A story that always makes me smile is the origin of Boom-Boom Red. It was the end of an unusually cool summer in 2010, and our viticulture classmate and friend, Jeff Havlin announced that he had registered for the year-long Winemaking Class (at Chemeketa Wine Studies Center) because there would be a lot to learn due to the cool season. As he put it, “THIS will be the year of the winemaker.” (In truth, 2011 was an even cooler year – but that is a topic of another blog.)
I thought about this for a couple of weeks. I wanted to do it too, but our life had finally gotten back on track after an extremely tumultuous year in 2009. Mark was traveling about 70% for his day-job, and we still had three kids living at home and no extra drivers for football practice, play practice, piano lessons, and missing the bus, which someone did, almost daily.
I really wanted to take the Enology course, because it was rumored that the renowned instructor, Dr. Barney Watson, was planning on retiring soon, and I agreed with Jeff, that this would be a good year to learn how to make great wine in spite of Mother Nature. Finally, I decided to go for it, I never really was a “June Cleaver type” anyway.
When class finally began in late September, the migrating birds had descended on the Willamette Valley in Biblical proportions. 2010 had been a perfect storm: an early freeze in the Yukon drove the birds to migrate earlier than normal, and the cool season in the Willamette Valley stunted the wild blackberry fruit-set, leaving the ravenous birds nothing to eat but wine grapes.
At the time, we had seven acres of vineyard planted (Kristjan’s block), and we used two propane cannons to scare away the birds. I don’t know exactly how they work, but basically you attach a barbeque-sized propane tank to the bird cannon, and adjust a dial to regulate how often they explode, making a loud BANG that mimics a shotgun blast. In recent years, we haven’t even bothered to set up the bird cannons because the birds haven’t been a problem, but 2010 was the year of the birds! You couldn’t buy any at the Vineyard Supply Store, so I was delighted to find three for sale on Craig’s List. I placed two of my new/used cannons in the vineyard, so that all four corners were protected, and set up the third near the barn, not really a grape-eating-hot-spot, but I wanted to fully utilize all my bird-scaring resources!
That night at class I talked to our friend Jeff Havlin. His vineyard (in the newly appointed Van Duzer Corridor AVA, thanks in large part to Jeff’s six-plus-year effort) was right under the flight path of the voracious flying grape eaters. I told him he could have our extra cannon – he should stop by after class and pick it up.
When I got home, the sun had set, but it was still light out. I realized that all five cannons were still blasting away, so I jumped in the ATV and sped around the perimeter of the vineyard turning off all the cannons for the night. Jeff was loading the fifth cannon into his Nissan pickup. (I was envious of the great deal he got on that little truck. Newish tires, low miles – and a topper, all for like a grand.) He hesitated before he closed the gate, “Do you think I should unhook the propane tank?” he asked. “Naw…, you turned it off right?” I replied. Jeff, nodded, shrugged, shut the gate and drove off. I saw his tail lights disappear down the driveway.
The next day we got a call from Jeff. “You know…,” he said, “those cannons are good for three BOOMS after you turn them off!” He continued, “And they’re really LOUD in the back of a pickup. My ears have been ringing all day!”
Later that fall we picked Gamay Noir from the Chemeketa Vineyard. We christened it BOOM-BOOM Red, in honor of Jeff.
Circling back to our current crisis of Biblical proportions – the COVID-19 Pandemic. Do you have any extra Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), masks, gloves, respirators that you could donate to our health care workers? Can you get groceries or run an errand for an elderly neighbor? Many times little acts of charity go a long way in building life-long friendships. Enjoy the Journey!