A personal perpsective of life in our Virginia vineyard... Christine Wells Vrooman



Raindrops and Fireflies

Simple Pleasures

I just stepped out onto our second floor deck, wet from the passing of a thunderstorm.  We are surrounded by the forest, and even though the rain has moved on, the sounds of falling raindrops from leaves flitting in the breeze add to the now distant rumble.  In the valley to the east, flashes that had just lightened my windows are now illuminating layers of clouds and distant ridges.  Above us, just to the west, a waxing crescent moon peeks from behind moving clouds, winking at nearby stars. The rain has filled the air with a sweet pungent aroma of soggy autumn leaves on the forest floor and of distant honeysuckle and scattered wild roses.  Fireflies sparkle. Crickets call out.  Magic is this night.

Watching fireflies flitting, darting, dancing brings back a memory of our first spring on this land, back in late May, 2000.  Dennis and I had arrived from Virginia Beach for the weekend and in the darkness made our way to the hammock we had strung between an old walnut tree and a mulberry tree.  We dropped ourselves sideways on the rigid cotton strings and rocked the hammock back and forth in the quiet night. Waves of warm and cool air streaming down the mountainside brushed against us, reminiscent of my childhood years standing in the waters of Lake Erie in early summer when warm and cool currents would stroke my legs.

That spring of 2000, the grasses of this mountain property had grown high.  Fireflies, we would learn, love these high grasses.  They saturated the field with glitter. We had never seen so many fireflies.  We were immersed in a twinkling wonderland.  As we lay in the hammock, we looked heavenward.  Sparkling lights rose from the earth below our feet, to the treetops above and up to the stars in the sky.  The twinkling was so beautifully profuse, we could not tell where the fireflies ended and the stars began.  I had discovered the word "Ankida" in a book years before, the ancient Sumerian word meaing, "where heaven and earth join."  I was awestruck by the beauty of these thousands of lights that connected us to the earth below and the stars above.  We knew this would become the name of our mountain, having no idea at the time we would ever grow a vineyard. 

As I now work amongst the vines between the earth and the sky, the vines and I share the same space. I remain in awe of how these tiny grape clusters emerge each year and of the cycles of life that unfold around me.  This beautiful mountain has given us so much.  From the moment I stepped foot on this land, I knew I had come home.  And what an amazing journey has unfolded since that time.

Cheers to Ankida and to all she has offered us.  And to falling droplets of raindrops and magical firelies twinkling outside my window.  Priceless.

Be sure to take the time to find your own little magical twinkling firefly space.  It will be worth the effort.

I leave you with these links to some magical firefly images: 


What A Winter It Has Been!

So this is how it often goes...Weekly blog posts turn into monthly entries. Slowly the monthly posts become sporadic seasonal blogs.  Time has a habit of capturing our vey best intentions and swallowing them up with no chance of retrieval.  There is no way to go back in time.  We can only grab it when we can and use it while it is in our grip.  So here I am at this moment in mid March, the winter pruning well underway, the sheep longingly waiting for spring and fresh green grasses and the chickens and guineas for crawling bugs to eat.  And we humans await sunshine with warm temperatures and at least one ten day forecast that does not include snow! We evidently have not reached that point, as the upcoming forecast is calling for a St. Patty's Day brush with the white stuff.  Spring, oh spring... wherefore art though, dear spring?

These images below give you an indication of the type of weather we have endured here in the 2013/14 winter of central Virginia, although I must admit there is much beauty to be enjoyed in spite of the cold.  It has been at least thirty years since I have been able to scrape with my fingernail the crystalized frost on a window.

 Beautiful as it is, it belongs up north from whence we came!

The concern for such frigid vineyard temps in this region is the potential for damage to this year's buds.  It is especially dangerous to them once the ground has begun to heat up a bit and the sap begins to flow up the trunk and into the canes.  We have had a couple such instances and in fact are enduring one as I type this.  We were in the 60's the last few days, then another front blew in last evening and brought the temps down to 21° with another frigid night ahead of us.  I cut open some buds recently to see if there had been damage.  To my dismay I found some damage, but I estimate only about 25%.  But this current freeze might add to that, thus reducing our crop this vintage.  Time will tell.  We will hope for the best, as that is all we can do.

Freeze killed bud                             Healthy bud

And here is an image I just took in the vineyard of sap flowing from a pruned cane and freezing as it drips, creating an interesting bearded cane.  I have a call in to our viti consultant, Lucie Morton, to see how much damage this kind of sap oozing and freezing represents.

On the bright side, our most severe outbreak of cold, getting to -2° and staying in the teens for two days, presumably did the trick to help wipe out the increasing populations of the noxious "stink-bug," which has been mutiplying by the millions in recent years and wreaking havoc with crops in the Mid-Atlantic.  According to a Virginia Tech study, that recent frigid snap should have wiped out nearly 95% of stinkbugs living out in the wild in their normal winter habitat.  For this, I admit I am now a delighted and willing participant in enduring such frigid temps.

On the mountain this winter, the brightest light in our life has been the addition of the most delightful of puppies; a young male Maremma to keep our female, Bella, company and from whom we hope to welcome a litter of puppies later this year! The Maremma breed comes from the Abruzzi mountains of Italy, where it is said they have been guarding flocks of sheep since the time of Christ.  Because our little guy is of Italian  heritage and he has brought so much light into our dark winter, and because I so love the tenor voice of Luciano Pavarotti, we have christened our new puppy "Luciano" which means "light." And here he is....

If any of you get the chance to visit Ankida you will love meeting him and sensing his joy for life and his adaptability in all situations (he even loves to dance!) At four months, he already is beginning to guard the flock. He loves all the farm animals (chickens and cats included) and all the humans and is as affectionate as any dog I have known. We are thrilled and we are grateful for the tender care given him by his breeder, Kristine and folks at nearby Peavine Hollow Farms. They are the best! Lucci thanks you for giving him such a good start in life! And in this image to the right, Lucci snuggles up to the ultimate dog lover, Mary Beth Williams, who drove hours to meet our new little pup.  She was not disappointed!

And so I leave you and hopefully will return sooner than my previous pause in blog posting. There is much happening at Ankida. Our Pinot Noir is heading to London for an event for the new US Ambassador to the UK. We have been named one of the top wineries in Virginia. Our tasting room in Charlottesville, 22 Brix, is doing great... and so much more. We hope you will come visit us. Our spring "Celebrate Budbreak" will be held April 12, so try to make it then.

Till next time, I bid you adieu, grateful for all the many joys in our lives... our good health, growing grand babies and their loving parents, farm animals happy with a purpose in life and the vines and delicious wines that have made this vineyard life possible.

Cheers and here's to a forecast without snow!