business?” The answer goes back to the spring 1997 when we lived in the Bay area. We decided to go on a Cheese Tour in Sonoma. After 2 wonderful days of eating every
type of cheese known to man, we were headed home through the Russian River area, when Hank spotted a winery and said, “Turn right, there’s a winery!”
All I could think was, “Not another winery!”, but I turned down the dirt road to Russia River Vineyards. Coming from a restaurant family, I loved the old house, which
was a restaurant, and we talked of what a joy it would be to own a vineyard and a restaurant together. We could grow the vineyard and our sons could run the restaurant! Well, a woman who worked
there heard us and said she would get the owner, and he’d tell us all about the business. We said that we were just dreaming and that we didn’t know ANYTHING about growing grapes!
Well, she did bring the owner, Michael Topolos, over to talk with us!
Michael was just wonderful. He told us about the restaurant, the winery, the back vineyard acres and then said he had one acre (in Merlot, we think) that he’d like
to show us. He walked us back toward the highway down the dirt road to a one acre weed patch. It was knee high in every plant but grapes. I asked if he was going to plant his vineyard
there next year and he just laughed. He stepped onto the land, brushed aside the weeds with his foot and there were his grapes! Michael asked if we had ever heard of Bio-Dynamics
and we said we hadn’t. He said Organic was not hurting the land and Bio-Dynamic was adding back to help the land. And he explained what he was doing for an hour or more!
He then sold us two books on Bio-Dynamics and gave us print outs of other vital info, wished us luck and sent us on our way. Hank drove while I read to him from
the Rudolf Steiner book on Bio-Dynamics and by the time we got back to Oakland, we were convinced this was the life for us! Many, many thanks, Michael!
In the fall of 1997, I called the Florida Grape Growers Association and was referred to Bob Paulish, President. I told him we would be looking in several states,
including Florida, for vineyard land and asked if he could tell us about grape growing in his area (SW of Tampa). He was very helpful, told us about his vineyard, muscadine grapes, and said
when we came to Florida to look him up.
We finally planned a trip to Florida in 2004 and I called Bob. His wife, Bonnie (BJ) answered the phone. I told her that I had talked with Bob in 1997 and we were
now planning a trip to see about buying vineyard land. She said it was too bad we couldn’t be there in the morning to help with their harvest! I said I’d try to get plane reservations and hung
up. In two hours I had two tickets, a rental car and a tentative motel room in Tampa. I called her back and said we would be in Tampa at 7 AM and at their Blue Heron Vineyards about 10
AM. She said we were welcome to stay with them, and I hung up and started to pack!
Well, when Bonnie told Bob what she had done and the poor man didn’t even remember talking with me! No matter, when we got there the next morning the harvest was
in full swing. Bob was on the harvester, Bonnie put Hank on the fork lift and me in the golf cart. We hardly spoke to either of them beyond “Hello” and “Here we are” until lunch.
But by that time we turned to each other and said “WE CAN DO THIS!!!” It was really that moment we knew we were capable of doing whatever was needed. This was the second major event that
helped shape our life.
We loved every minute of the 2 days we spent with them and are eternally grateful to Bob and Bonnie for welcoming two absolute strangers into their wonderful vineyard
and home. We also knew from that week-end that we couldn’t take the Florida heat every day. We decided to look toward Texas and west for our vineyard land.
In 2005 we moved to Texas and in 2006, we made a trip to the Texas Wine Country and met Jean and Cord of Fredericksburg Winery in Fredericksburg. They were a wealth of
information. That was our third life changing event!
Until I met Jean, I thought I was allergic to wine. I had headaches, leg aches, sniffles and asthma from almost every glass of wine I ever drank. When I told
Jean that I was allergic to wine and sulfites, he just asked me a series of questions: could I eat grapes, bananas, eat bread, drink other liquors, and I answered, “Yes” to all. Well if I could
do all that, he said, the problem may be what the vineyard master does in the vineyard and/or what the winemaker does while making wine.
By this time we had a very good understanding of the organic and Bio-Dynamic vineyards and the benefits of the same but NO clue what happened to wine in the
winery. When Jean told us what chemicals are often used and how they affect the wine and the drinker, we were stunned! Indeed, Fredericksburg Winery wines did not make me sick and I
tasted ALL of them that day! From that moment on we knew we’d eventually make wine as close to natural as possible. And today, six years later, we still buy wine from and recommend wineries
that adhere to the, “Do as little as possible” philosophy of wine making. We also found Texas too hot and too humid for us!
In the fall of 2006 I heard that Southern Arizona had a budding wine trail and flew to Tucson, rented a car and drove to see Elgin, Santa Cruz County, AZ and it was love
at first sight! The grasslands reminded me of northern California and the weather was wonderful; dry, cool summer nights and rain in the summer when the grapes need it! I took pictures
back to Hank and we made our minds up then and there to move to AZ.
Our home in Texas finally sold and we moved to Cochise County in May of 2011. We made an offer on 12 acres and, while in escrow, found we couldn’t afford the electric
line! What a heartbreak that turned out to be!
We backed out of the escrow and went talk to Gary Reeves, owner of Village of Elgin Winery, whom I had met while I was in Elgin in 2006. I had talked with Gary
many times during our time in Texas and he was a wealth of information on land, vineyards, wine making, Federal and state laws governing wineries and vineyards and he also made the best white Merlot
I had ever tasted! Hank and I needed help. 14 years of planning for our vineyard had just collapsed and we were at a loss as to what to do next. Well, Gary just told us to
forget the vineyard and concentrate on opening a winery, preferably in a tourist town. He said a vineyard is a young man’s job and said to have one of our sons do that!
So, we took another tack! We liked Tombstone and decided to look there. A store was for lease on Allen St., just down from the famous OK Corral and we signed our
lease in September! Wow, we are going to make wine!
Our wonderful wines are made from grapes grown right here in Cochise County. Come visit our Silver Strike Winery in historic Tombstone and taste our great wines!
We’re open every day noon to six!
Your Grape Nuts,
Jann and Hank