Welcome to ConVivio — A New Winery and A New Blog

A Grand Harvest— Picking Grapes with Grandchildren

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Happiness is being one of three generations picking grapes together to make your own wine.”

As a grandpa — they call me Papa Dan — I am privileged to have lots of three-generation experiences; but I have to say that tromping around a vineyard with grown children and wide-eyed grandchildren is among the most satisfying of them.

Last month at the first official harvest of our own ConVivio Winery, our grandson Hayden represented the third generation to participate in our family’s amateur winemaking enterprise. All four of our sons and their ladies, and four other grandchildren have been involved in one part of the process or another, as represented by Gretta’s painting “The Harvest” (below), which will be featured on the labels of our 2008 Festival Red and our 2009 Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, currently in barrels.

LABEL_09CabSauv

But, on this October 2009 harvest day, Hayden became the first of the grandchildren to actually pick grapes. He was quite a sight dumping his brightly colored toy sand buckets full of the grapes he had picked into his red toy wheelbarrow, wheeling up to the back of the truck where I was feeding grapes into the crusher. With the serious expression of a little boy who knows he is doing grown-up work, he looked up at me and said, ”Here ya go, Papa Dan, I picked some more grapes for you.”  I know that my father tromped around in his father’s vineyard as a boy, but as far as I know, I am the first grandpa in the family to make wine from grapes picked by his grandchildren.

Hayden_picks

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Grapes are amazing — a pure product of soil, air, water, and sunshine. The ancient Greeks spent a lot of time in vineyards and it is no wonder that they concluded that all of nature was made of four elements – earth, air, water, and fire – the four things necessary for producing grapes.  Humans didn’t discover yeast until 1857 (Louis Pasteur) , but their observation that nature conspired to turn grapes into wine from these simple elements, led them, at least, to get the big picture right — evident in that wise men over many centuries (Benjamin Franklin among them) have stated the obvious truth: “Wine is evidence that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

The process of gathering generations together to pick grapes, make wine, and bottle it — and then pour it back out of the bottle when the time is right — has always been the background music of my family.

My father never made wine, but passed on to me his appreciation of it, which he learned at the knee of his winemaking father, who brought his winemaking experience, acquired as a youth in southern Italy, to California one hundred years ago and grew grapes and citrus and made wine in the Santa Clara Valley. According to the family story, all through prohibition, “people came from miles around to buy his expensive oranges; but he gave the wine away for free.” So, we have a wine-making heritage.

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So, here we are, one foot in the 21st century, the other back in the 19th and beyond, still making wine, enjoying each other’s company trudging through vineyards, crushing the grapes, tasting from the barrel, filling the bottles, and seated around dinner tables lifting glasses in celebration of the wonderful and ordinary days we spend together.

We have named our winery ConVivio. In Italian, it means “festival.” In English, it derives from words like welcoming, friendly, lively, and hospitable — literally “with life.” With this Blog, we intend to celebrate all things related to that theme. Our media will include fiction, non-fiction, art, travel, music, food, and wine — not necessarily in that order. My goal is to write two columns a week. You are welcome to participate by reading what you find here and, if you feel the urge, responding with your own comments and contributions. We hope you will join us here often.

Click on the word “comments” just below this post to leave a response.

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11 Responses “Welcome to ConVivio — A New Winery and A New Blog”

  1. Donald says:

    Dan
    The idea of using this website as a spur to prod you into writing is a wonderful one. There does seem to be some universality and some all-encompassing ideas behind winemaking, especially done as a family communal activity. It is great unifying activity. Good to hear from you.

  2. Papa Dan says:

    Thanks, Don, you have the honor of being the first to comment on ConVivio-online.net. I enjoyed your e-mail description of your fall colors in Vermont. You have the privilege, now, of living in a place where you have all 4 seasons. Here in this part of California, we have maybe 2.5 or 3 seasons, tops.

  3. Andrea says:

    Wonderful start to what is sure to be an entertaining blog. I love the warmth that shines through your description of family wine making. Brian and I will toast to your new blog tonight when we lift a glass of red (not sure what just yet) to accompany the end-of-summer tomato/basil/Kalamata olive pasta I’m making for dinner.

  4. Joe III says:

    Dan, As you are my uncle, your father was my grandfather and “half of me” shares this wine heritage with you. I too learned to appreciate wine from your father because unfortunately, my other grandfather Joe Sr., who grew grapes in his front yard and made his own wine, died when I was 15 and not quite ready. But my father Joe Jr. had only two stories to tell when the subject of wine came up.

    One night when Joe Jr. was 3 the family went to the front yard to say goodbyes after a big family dinner. Joe Jr. stayed in the house with a dinner table filled with many wine glasses (small tumblers, not goblets) left with some wine at the bottom. Joe Jr. went around and emptied every one. “It was the only time in my life I’ve ever been drunk!”, my Dad would crow.

    Flash forward 30 years or so. Joe Sr. offered Joe Jr. some of his homemade wine, and when my dad declined, my grandpa complained that he never joined him in drinking his wine. My dad said “You know I don’t like wine, Dad, but okay, I’ll join you this once.” When handed his tumbler of wine, my dad downed it in one gulp. Grandpa complained “That’s not how you drink wine!” And my dad replied “I told you I don’t like it!”

    I never got to try my grandpa Joe Sr.’s wine. I did have the opportunity to work with him in his small vineyard (maybe two 30-ft rows) beside the dozen or so fruit trees, two dozen nut trees, and 4 or 5 rows of miscellaneous vegetables, and to enjoy their other fresh products.

    But to enjoy three-generation wine I must be content with Dan and his family’s wine.

  5. John says:

    A fine first column – it is very “Dan” (and that is good). Best wishes with the blog, and congrats to Gretta on the artwork. Jackie and I especially like her depiction of you on the postcard.

    And a question: Has the Sorpresa Felice vintage been discontinued or just renamed? A memorable cabernet – we prize our remaining bottles.

  6. Papa Dan says:

    John, Thank you! You are very kind. FYI — the Sorpresa Felice label has been retired. ConVivio is our next generation. (By the way, you might want to drink the Sorpresa soon. The 2004 corks weren’t as long-lasting as the 2006. We’re learning . . . )

  7. Bunny says:

    Dear brother Dan,
    You have captured the essence of our Dad in ‘Berto ( I once heard his mother call him that . . . or more like ‘M’Berto). Wish I had learned to enjoy drinking wine as you have; instead I inherited a sort of allergy to wine in that the first sip makes me very groggy and so I do not pursue a second sip. I understand I got this from our Russo grandmother who, I have heard, would turn bright pink and begin to fan herself at the first sip. Your writing talent shines. Joe III: thanks for sharing Dad’s wine stories.

  8. Jackie M says:

    Just want to say how interesting your stories are! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Tom Boyd says:

    Dan

    Love the web site and love the family photos. I always thought of all nationalities, Italians had the best looking group, perhaps because they seem to have more fun than anyone else. Us Irish know how to drink wine ,but making it is a different story entirely. As to the best wine, I will have to taste ConVivio to determine it’s true merit. Hopefully, I will have that oportunity. Salud. Tom

  10. Peg McLaughlin Hastings says:

    Dan, I am a long time friend and quasi-relative of Susan Giovannoni, who forwarded this to me. It’s a great story and beautifully written. I too have loved the Giants since they got my attention in ’62 by getting to the Series. I was 9 at the time. I wish I knew the exact date of my first game at Candlestick – I’m guessing maybe ’64 – but there are details I do remember. We sat on the 1B/RF side in the lower box (remember when they had actual boxes?) and I was in my finest DRESS, with camel hair coat, and patent leather shoes (because that’s what you wore to The City) along with Giants cap and baseball glove. Alas, no pictures of that historical day. We were playing the Cardinals, and the Giants were trailing. There was only one thing a good little Catholic girl could do, and that was to move over in my seat in order to make room for my guardian angel. I don’t have to tell you that of course the Giants then won the game. The flip side is that it took them until I moved to the the Canadian border in Washington state to win the Series, but I hold no bitterness. Apparently that was part of the deal all along that had been set in motion so long ago, and I simply had to do my part. While we miss being part of the reality, we’re grateful for the technology that allows us to watch almost every game and try to catch one or two games each season. We’re
    5-0 since we visited Assisi … but that’s another story…

  11. PapaDan says:

    Peg, You remind me of the great pictures from the days when the Giants were still in New York back in the fifties — in those days, the men in the stands wore white shirts, ties, and hats; the ladies wore dresses. As you say, my parents taught me that, when you go to the city, you dress up. Fortunately, that custom seems to have died out at the ballpark here in ‘Modern Times.’ Thanks for the comment. Just for fun, one of those old photos can be found at: http://images.google.com/hosted/life/l?imgurl=9ef7dad5f114fb4d&q=kansas%20city%201963%20source:life&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dkansas%2Bcity%2B1963%2Bsource:life%26hl%3Den%26biw%3D1280%26bih%3D683%26tbs%3Disch:10,1782
    If you look close, you’ll see ties, hats, and dresses.

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