2018 Pinot Noir "Ocean's Ghost"
For the last 15 years or so, I have been struggling in my vineyard with Pierce’s Disease. It’s caused by a bacteria that, in a nutshell, clogs up the vines’ vascular system. Once infected, the vines die within a few years. Making it particularly challenging is this winged insect called the Sharpshooter. In Napa, for example, they have the Glassy-winged Sharp Shooter, while here in Santa Barbara County we have the Blue-Green Sharpshooter. The problem is, these bugs carry the bacteria on their mouth parts, and when they land on the leaf of a grapevine to feed, they infect the vines with the disease. At my peak 20 years ago I was farming 80 acres. Now, with Pierce’s disease I am farming only 12. But that’s OK; in fact my wife Lisa calls it, God’s Council.
“What’s he trying to tell you?” she asks. The answer is, I am being encouraged to take a break from farming, which is exactly what I have needed in order to have the time to do some of the other things in life that I really want to do. While I will always be farming at least a little bit of something somewhere, there are things that I need to get on with; things like planting 1,000 oak trees to create a forest around the perimeter of our property; things like mastering butterfly habitats through the integration of certain flower and milkweed species. Plus, letting someone else grow my fruit is also allowing me to try new all kinds of new vineyards and new grape varieties, which is something I always love to do. I am getting to the point in my old age that if something is no longer fun, I’m letting it go, and taking a break from farming is commen- surate with that.
So, here we are with my 2018 (blocks 14 & 15) Ocean’s Ghost Pinot Noir. Is there some Pierce’s Disease in blocks 14 & 15? Yes. So the way I look at it is to appreciate the fact that I got this far with these almost 40 year old vines. They are still out there giving me everything they’ve got. And in 2018, they gave me oh-so much. The wine is dark, rich and magnifi- cent. Think earth, think cherries, think liquid legacy.
Will there be another Ocean’s Ghost after this one? Well, as I write these notes, I am farming the next, and probably the last, Ocean’s Ghost Pinot Noir. The vines that are still productive out there look great, and I gave them a big drink of water to get them through the mid-August heat wave that we are having. In the end, I am sure I will be glad I asked the vines if they had one more unforgettable wine in them.