The old theory was that once an object passes through the event horizon, then gravity pulls and stretches the object like a strand of spaghetti until it disintegrates.  Physicists have since revised that theory when they discovered you’ll burn to a crisp just by going through the event horizon.  So never mind gravity’s pull inside of a black hole.  You’re toast just from approaching it.

I no longer had the energy, desire or passion to run my business.  It was like I was a dying star:  my core was running out of hydrogen fuel, contracting under the weight of gravity.  My former business owner self had nearly collapsed.  I had no idea how to save my little star.

It feels horrible to admit this out loud and publicly.  But it’s also a huge relief.

Part of my departure from writing stemmed from the same lack of interest and motivation I had toward my business.  I’m sure part of it was because I was overwhelmed and maybe even a bit depressed.

It feels worse to admit that out loud and publicly.

I thought I was supposed to feel magical and peacefully content as a new mom – like a spritely mother goddess.  At moments, it does feel that way.  But many moments are quite different.

It’s difficult to navigate the new space of motherhood.  It’s difficult when you now orbit a tiny human being.  It’s difficult to recognize yourself or to understand your former self in light of this new space.  It’s difficult to be multi-dimensional – occupying two or more very important and encompassing spaces at the same time.

Time is relative.  And yet it slips away dangerously fast, so fast, in fact, that your ever changing baby makes you sometimes feel like you’re in a different galaxy overseeing a little alien creature that undergoes a swift and constant metamorphosis.  Your life begins to feel like science fiction.

I mean, pregnancy makes you feel like an alien host!  Birth makes you feel like an alien mother.  Postpartum life makes you feel like aliens have sucked out your brain.

So how do you grasp your new place in space, in time, in reality?

With a little light, love and laughter.  Right??

Right after my baby was born I watched and enjoyed a couple of pregnant comedians doing stand-up specials.  Ali Wong and Amy Schumer had me in stitches over pregnancy and new mom subject material – from mom brain and breastfeeding  to baby taking over your life.  If you don’t laugh about it you’ll cry.

If comedians tried to tackle this subject material on stage with fully pregnant bodies ten years ago they would have been shut down.  Today it works.  Women are getting more and more opportunities to speak up.  We’re normalizing the very things that had been open for judgment or shut down for representing the messiness of womanhood – things like menstruation, childbirth, breastfeeding, c-sections, advanced age pregnancy, birth control or postpartum depression.

But you can’t always laugh, or love, or find light in the difficult stuff.  When you are deep in it you do your best to survive – mostly on limited sleep.

Addressing the new mom role is important.  While it is a different experience for every woman it is still full of new feelings, emotions, judgements, ideas and realities.  And a gentle understanding needs to prevail when speaking about postpartum hormones, baby weight and body image, “baby brain”, depression and so on.   Especially when talking to a new mom.  Mommy shaming needs to stop and support needs to prevail.

I also want to share my experience regarding family and friends who have tried to offer up unsolicited advice – and keep in mind not every woman minds unsolicited advice.  Throw in hormones, sleep deprivation and the struggle to find your own way on your own terms – well, you might experience this differently than prior to baby.

I am not the kind of new mom that does well with others posturing their “expertise” and advice without my asking for it.  Personally, I think it’s important to give a new mom her space to figure out her new role and her child.  Boundaries should always be respected!  This can be especially challenging with parents and in-laws who are excited to be grandparents but might forget that they already had their turn to parent – it’s now the new mom’s turn.

For me, the general rule for my tribe is to wait to be asked for help or advice and to not take things personally.  Friends and family shouldn’t be offended if they’re not asked for help or advice.  Not to be disrespectful, but it’s not about them.  New momma is growing and developing her own way.  Besides, I had already established my personal circle of advisors to help me out – I have an incredible doula who continues to help me beyond my child’s birth, I have an amazing lactation consultant, and my son and I have an amazing team of doctors!  I am in a mom’s group that has given me invaluable support and advice – mothers who are in it with me or have just gone through it.  Their perspective is fresh, current and applicable!  This is just one other area of space that needs to be carefully and thoughtfully established for the postpartum mom.

If we did a better job as a society in talking about the postpartum woman, from healthcare to the workplace, then things would be a lot easier.  The postpartum period is mostly ignored – to the point that follow up doctors appointments are in plenty for your newborn but not for you.  I had just one appointment after six weeks of major surgery to deliver my son.  And my pain was mostly ignored.  It’s no wonder so many new moms feel invisible, broken and, yes, depressed.

Don’t even get me started on maternity leave in this country.

So what do you do with all of this newness?  How do you navigate all of this unchartered territory in your life that now requires you to explore and inhabit it?  I tried reading new mom guide books, articles on parenting, and spiritual books on what it means to be a mother and how to find passion again in your work/career after having a baby.

Then I stopped trying to figure it all out.  I put my energy and focus on my baby.  And I tried to implement some self care via my recovery – thankfully gifted to me in a postpartum healing and wellness package my mother bought for me.  For that, I was lucky.

The wellness treatments included warming acupuncture (with cupping and my favorite – moxibustion – and a heat lamp), postpartum massage, Mayan abdominal massage that really helps with c-section scar tissue, and new mother chiropractic care which addresses the recovery from a pregnant body and all those hours of neck strain from looking downward when nursing.  Restoring your body and being mindful about your postpartum experience is a major step in healing physically and mentally.  This should be available to all women.  Sadly, this practice is non-existent in most places.

As for what I could do for myself?  I gave myself a break.

I decided it’s okay to be lost in space when it comes to my business.  It’s alright to not write blog posts while I’m figuring out feeding and napping schedules and everything else.  It’s just fine to coast along like a satellite floating in one direction – forward.

I still have to run this business.  The wine does not make or sell itself.  I still have to be somewhat present.  I’m open to allowing myself to fall in love with my work all over again – after I spend this special time falling in love with my baby.

In being present with my changing world I’m exploring what it feels like to let go of the notion that my business used to be the most important thing outside of my marriage.  Journaling has helped me in that exploration.

While my business isn’t at the center of my universe, it’s kind of like a really important galaxy with its own solar system.  It still deserves my attention and care.  Learning to ask for more help has been key for me.

There are so many great resources for new moms.  Joining a local new moms group was very important for me.  It gave me a real sense of community and space to rant so that I’m not always dumping things on my husband.  He’s great and is always there for me to dump away.  It’s just nice to have another place to go, too.

My health insurance offers excellent counseling for new moms.  I started to take advantage of that.  Talking to a professional about your feelings helps clear your head of negative thoughts and anxiety, and confronts potential postpartum depression.

Motherhood is a journey.  And it is okay to question who you are as you evolve as a human.  Finding tools that help you navigate your new world is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family.

There are services and groups for all socio-economic backgrounds.  You just have to do some research for what resonates with you and then reach out to the universe for the help you need.

Mommy blogs aim to help other moms in the thick of it.  While I’m not committing to a single subject blog of ongoing mothering topics, I hope this blog entry is helpful.  At minimum, I hope my perspective and experience helps to expand community and foster some normalcy for other new moms.









Springtime on the Farm


March 24, 2019

It seemed natural to relocate to Newberg, Oregon in September.  We were five months pregnant, about to start our eighth vintage of winemaking, and ready to plant seeds and put down roots for our newlywed life.

Our son was born in January.  We hibernated all winter during his fourth trimester and planned for our year ahead – for our homestead, our wine business and our child’s life.

As spring is now opening up beautifully like the delicate, sweet scented blossoms of our hazelnut and pear trees, we are already reaping the benefits of our decision to live in wine country.

Here, there’s a spirit of doing things the hard and true way – following tradition, putting in an honest day of work, taking one’s time to follow the natural flow of one’s environment.  It’s easy to slip into the comfort zone of convenience, modernization and innovation to work smarter not harder.  And I certainly take advantage of some of those tools with running the operations for my business.  However, at home there seems to be a gentle ambiance allowing for something else, something that invites us to harken to the natural, slower rhythms of our farmstead surrounds.  We have a stunning hazelnut farm on the other side of our fence that leads the eye up to a panoramic view of the Chehalem Mountains – a place where world class vineyards thrive in the southeast facing sun.

Down here, in what the locals know as the Chehalem Valley, we have fragrant dirt, gentle breezes, various birds that co-mingle, and lovely roads that meander up into the hills.  It’s a pretty little place on the way to other significant wine country surrounds like the Dundee Hills and Yamhill-Carlton AVAs (American Viticulture Areas).

We have found our perfect little “acre farm”, as we call it, and it has been a blessing to wake up to a cool, dewy field with low hanging fog stretched out and into the rolling green rise of the Chehalem Mountains.  It is as quiet and gentle as the misted rainfall.  And when it is bright and gleaming from sunbursts it a pastoral sight fit for a storybook.

Sowing seeds and planting something real – a garden, a dream, a life – is something you cannot exist without once you’ve committed to it.  I’ve grown to love my husband and myself in new ways – an unexpected harvesting of the feels.  It’s purity is like the star material in the soil, since all matter was created from the death of stars.  It feels cosmic and relative.  Certainly a gift that keeps giving from the universe.






































































































































































































































































































































































































































In Memoriam of Mary Oliver



Collection of my correspondence with poet Mary Oliver

Among my greatest treasures collected over the years are the postcards and letters of correspondence I had received from poet Mary Oliver.  At the time, they were mostly purposeful in assisting me in my application process for a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing – Mary had agreed to be a reference for me.

Mary Oliver was generous with her students.  I had the rare privilege to be among the small group of women she taught at Sweet Briar College in Virginia in the mid-1990’s.

back jacket

I enrolled in Mary’s first offered workshop at the college – a class on writing metrical poetry.  I wasn’t familiar with Mary’s work, but I needed to fulfill an elective credit requirement and it sounded like an interesting option.  I was very nervous heading into the classroom for the first time.  I loved literature and writing.  I wrote poems throughout my adolescent years but I doubted those poems were any good.  I lacked confidence in my ability to write and questioned if I belonged in the creative writing classroom.

The classroom was small with only about eight students enrolled – mostly upper class women who were majoring in English and Creative Writing.  I was intimidated.  Mary came into the classroom like a dove, wings lowered softly, wispy grayish hair that had been tousled by the breeze that flowed through the dell in the center of campus, a gentle and quiet way about her.  She passed out a few handouts with famous metrical poems – sonnets by Shakespeare, Petrarch and Elizabeth Barrett Browning; quatrains samples by Coleridge, AE Houseman an Gwendolyn Brooks, a villanelle by Elizabeth Bishop; ballads by Keats and Poe; and more.  We discussed form and meter, and did exercises in pencil over the lines of these famous poems to show the five types of meter – iambic, trochaic, spondaic, anapestic, dactylic.

A budding writer studies metrical poetry of the great poets the way an art student copies works of the masters.  You learn from copying the greats.  And if you stick with it you just might become one of the select few who become masters creating a unique style for future generations to someday copy, too.

I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I signed up for Mary’s metrical poetry workshop.  After the first class I realized I was in trouble.  Mary’s expectation was that we would complete eight or so finished metrical poems that had to be true to form, meter, rhythm and she pushed us to not be lazy with our words, but to be selective, even obsessive about the words we put to meter – she believed we could all make these poems  beautiful.

At the end of the semester, I completed my eight or so poems.  For weeks I struggled in my dorm room with my homework of trying to write metrical poetry – far more than I struggled with my homework for my honors chemistry course!  It was far more challenging to stick to the formulas of writing metrical poems while being selective with my words and striving to create something beautiful.  I ended up putting more time into this one workshop for an elective than any other coursework that semester.

Over the following summer, when I was back home working part-time, I received a letter in the mail from the college.  It was a congratulatory letter informing me that my poem – a villanelle I had written in that metrical poetry class – had been awarded first prize in the annual college competition sponsored by the Academy of American Poets.  Huh?

Mary had submitted my poem, The Dogwood.  I was shocked to learn that my poem had been entered in the contest and dumbfounded that it had actually won!  I received a nice letter from the Academy along with a small prize stipend of $500 – I think.

When I returned for fall semester, I enrolled in another poetry workshop with Mary.  I wanted to take advantage of her short tenure as writer in residence at the college.  As it turned out, I ended up changing my major from Chemistry to English and Creative Writing.  Truth be told, something happened while I was working so hard on writing those eight or so poems for Mary’s metrical poetry workshop – the challenging work took over, the obsession with finding the right words defined my intellectual growth as a college student.  In the process I had found a voice I never knew was there – the voice of a writer.

I enjoyed all of Mary’s poetry workshops – all that were available before she disappeared and moved on from our campus to teach elsewhere – she went on to teach at Duke University.  I kept every version of the poems I submitted for class that came back to me with her signature hand written notes thoughtfully expressed in pencil.  Mary always used pencil.  You would see her walking meditatively around campus with her notebook and a pencil – that was how she wrote.  It was her process.

When it was time for me to graduate from Sweet Briar, I had no idea what I wanted to do.  I had been encouraged to apply for my MFA in Creative Writing.  So, I worked on a handful of applications and was delighted to learn that Mary wanted to be one of my references.  I was humbled by her kindness and generosity.

We had exchanged postcards and letters for a short time between my graduation and applying for graduate school.  I have those postcards and letters carefully tucked in my signed copies of Mary Oliver’s poetry books, stashed like precious relics on a special bookshelf.  Every now and again I open up her books and take out the letters and postcards and reminisce about the first time I attempted to write a metrical poem.

I had lost touch with Mary over the years.  I never went to grad school for that MFA – I wasn’t ready.  Life took me down a very different path.  I landed in Oregon, my dad’s home state, and worked in the wine industry.

On February 5, 2008, Mary came to town via programming scheduled by Portland Literary Arts .  I bought a ticket and sat so far up in the nosebleed section it seemed surreal from the days when I got to occupy space with Mary in a tiny classroom with just a handful of other students.

lit arts

I had written a letter to the director of Literary Arts explaining I was a former student of Mary’s and hoped I could arrange some kind of visit or moment to say hello.  At the time, I had taken poetry workshops with local poetry royalty – Kim Stafford, Paulann Petersen and Peter Sears – so, the magic of the universe worked out in my favor and the director invited me to attend the reception following Mary’s reading.

I only had about ten minutes to catch up with Mary.  It was lovely to see her again.  I was just happy that she still remembered me.  She asked if I was still writing – and at the time, I was.  I had earned a scholarship to attend Summer Fishtrap where I took a poetry workshop with Peter Sears; and I had enrolled in various other workshops – one at the Sitka Center for Art & Ecology at the Oregon coast with Kim Stafford and one at the Writer’s Dojo in Portland with Paulann Petersen.

Fast forward to the present.  I was at the hospital following the birth of my first child on January 15th when I learned Mary had passed away on January 17th.  I was so heavy in recovery and painkillers that I could not process the fullness and depth of this sad news. When I got home from the hospital I was in deep with the baby blues.  I pulled out a few of my Mary Oliver books, read a few favorite poems, and cried.

I harbor some regret for not seriously pursuing the MFA.  I loved the process of writing poems.  I don’t write poetry anymore.  My life has become consumed with running my own business, making wine, and now caring for a newborn.  For years I have been telling myself that when I retire from making wine I would wear my hair in a long, silver braid and dedicate my crone years to writing poetry.  And while that seems like a good life goal, there’s an undeniable void for having forsaken my literary dreams.  To be honest, a part of me just gave up.  It’s difficult to publish work and make a living as a poet.  I just didn’t see it as a reliable option.

My big question – I wonder what Mary would say to me about timing, process and revisiting a writer’s life in a later chapter.  My gut tells me she’d advise that I get back to writing – if only for myself – to rekindle the love, to stoke the fires of creativity, to pick up where I had left off, to be gentle and kind with the process, allowing it to manifest.

Mary wrote a poem called the Fletcher Oak while teaching at Sweet Briar.  This poem is iconic to the Sweet Briar community – mainly for those of us who attended college while the stately Fletcher oak tree was a fixture on campus.  Sadly, a few years after I graduated, the Fletcher oak had to be removed because it was diseased.  The tree lives on through Mary’s poem.

Fletcher Oak is poignant for me as I consider my studies at Sweet Briar, as I revisit my past as a poet, as I lament the passing of the writer.  The following lines hit home:

I don’t know if I will ever write another poem.  I don’t know
if I am going to live a long time yet, or even for awhile.

But I am going to spend my life wisely.  I’m going to be happy,
and frivolous, and useful.

And there I received my answer.

FletcherOak Photo of Fletcher Oak courtesy of









































An Exploration of Self Healing

Image courtesy of doTERRA (


One of the worst conditions following childbirth was a case of a painfully numb thigh.  I endured a long (traumatic) labor beginning with early labor for two days at home with manageable contractions, followed by 24 hours of “active” labor at the hospital that led to 3 hours of pushing until my baby stopped descending and would not pass through the pelvic bone – you could see my baby’s head – which made me believe I would successfully push him for a normal vaginal delivery.  Unfortunately, after several grueling positions of pushing, baby was not budging.  The doctor and nursing staff prepared me for a C-section surgery.

Somewhere within the 24 hours of active labor and pushing I asked for an epidural.  And, of course, that line was used to anesthetize me from my tummy down for surgery. I was given morphine and other pain killers that ended up with alternating rounds of Ibuprofen and Tylenol.

I had been retaining a bit of water in my ankles and feet during my last trimester – normal edema.  In the hospital, with the introduction of intervention medicine to induce labor, my legs swelled up a bit more.  When I returned home after surgery, my legs were painfully swollen with fluids from pregnancy, hormones, and childbirth.  They felt tight and somewhat numb.  Over the course of a few days, the swelling went down, the water retention went away, and my left leg felt totally normal.  My right thigh, however, held on to the numbness for days.

The numbness became one of the worst experiences of my healing and recovery story.  It prevented me from getting much needed sleep to heal.  It felt like tinnitis or some other annoying tick that just wouldn’t go away.  I started researching online numbness in the thigh following childbirth – with different experiences associated with epidural, c-section, or childbirth, in general.  I then polled my Facebook friends to see if other mothers had experienced either temporary or permanent numbness from an epidural or C-section.  I had so many responses that it made me feel less paranoid about my own numbness.  Most said they had experienced temporary numbness in a leg and most said it lasted anywhere from several weeks to a couple years!

At this point, I wasn’t concerned with what caused the numbing aches.  I just wanted relief.  I had tried to be patient with my recovery – they say it takes a minimum of six weeks to recover from a C-section.  But, I was recovering from what was more like two birth experiences – my son making it through the birth canal and then a C-section.  I was a swollen, sore mess.

After a week, much of my swelling was subsiding.  I was beginning to feel a little bit better.  The numb leg was making me crazy.  Finally, I tried ice packs at night to see if it would help.  It did not.  I agonized over the thought of having this linger for months or even over a year.  I tried a heating pad.  It did nothing.  Finally, after two and a half weeks had passed since giving birth, I pulled open my bag of doTERRA essential oils.  I had one in particular that I though might be soothing – a proprietary blend called “Aromatouch”.

Now, there are clear warnings to consult your doctor before using essential oils with pregnancy or breastfeeding.  So, I am not advocating that every mother start slathering up the doTERRA oils for relief.  You need to know what you’re using, what risks are involved, if any, and what contraindications are involved, if any.

I used a small amount to massage into my numb thigh – a couple drops by my knee, a couple more near my hip.  I rubbed out my numb thigh for about ten to fifteen minutes.  I slept that night.

In the morning, my leg felt better.  The numbness was still there, but it was dull.  I don’t know if it was the massage, the oil blend, or the combination that eased the numbing pain.  All I know was that it felt better.  I walked around my house more to stretch out my thigh, get some circulation.  I had been drinking copious amounts of water to assist in breastfeeding, and was eating thoroughly nourishing and nutritious snacks and meals to make my former nutrition school instructors proud.  I was taking high quality, food based, organic prenatal vitamins, fish oil for omegas, vitamin D and a probiotic to supplement my diet.  I was making the best choices I possibly could for healing and nourishing myself and my baby.

The next evening, I added one more application of the doTERRA “Aromatouch” massage oil with a vigorous ten to fifteen minute thigh massage.  Again, I slept that night.

It’s been a couple of days and the numbness is barely there.  Certain sitting positions seem to aggravate the tissue, but then I’ll get up and walk it out.  It is still there, but it is very dull and at times unnoticeable.

The image above lists the ingredients in the doTERRA “Aromatouch” blend.  I wasn’t sure if any of these oils specifically addressed nerve injury.  So, I looked up nerve damage (neuropathy) and essential oils.  The following essential oils have been long associated with addressing nerve pain: Roman chamomile, peppermint and lavender.  Both peppermint and lavender are in the “Aromatouch” blend.

Peppermint essential oil is attributed to relaxing muscles, controlling muscle spasms and acting as a pain reliever.  Lavender is attributed to improving sleep and acting as a pain reliever, but, recent studies suggest lavender plant extract produces an anticonvulsant and anti-spasm effect.

I’m not one to sware by essential oils.  I believe they have their place in healing and wellness.  But, I also believe individuals need to work with their regular healthcare providers – doctors, naturopaths, acupuncturists – to ensure safe use and dosage.





Winter Has Come


I took a hiatus from this blog.  Once I got into the thick of Harvest 2018, while in the second trimester of my first pregnancy, I lost the ability to think outside of the demands of bringing in grapes, processing grapes, fermenting grapes, pressing grapes and putting nascent wine into barrel for winter hibernation.

Winter is my season.  I was born in the midst of an ice storm in Havre de Grace, Maryland in the month of January, after all.  I love snow and staying home to stay warm.  But, this year, as harvest wrapped up and the holidays came along, I felt a sense of melancholy.  This was the first time I had missed spending Christmas with my family – ever.  It’s bad enough that I don’t get to see my family enough.  Missing our family traditions made me feel alienated in our quiet, little farm abode in Newberg, Oregon.  I missed my family.  I missed the Christmas traditions that I looked forward to sharing with my family:  driving through the neighborhood to look at the Christmas lights; the Italian tradition of the feast of the seven fishes on Christmas Eve; Midnight Mass; Danish smørrebrød on Christmas morning; watching my young niece and nephew enjoy the magic and wonder of Christmas morning; enjoying the cozy togetherness, the simple art of hygge (the Danish art of coziness); and going out for the annual holiday movie with my siblings (specifically the blockbuster sequel genres of Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars).

I had to miss going home for the holidays because I was 36 weeks pregnant and unable travel across country by airplane.  And while many friends in my social media circles tried to console me and remind me that I have my own home now and my own family – a doting husband and a baby on the way – I couldn’t shake my winter blues.

While there’s nothing like going home for Christmas, it turns out that my many friends in my social media circles were right.  Traditions can be edited, families grow, and life goes on.  My sweet husband worked hard to ensure my winter – and the holidays – were still warm and cozy.  They were different, but no less special.  We had Christmas Eve dinner with his father, aunt and cousins; we attended Midnight Mass at the beautiful Grotto in Portland; he made us a beautiful Danish smørrebrød on Christmas morning; we quietly opened up gifts that were all for our soon-to-arrive baby; and, on New Year’s Eve we had a magical dinner in and set off crackers that sent brightly colored streamers to adorn our Christmas tree while sipping on Champagne, and then we slow danced to Auld Lang Syne.  It was all perfect.

I got my wonderful winter.  My birthday came along and my husband made a perfect Coq au Vin which we paired with a special bottle of 2011 Clos Roche Blanche Cuvée Pif.  This wine is significant for several reasons.  For one, I made my first wine for my business in the same vintage – 2011.  Clos Roche Blanche was the inspiration for the first red wine I ever made – my Oregon “Tour Rain” Vin Rouge – which is 40% Gamay Noir and 60% Cabernet Franc.  The 2011 CRB was born to go with my husband’s Coq au Vin.  It was nice to finally sip on some wine without repulsion during this pregnancy.  It was like falling in love with wine all over again!

As these annual markers and milestones passed, we were closer to delivering our baby.  On the weekend of our 38th week gestation we decided to take a last minute “babymoon”.  I got the green light from my doctor and we packed up for a much needed respite up on Mt. Hood.  We arrived at our friend’s quaint cabin in the snowy village of Government Camp.  We enjoyed precious time together – just the two of us before becoming three – cooking lovely meals, my husband building the best woodstove fires, playing rounds of gin rummy, snuggling, taking easy walks in the snow, and then snowshoeing a moderate trail for two miles on our last day on the mountain.  I was proud of myself for snowshoeing at 38 weeks pregnant!  It felt wonderful – my joints opened up, the fresh air was like medicine, and the snowfall was a welcome peace.  Our babymoon was winter jubilation.

The following week, I began early labor at home.  Winter had come.

After two days of early labor at home, we checked into the hospital for a light induction.  More than 24 hours later, after active labor followed by 3 hours of pushing, and a baby not passing through the pelvic bone, we were carted into surgery for a C-section.  Our beautiful baby boy was born on January 15th.

For a winemaker, this is the perfect time to have a baby.  The barrels were getting topped, as needed.  And plans for bottling the white wines in March have already been made with minimal work to do beforehand.  My husband was able to take off four weeks from work so that we could create our little fourth trimester cocoon.  We have been cozy at home, our Christmas tree still up (and quite a hit for our newborn’s gazing delight), sleeping, napping, breastfeeding, and eating nourishing, comforting winter foods – rich yellow lentil soup, beef chili, lasagna, baked sweet potatoes, southwest hash browns with farm eggs – our refrigerator and freezer prepped before heading to the hospital.  And, many of our friends in the wine business helped us out with a meal train – bringing restaurant quality foods and groceries to our front door.

We aren’t leaving the house and we aren’t opening up the door for visitors.  We are using this time to nurture and protect our newborn, allowing me to heal from both pushing in active labor and a c-section, and using this time for family bonding.  We are also in the midst of a measles outbreak in the greater Portland / Southwest Washington area – which is causing a bit of panic for many of us with babies under a year old who cannot get vaccinated.  It’s crazy, but suddenly it feels more like 1819 than 2019 with mostly anti vaxxers’ children under the age of 10 getting sick, but, putting babies and immune compromised people in danger.

Sign of the times, I guess.  The world seems crazy!  It is why I take even more comfort in staying home with my husband and baby for a winter hibernation.  It is quiet, healthy and perfect.  I am activated to write more in the few precious moments when I can sit down while the baby is sleeping, sip on some hot tea, and give my patient, sweet cat some attention.  I have a lot on my mind right now – mostly about parenting and processing a traumatic birth and dealing with the physical discomforts that come with healing from childbirth.  So, the blog will reflect what’s going on in my mind.  Eventually, it will turn back to winemaking thoughts and nutrition and living on our sweet farmstead in Oregon wine country.  There’s plenty of time for those things.  We are very much in the moment now, and that reflects mid winter, some solitude and the earliest days of caring for a newborn – with all of its beauty and wonder.  Yes, I got my wonderful winter.





Rekindling My “Death of Stars” Essay



Every winemaker has an a-ha moment.  Mine came about when I saw an unexpected pile of rocks in one of the vineyards I work with in the Rogue Valley.  Embedded in several rocks were ancient marine shellfish, fossils and shell imprints that date back to a subduction that happened off of the Pacific coast about 250 million years ago.  From this discovery, I began researching the dirt and geology of Southern Oregon, learning from historical state documents going back to when Oregon was still a territory with a mission toward statehood – documenting natural resources that would help determine Oregon’s value as an addition for state status – resources like lumber, fishing, mining and farming that would provide jobs for its citizens and create wealth for the state.  I learned about the limestone quarries that spread throughout Southern Oregon.  These discoveries excited me and validated my choice to make Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc and Malbec from this soil-rich region.

I waxed poetics about these incredible soils in a newsletter a few years ago, highlighting the 2015 harvest season…


ONE of my hobbies is learning about Quantum Physics. I think I may launch a second label someday dedicated to the phenomena of energy, relativity, and the universe. Until then, I continue to marvel at the mysteries of the universe and how everything is connected. Astrophysicists credit the formation of all matter on earth to the death of stars. That’s right. We’re all made of stars. And, everything around us originated from stars.

Carbon, nitrogen and oxygen atoms are in our bodies, and in all matter on earth, along with atoms of all other heavy elements, which were all created in previous generations of stars over 4.5 billion years ago. All organic matter containing carbon was produced originally in stars, and the universe was originally just hydrogen and helium, so the carbon was made later, over the course of billions of years.

“The material from a supernova eventually disperses throughout interstellar space. The oldest stars almost exclusively consisted of hydrogen and helium, with oxygen and the rest of the heavy elements in the universe later coming from supernova explosions,” according to “Cosmic Collisions: The Hubble Atlas of Merging Galaxies,” (Springer, 2009).

And, here we are, star material beings, looking at star material liquid in a star material glass. Everything is connected.

When I walk through vineyards, my eyes are all over the place. Mostly, they’re gazing downward at the earth. I love exploring the vast landscape and geology of Oregon’s young wine regions. Though our vineyards are nascent compared to the Old World, what makes some of our soil series special – especially in Southern Oregon – predates some of the soil series formations in Europe. That said, I have recently made an exciting discovery. I hadn’t previously considered the soils where I source my grapes from as anything more than clay loam soils. Admittedly, I was somewhat disconnected. Easy to be when you live five hours away. But, this year I discovered one of the vineyards I work with has very similar ancient oceanic material to that of the Loire Valley. Not just in theory. I literally stepped into this discovery while doing my usual rounds in the vineyard. It’s no coincidence that I found my way down south to produce wines inspired by my favorite region in France.

So, how is this all connected? Let me back up about 100 million years ago, to what was known as the Upper Crustageous Period, when much of the Loire Valley was under ancient seas of the Paris basin during the time in pre-history known as Turonian. In the Middle Loire, near Anjou, chalk layers were deposited. This rock, called Tuffeau, is chalky limestone which is made up of Bryozoa – marine organisms which lived in masses of floating colonies. Exposure to air cemented these deposits by iron and magnesium oxides – valuable elements added to the soil. When mixed over time with sandy and flinty clays, over millions of years, the Tuffeau has created these nutrient rich soils perfect for vineyards.

When I walk through vineyards, my eyes are all over the place. Mostly, they’re gazing downward at the earth. I love exploring the vast landscape and geology of Oregon’s young wine regions. Though our vineyards are nascent compared to the Old World, what makes some of our soil series special – especially in Southern Oregon – predates some of the soil series formations in Europe. That said, I have recently made an exciting discovery. I hadn’t previously considered the soils where I source my grapes from as anything more than clay loam soils. Admittedly, I was somewhat disconnected. Easy to be when you live five hours away. But, this year I discovered one of the vineyards I work with has very similar ancient oceanic material to that of the Loire Valley. Not just in theory. I literally stepped into this discovery while doing my usual rounds in the vineyard. It’s no coincidence that I found my way down south to produce wines inspired by my favorite region in France.

So, how is this all connected? Let me back up about 100 million years ago, to what was known as the Upper Crustageous Period, when much of the Loire Valley was under ancient seas of the Paris basin during the time in pre-history known as Turonian. In the Middle Loire, near Anjou, chalk layers were deposited. This rock, called Tuffeau, is chalky limestone which is made up of Bryozoa – marine organisms which lived in masses of floating colonies. Exposure to air cemented these deposits by iron and magnesium oxides – valuable elements added to the soil. When mixed over time with sandy and flinty clays, over millions of years, the Tuffeau has created these nutrient rich soils perfect for vineyards.

Likewise, another oceanic soil series with ancient shellfish fossils is Falun – sedimentary rock formed from marine deposits laid down during the Caenozoic era, about 60 million years ago. Thousands of tiny shells, crushed or whole, are generally mixed with sand and clay to form ancient marine soil series. Falun is common in the regions of Touraine and Anjou, in the Loire Valley.

falun loire
Falun sedimentary rock with ancient marine fossil, Loire Valley
photo courtesy of C. Henton,

Cabernet Franc grows well on the cretaceous chalks of Saumur, and throughout the Loire, as does Sauvignon Blanc, and the other many varietals that make up the varied vineyards in the region. There are more grape varietals planted in the Loire than any other region in France – Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay Noir, Grolleau, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Melon de Bourgogne, Chardonnay, Menu Pineau, Pineaud’Aunis, Pinot Gris, and Romorantin. The soils and climate are perfect for such variety.

Let’s skip a stone across the pond to Southern Oregon. A few weeks ago, I was navigating a handful of the vineyard sites where I source my grapes, and, after walking through a unilateral trellised block of Cabernet Franc vines new to my program, my tour guide and grower, Michael Moore, of Quail Run Vineyards, LLC, pointed out a large pile of rocks. I wondered what that pile was about – at first, it looked like a bit of an eye sore – debris from clearing out a field for new vines.

rock pileOcean bottom rock pile, Crater View Vineyard Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon

As we approached the pile, it took me just seconds to see the treasure he was excited to share with me. Right smack in front of the pile was a slab of rock with small white inflections feathered and embedded into the surface. It was an ancient marine fossil!

marine fossil in rock
First impression – ancient marine fossil in ocean bottom rock –
excavated in Crater View Vineyard, Rogue Valley.

I nearly fell over in excitement! I was like a giddy kid in a candy store! I climbed up the 10 foot high rock pile and explored every large and small rock – in hopes of finding a small enough sample with a shellfish imprint or fossil to take home with me – no luck. The few rocks found with beautiful prehistoric fossils were too big to move.

Michael showed me a few more rocks with crustaceous imprints. He looked at me very seriously, then, and explained these rocks were 250 million years old! That significantly predates the soil series we’re talking about in the Old World. We’re talking about rocks from the time of the dinosaurs!

He pulled out his phone and played a recording by one of the state’s geologists, Scott Burns, who is a professor at Portland State University. Burns was speaking specifically about the geology in nearby Talent, Oregon, but, as part of the same soil series and the same range of what’s in both the Rogue and Applegate Valleys.

These rocks were all originally from the bottom of the ocean! The blue rock in one of the photos I took (posted here) is blueschist. There are three types of original terrain in Southern Oregon that include volcanic rock, ocean bottoms, volcanic muds, and islands. Eventually, the terrain was uplifted and turned into limestone (as in the Oregon caves), and the rocks formed were mostly blueschist and phyllite.

The gray blue rocks here are blueschist rock from the bottom of the ocean,
literally pushed into the modern landscape of the Rogue Valley from the off-shore Cascadian plates that moved 250 million years ago!

These metamorphic rocks are found in orogenic belts, which are associated with subduction zones which consume crust, produce volcanoes, and build island arcs. The formation of an orogen is part of the tectonic process of subduction, with two scenarios, where either a continent rides forcefully over an oceanic plate, or where there’s a convergence of two or more continents, creating a collision. In the case of the Pacific Northwest, and what we were looking at, we’re talking about the first scenario.

The processes of orogeny can take tens of millions of years and build mountains from plains or the ocean floor. Imagine the Cascadian fault line, or subduction zone. This is the area along the coast where two plates meet – the Juan de Fuca, and the North American. This has been in the news recently, due to predictions that the Pacific Northwest is due to expect an 8.0 – 9.0 earthquake from the movement of these two plates along the Cascasdian subduction zone sometime in the next fifty years.

The rocks we were looking at were pushed up as a result of a tectonic subduction that happened about 250 million years ago, forcing ocean rock up into what’s now the Rogue and Applegate Valleys. When this part of the Crater View Vineyard we were in had been recently cleared for new vine plantings, the pile had been examined, and the fossils and imprints had been discovered.

mollusk shell in rock   shell imprints
Ancient shellfish fossils (left) and imprints (right) in 250 million year old ocean
bottom rock from the Pacific Ocean. Excavated from Crater View Vineyard.

How is blueschist a connection?  Because limestone is one of the blueschist facies.  In the Loire, sedimenary rock soil series includes several rocks, including sandstone and blueschist.

Ancient marine rock, blueschist, limestone, sand and clay, shellfish fossils and imprints… there’s something connecting these two places. There’s a reason why there are so many wine grape varietals planted in Southern Oregon – much like the Loire Valley! There are real connections here – even if simply just an idea, or something as complex as the universe connecting people, places, and moments. And, isn’t that why we drink wine – to connect people, places, and moments? I looked at Michael and I think we both had stars in our eyes.

As I stood on that pile of ancient marine rocks, looking around at the beautiful vineyard where I get some of my Cabernet Franc, all of my Malbec, and now all of my Sauvignon Blanc – I felt connected to the universe in a new way. The stars made all of it. But, the earth pushed and pulled itself into these beautiful craters, volcanoes, ranges, valleys. The earth took its star material and created habitat and life. And, it did so in a majestic tapestry of both unique and similar forms. For the first time, I felt validated for my crazy decision to focus on Loire style wines. The whimsical name I borrowed from my friend and colleague, Herb Quady, means everything to me now. Loiregon. We’re not in the Loire, we’re in Oregon. But, the two places are connected. And, it’s not simply because I wanted there to be a connection to justify my intuition to craft Loire style wines here in Southern Oregon. It’s bigger. I now see why I was meant to make Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc from this place, and in a style that reflects the glinting mirrored ancient star material from the Loire.

The first pick of the vintage came in on Monday, August 24th. The Sauvignon Blanc from Crater View Vineyard has nearly completed fermentation – and is already showing much like a PouillyFumé – with its creamy texture and hints of gunflint or smoke, or wet straw, and then floral notes of elderflower and jasmin, and flavors of flint, lime zest, melon and grapefruit. The Cab Franc from Mae’s Vineyard is on queue for delivery this week for the limited edition Blanc de Cabernet Franc.

I’m happy to announce I’m now making my wines at Raptor Ridge Winery in Newberg, a nice and easy close drive from my home in Southwest Portland. Delighted to be in this beautiful space among wonderful friends.

It’s been a very good start for my first milestone – here’s to the Fifth Vintage!