Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wine, The Mob, & The Church

By Justin



One of the interesting facts about downtown Lodi, CA is that there is an underground tunnel system that connects many of the bars, stores and restaurants together. In studying the history of Lodi, I've learned that these tunnels were in place to move alcohol underground during Prohibition between 1920 - 1933. Today, secret sidewalk access points are still used to give easy access to delivery of goods to these bars, restaurants and stores. Pretty interesting stuff!

During Prohibition, Lodi was the supplier of grapes for wine that would be produced in Chicago. Lodi’s downtown area has a train system that transported grapes from Lodi to Chicago under cover. Chicago is where Al Capone managed a successful business called "the Mob" that imported and sold beer and wine during the 1920s. Capone's mob made $60 million a year. His mob was a source of great wealth and attracted violence from competing mobs who wanted in on the action.

History Lesson:
In 1893, Reverend Hyde Russell founded the Anti-Saloon League (ASL), a group whose motto was "the Church in action against the saloon." By the late nineteenth century most Protestant denominations, and the American wing of the Catholic Church, supported the movement to legally restrict the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. These groups believed that alcohol consumption led to moral corruption, prostitution, spousal abuse and other criminal activities. By 1920, the 18th Amendment, deemed "the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages in the United States and its possessions" illegal. (Thank you Wikipedia.) Instead of drawing people into a closer relationshp with Jesus, this "religious" movement ultimately caused even more violence and corruption as "the Mob" gained power and influence.


Even though Prohibition has been over for nearly a century, in many conservative Christian circles, this negative view of alcohol consumption has remained. It is fascinating to me that this Prohibition-influenced perspective really only stems from one scripture in the Bible (Proverbs 23:19-21) that says: 


"Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path: Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags."


Now, don't get me wrong. This passage is full of wisdom, because drunkenness can sometimes lead people to do stupid things that hurt themselves or others, not to mention, alcoholism is a real disease that can harm individuals and entire families, but when was the last time you heard an evangelical pastor talk about eating too much meat? Not me!

Why this matters to us?

The reason I'm writing about this is because Beck and I find ourselves in a weird paradox that I would like to explain. Beck and I are two people who went to college, are Christians, love Jesus, live in wine world, drink a little wine, have never been drunk in our lives (truly), and find ourselves living on a vineyard, growing grapes for one of the biggest wineries in the world, and trying to launch a gift and wine company. Given our conservative church background we have struggled with thoughts of "are we doing the right thing here?"

We decided to go to the Bible and see what it says, and not listen to a mediator, pastor, author or denominational views on the subject of drinking. Over the last few years our ears have become much more attuned to mentions of wine or vineyard-related parables in the Bible. We find them throughout the New Testament. As I really started seeking out wine-related scriptures, I discovered that many of Jesus’ biggest moments in life involved wine. Jesus’ first miracle was creating water into wine at a wedding reception. Jesus’ last supper with his closest friends involved eating bread and drinking wine. Jesus’ last moments with his disciples were in a vineyard where he said, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” He referred to his father as the farmer or “grape tender.” When Jesus was carrying his cross he was given wine. When Jesus was on the cross he was given wine vinegar. It says in Revelation that God is the "great wine maker" and someday we will have wine and celebrate with Him in heaven.


When I began to see how important wine was in Jesus' days, I suddenly became free of the thought that alcohol is "bad" and realized that this notion that I received growing up in the church is really the result of Prohibition’s influence, not anything actually rooted in Biblical authority. Despite this new revelation, I still had the question of, why wine? Why God am I in the wine business? Why is wine special to you? I believe God still speaks if we stop long enough to listen, so I asked Him this, and He answered me with another question, “What is wine?” I thought about this. “Wine is the derivative of rotten grapes made into a drink.” Then I got my answer. Jesus takes the rotten things in our lives and creates something delicious with it. Something worth celebrating. This happens when we come into a relationship with Him. God likes wine because it’s a reflection of who He is.

The Prohibition movement wasn't wrong, necessarily, but they were wrong in their approach. You cannot get people to become more "Christian" through righteous rules and Bible thumping. It's only when they get to understand who the righteous one is that transformation takes place. For us, we believe that happens when we get to know Jesus.

Have you ever thought about what God does for a living? I believe He is in the business of taking our rotten grapes and making us into delicious wine. Not because we deserve it, but because God is love and He loves us. Jesus is also the inspiration for Fête because He is our source of joy when we feel like we can’t choose it anymore. When the bad days or bad news comes, we still find comfort and a reason to celebrate, because we put our trust in Jesus. All we have to do is decide each day to choose Him. 

That's our heart, friends. We know that many of you have different philosophies on life and God, and we may not agree on everything, but I hope we can all agree on one thing - life is precious. Let's celebrate it!

PS: PLEASE BUY SOMETHING @ Fête Today


-Justin & Becky

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Introducing...




Fête [fet] 
(n):  Celebration, party, or festival
(v): To honor or lavishly entertain someone 

For as long as we can remember we’ve found reasons to celebrate even the most mundane accomplishments. This has been a cornerstone of our marriage. When Justin was in real estate we would celebrate every stage of the transaction. We joked that by the time we actually got paid for a deal we had “celebrated” all of the money away. (Good thing our celebrations are always fiscally responsible.)

We also celebrate when times are rough. This philosophy has become so central to our family’s culture that every time we experience disappointment, our go-to joke is “how are we going to celebrate this?” We figure that if we can celebrate when things are great AND when things are bad, we can find contentment and joy in all things. We don’t always get to choose our circumstances, but we do get to choose how we respond to them.

 Fête is a gift and wine shop that we hope encourages people to live lives full of celebration and joy. We hope that you will choose to support this vision by purchasing some of our products and helping your friends, families, clients, and colleagues choose joy in the everyday.


We are not guaranteed tomorrow, but we can fête today! 

Here's how you can help!

1. Check out our website and product selection. Consider doing some of your holiday shopping with us! Since we are just starting out, this first run will be done on a pre-order basis. This will allow us to find out what products you like and which ones we shouldn't invite back. Orders should be placed by November 15th. We will ship everything the week of December 1st.

2. Tell your friends! Help us spread the word about Fête, You can earn rewards points by referring a friend. Once your points add up, you can score major discounts on products.

3. Like us on Facebook and Instagram. /FeteToday

4. Stay connected. We plan to roll out several new features after the first of the year, including item personalization. 

We are excited to launch this new adventure. We hope you'll join the party!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Stuff We Haven't Told You

posted by Beck

The Last Year

As you may have noticed, we've been a little MIA over the last year. Here's what you've missed:


 
We took out about 10 rows of grapes on the front of our property to make it easier to stage everything at harvest time.

We planted 15-20 fruit trees along the back of our property.


We took out 300-400 dead vines and planted new ones (they take about 3 years to produce).



We officially became growers for Mondavi's Constellation Brands.

We attended Woodbridge Winery's "Blessing of the Grapes." Mrs. Mondavi gave a brief address and a local priest gave the blessing while 100 or so growers and winery workers looked on. It was a surprisingly moving experience.

We built a barn.


JP made a really amazing garden that we pretty much forgot about all summer. We had some killer cabbage, tons of squash, tomatoes, and peppers and we didn't eat most of it because we are never home. Story of our life.



We had to put our cat down. It was really sad.

We had a major mice problem. (We killed 16 in the house over the course of the summer. This was almost as sad as losing the cat.)

We got two feral kittens who we "acclimated" to our family inside the house for about 6 weeks and then transitioned into outside cats. (They're still not totally happy about this.)



There was a drought in California. The main impact of the drought was that everything happened earlier. We pruned earlier and we picked earlier.

We found out that our grapes would be sent to Ravenswood in Napa. That means in about 18 months you can drink a glass of Ravenswood petite sirah and say, "I know where these grapes came from..." with some authority.



Due to a capacity issue at the winery, our grapes were picked about 10 days later than they should have been. This was super stressful because we watched our awesome crop get sweeter and sweeter (which also means lighter and lighter) and start turning into raisins.

We decided to try harvesting by machine. It was a significant cost savings and a very different experience because they started at dusk and worked until the early morning hours. There are pros and cons to this method of harvesting and we're not sure we're going to do it again next year.



And...drumroll please...the 2014 crop was... 17.4 tons. Kind of a disappointment. We were expecting twice that amount this year, but hey, that's farming! (Reference Point: Year 1 = 8 tons, Year 2 = 2 tons, Year 3 = 28 tons).

What does 17 tons mean financially? It means that we can cover our expenses, but not much else this year. (Aaannnnddd, that's why we have day jobs.)


We celebrate everything, even lackluster harvests, so we went to Chilis (because that's all we can afford...but it beats being on a Taco Bell budget, right?), went big and ordered dessert.

What's next...



The vines get a bit of a reprieve until January when we prune and the process starts all over again. Here's to a wet winter!

JP and I are launching a new online business! Something we are very excited about. We hope you'll like it and want to help us get started! We hope to tell you more about it by the end of this week when our site goes live. We can't wait to see where it leads us.


Stay tuned...



Friday, September 19, 2014

A Tale of Two Goats

 

posted by Beck

I've wanted to share this story for quite awhile, but thought it might come across as insensitive, so I didn't. Now that several months have passed, I've decided to post about it anyway because the story deserves to be told. I do still feel kind of bad and I apologize in advance if this story hurts the heart of the sweet friend who gave us the goats.

Goat #1:

Last November, (I believe it was the day before Thanksgiving), we woke up to find one of our goats dead in its pen. It was very sad and we weren't sure what had happened, but we didn't have time to really deal with the issue because we were headed to work and then down to my in-laws for the holiday. JP had to be back at work the day after Thanksgiving, so he left me in charge of figuring out what to do with the goat when we got home.

I began by researching my options online. Burial was an option, but the grave had to be dug several feet underground. Calling a farrier to take it away was another suggestion, but that one could potentially cost a couple hundred dollars that we didn't have, nor want, to spend on a dead goat. Then I discovered that I could take the goat to the local landfill if I followed certain protocols - double tarping the body before taking it over. I called my friend Sarah who grew up on a ranch and asked for her advice. She confirmed that the landfill option would be the best way to go and offered to come help me later that day if I needed it.

I tried to pretend that I could do it myself. "You'll be so bad ass if you do this Becky," I told myself. (Sometimes my mental pep talks involve swears.) I even pulled a tarp out of the garage and dragged it over to the goat and eyeballed the best way to get the goat onto the tarp with minimal hand to goat action. Ultimately I couldn't figure out how to do it without actually putting my body against the goat (which was super stinky and kind of oozy at this point).

I just couldn't do it.

I went back in the house.

I texted Sarah. Please come. I need some moral support.

Sarah pulled up in the drive way and got out of the car. Let me tell you, she was all business with this goat. I stood there tee hee'ing like a school girl while she grabbed a roll of duct tape and her work gloves, walked over to the tarp, grabbed the goat's legs, hauled it onto the blue vinyl and then started wrapping the tarp around the body without hesitation. "Grab that end," she directed, tightening the tarp and pulling off a strip of duct tape and wrapping it around her side of the goat. "Now hold it here," she said pointing to my end of the tarped body as she pulled off another strip of tape.

Tarping complete, we hauled the body into the back of JP's pick up truck, so I could take it to the dump.

*Side Note: Sarah just told me that when she got my text she was chatting with her Uncle (who happens to live around the corner from us.) When she told them she had to run and "help Becky with that dead goat," apparently they just nodded and took it as a perfectly acceptable reason for her to leave in the middle of the conversation. #farmlife

The next morning, I drove the goat down the road to the dump, paid my $11, went into the offloading area where two guys pulled it out of the truck bed, made some crack about me not hitting any more animals with my car, and threw it into the pit.

Mission accomplished.

Total cost $18 (This includes a $7 car wash because it left some ooze in the back of JP's truck and I wasn't touching that.)

We weren't sure what caused the goat to die. We checked the hay to make sure it wasn't moldy and then just went about our lives thinking it was a fluke.

Fast forward a few weeks...

Goat #2:

A few weeks later (right before Christmas) around 10pm we heard one of the two remaining goats braying (is that what goats do?) loudly. It was clearly in distress, but we couldn't do much for it at 10 o'clock at night and an emergency vet bill for a pygmy goat was NOT in our budget, so feeling kind of bad, we went to bed. The next morning we realized there was definitely a problem. JP called our neighbor who works for a large animal vet and she agreed to take the goat with her to work to be checked out. The vet wanted to do a blood test to determine the problem. JP agreed. Ultimately were were told there was no guarantee the goat could be saved, even if we tried treatment, so JP decided to have it euthanized.

Total cost:  $250

Merry Christmas JP.

Now that I write it all out, I know why JP did what he did, but I sure as heck haven't let him forget that my dead goat only cost $11 and his dead goat cost $250. Believe me, I'm going to leverage that bit of information for many years to come.

Conclusion:  If you are wondering how in the world we managed to kill not one, but TWO goats, here is the answer. It had to do with their feed. Goats are known for their strong stomachs and can pretty much be fed any old thing. We were treating our goats like royalty and feeding them alfalfa. Apparently castrated male goats should not eat rich foods, like alfalfa, because it causes a hole to develop in their urethra, which is all kinds of bad (I'm not sure of the details - Google it) and then they die. According to Sarah, even the farmers and ranchers in her life had no idea something like this could happen. That made us feel a little bit better about ourselves. The remaining goat (the female) continues to live on our property.


Monday, October 21, 2013

About This Dog


posted by Beck

We've mentioned this a few times, but yeah, we got a dog. Here's how it went down.

Back in June JP called me one day after work and told me he wanted to go and look at a dog that had wandered onto a friend of a friend's property. The people had waited a couple of weeks, done their due diligence and no one claimed the dog. They weren't able to keep her, but wanted to see her go to a good home.

"No," I said.

"I'm just going to go look at it," he said.


"No dog," I repeated. "I will divorce you." (I realize one should make light of the "D" word, but I was semi- serious.) I did not need another thing to take care of at this point in my life and, to be honest, I'm just not a dog person.

He proceeded to woo me with his usual JP-ness until I gave him permission to go see the dog, but was still adamant that there would be no dog coming to our house.

A couple of hours later, the boys and I were at my in-laws discussing the dog when I learned that JP has sent his dad a video of the dog sitting, laying down and shaking hands on command. I watched it, aaaaannnnndddd, I have to admit, I was impressed. The in-laws were encouraging. This was a free dog. A free, trained dog. A dog who would absolutely live outside or in a crate and would bring us protection.

You know how this ends. We got a dog. A dog who sleeps on the floor of our room or our children's rooms and NOT outside, in a crate, OR in the laundry room as previously agreed upon. A dog who wakes ME up when she wants to go outside at 3am because I am on the side of the bed closest to the door and the lightest sleeper (I'm convinced that moms of small children don't get REM sleep).


All that to say, she's an amazing dog. A German Shepherd. Probably 3 or 4 years old. She's super mellow, rarely barks, and has a remarkably strong bladder. She's great with the boys (and the cat) and we love her. JP has stayed true to his word. He cleans up all the poop and takes care of most of her needs, and when I occasionally whack him on the arm in the middle of the night to tell him HIS dog needs to go out, he usually does it without grumbling.

And, I have to admit, I really do like having her around.

 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Bounty - Harvest 2013

posted by JP

This just happened to be on the window of LJ's classroom today.

Beck wrote this last week:
 "JP and I are both speechless. This morning the pickers arrived for our 3rd harvest. As we watched them start picking and loading the grapes into the bins our excitement built. This may actually work this year. This crazy adventure we started on a little more than 2 years ago may actually start to pay off."

It says in the Bible that "the harvest is plenty, but the workers are few." That verse applied to our life quite literally this year. Growing up as a city boy I always applied the standard Christian evangelical meaning to that verse. Today as a farmer it takes on a whole new meaning.


Some of the many wonderful workers who came out to pick!

10 days ago we found out that our grapes had reached the necessary sugar level and were ready for harvest! We were ecstatic! Then... I got a call from our vineyard manager who said he didn't have enough workers to pick our grapes. Major buzz kill. So, I started to make calls to other vineyard managers only to find out that everyone was swamped and low on manpower this year.  Not something you want to hear when your grapes are ready and rain is in the forecast. (This time of year rain can wipe out a crop and leave you stuck with no income and a bunch of bills.) All that to say, yes, this year that verse had an urgent significance to it.
But, we serve a big God, so with a little prayer and support from our great partner at Gallo Family Wines, we found an elite vineyard manager in our area who agreed to come harvest our Petite Sirah grapes and we gained more favor in the wine world. The crew ended up having to work an EXTRA day because we had more grapes than anyone anticipated!


Equipment all tucked in for the night waiting for Day #2


Doesn't everyone have a porta-potty and a semi trailer in their backyard?

To give you an idea of the significance of this year, let's break it down. We bought our house in August 2011. It was a foreclosure property that had little care for several years. We harvested two months later and produced 8 tons. The next year we hung on for dear life financially and did major work making up for years of neglect, only to produce 2 tons of grapes in 2012. That was one of the hardest days of my life, trying to find meaning and hang on for another year.

                   

Beck told me earlier this month that if we didn't get a good harvest this year then maybe we should use that as a sign that this life was not the Lord's will for our family. Well, He heard her and physically showed us that we are in His will and blessing. This has been a real growing year for us as we've seen first hand how, when you live life in close relationship with Jesus, in the moment when you're not sure how things are going to work out and you're broke and have a pile of bills to pay, God comes through in a big way! This has been evidenced to us in more than just grapes this year, but that's not why you're reading right now.

So, without making you wait any longer, we are proud to announce that we produced 28.4 tons of grapes at 25.35 sugar this year. The minimum sugar level we had to hit was 24 and we exceeded that mark by over a degree, which is significant in wine world. We produced 6.3 tons of grapes to the acre. And we believe that with some key changes and some more expert help we can increase our yield and quality significantly for next year.

We've been learning that in life when you work hard, take risks, surround yourself with good mentors and experts, and ask the good Lord for favor, things come together and you see rewards for your efforts. It says in the Bible that God is the "Lord of the Harvest." Well, we can testify to that in more ways than one!


The sound of these babies going into the truck was music to our ears!


If you asked me ten years ago if I thought I would be a banker by day/farmer by night, or if I thought I would get up in the morning and gather fresh eggs from my chickens and enjoy my morning coffee overlooking my vineyard, I would have said you were crazy. I am glad life has not gone as planned, but that's why we put our faith in the adventure of walking with Jesus. He never promised it would be an easy journey, but it's definitely exciting.


Our biggest blessings helping out on one of the tractors. I think OSHA might take issue with the lack of footwear.


Beck and I think the world of blogs and social media has created unhealthy self-reflection of comparing your life to the lives of others. The thing is, your life is your adventure and your story and it doesn't compare to the journey anyone else is on. This one happens to be ours. Thanks for reading and sharing in our adventure!


Bye grapes! Go make some really great wine!


Monday, October 7, 2013

The Lost Chicken

Posted by Beck


It has been awhile since we had a good story to share. I think this one fits the bill.

As I was walking into a staff meeting at work this morning I happened to check facebook on my phone (oops) and saw this post. You can see the conversation that ensued below. Just another day of living in the country.



My favorite is the guy who chimed in there in the middle. I was glad I wasn't the only one who thought the whole thing was funny! Thank goodness for sweet neighbors (and their kiddos!)

Oh, and sorry for all the tacky paintbrush marks. In the tug of war between my Gen X vs. Millenial tendencies, Gen X tends to win in terms of Internet privacy. Is that an oxy-moron?