Thursday, December 30, 2010

here comes a start

it's new years' eve eve, but when this posts it will be new year's eve. the washer is spinning and my belly is pleased and full. tonight was homemade pasta and squid in red sauce and garlic bread and salad and a good thick dessert with kiwis and crumble. all in our warm cantaloupe kitchen, with family, tucked in the valley's pocket, the river thrashing rocks recently resurfaced and the buds at work on branches while the bulbs poke down and up and everything readies.

one of these days we'll look out to new color, but the winter that sits beyond our windows, the leftward field of reds and yellows and browns and grays and greens and reds and oranges and yellows, lines and dots and squiggles and feathers and soft and hard and dull and sharp, is beautiful. texture. beds and beds and miles and volumes and bellies and mouths of texture. like an anemone in a pool with its tentacles waving. a starfish on the rocks with its sandpaper skin. the side of a whale pocked with barnacles. a new dish of paint, a pile of cheese grate , a bowl of popped corn and its buttery crannies, ice on the windsheild spreading as quills.

it's a new and old discovery, texture. it's what amanda and nathan give the wines, what bodhi's coat does in light, luna's siamese eyes and a little lady's eyelashes and always a spot of her hair in the back. a certain favorite's earlobes and iris. a book's edge of paper. in the summer the river's silt bed disturbed and blooming. the coat of an owl or a fox's whisker. the sound of hair on string or ice in a shaker or skis cutting snow or oak warming in creaks and pops post frozen-fog night. it's everything.

sometimes i fall a little too in love with texture. sometimes i don't take enough time to rein it. sometimes i make more texture than is needed. sometimes texture suffocates and other times, the best times, of course, it's just right. everything sings. you feel it in your chest. purity.

a fly i'd normally smack buzzing up in the light so the bulb and shade shed dust and the motes fall in whorls like a winter's white storm beneath streetlamp.

i'm glad to be here. i'm glad to want to run around with a magnifying glass and a bandana and a cap gun and be always in boots. i'm glad to see someone endlessly love to jump puddles. i'm glad to come upon orange bellied salamanders playing statues in the road. i'm glad for blackberries that will ripen and the length of light on its way.

happy new year all you. keep peeled. be listening.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Neil Diamond...really?

Nathan here with a few words...
Home from Christmas day festivities with my side of the family and sat down on the couch for a movie. As we prepared the movie, a Neil Diamond interview was playing on the TV, and being nearly Neil fans, we watched, delaying our movie for a bit. A question came, "have you ever met the members of the Monkees band", the band that recorded "I'm a believer", "Love to Love", and a couple of other big hits that were written early in Neil's career that had a significant impact on his future music endeavors. Neil said "no", he hadn't met them. I puzzled on this for a bit, and then the interview continued, "what is behind the song, Sweet Caroline", and the response came something like, I liked the sound of the name, it was inspired by the name Caroline Kennedy, not the person, the name. He was careful to articulate how the sound of the name inspired him, the phonetics of Ca-ro-line. I began to crave more beer as this interview continued.

How do you do that? Please, this is not as much a judgement as much as it is pure puzzlement, as in there is something here that I don't understand. How do you not care to meet the people that you sold your songs to this early in your career, even if you were working in a song factory like he was? Yes, I can see that disconnecting yourself from your work can become habitual later on in life, when you're beaten down by the corporate machine, but this early on? At that time he was fresh out of NYU, having just swashbuckled his way to fencing fame, not 5 years into his songwriting career, and he was already disconnecting from his work?

Then to the movie, it was the movie Everybody's Fine, with Robert Deniro. Good movie, not great, but good, and as a dad, it hit home. It was a movie about family, and the relationships between a father and his children. In the scene where Robert Deniro sees the painting by his son, the inspiration for this blog hit.

The wine business is full of families and it is steeped in tradition. The idea, or more to the point, the dream of a family working together is at the heart of Harris Bridge. I'll never forget coming back to the valley as I began to consider starting a small farm. I sat down with my aunt and uncle from the more conservative side of my family to talk about my life's plans. At that time, farming was an interest of mine, but it wasn't yet the fully developed plan that it eventually became, and so I simply told them that "I don't know what kind of work I will do, but whatever it is, I want it to involve my family". I might as well have said that I wanted to begin the first Corvallian bobsled racing team. Bewilderment and confusion set into their faces.

So, what do these experiences with Neil, Deniro and conversations with my aunt and uncle have to do with one another? They share the concepts of connection and meaning (or the lacking of these things), and they inspire related questions, questions like how do you become or remain disinterested in the people who are connected to you through your work? How is it that an emphasis on family became such a strange and bewildering concept, disassociated from a person's life work? And tying in the movie, how is it that Frank Goode, Deniro's character, the father, ends up so disconnected from his children, in the end being closer to an idea represented with oil and canvas than he was to his son, the living person behind the canvas.

This comes off as dramatic I'm sure, and that's alright, it is, because for me it is meaningful. At Harris Bridge, Amanda and I find connections with the people that we work with, mostly because we don't know how to go about our work any other way. In the tasting room we talk about where people are from, and what inspires them, and what they feel about music, or politics, or poetry, because the concept of sharing something that you create with someone else, without having any idea of who you shared it with, is foreign to us. Most of our wine releases are less than a hundred cases, and our strongest connection to a sold out vintage is found in the people that we handed each of one of those bottles to. For this reason, most of the time, if you get our wine, we get to know you, and if not on your first visit to the tasting room, then on the second, or third.

We ask for meaning in the place that we work and in the things that we create. Don't confuse this kind of intent with complexity, at times what we do is very straight forward. However, the reason that stories are laid out for you as you carry one of our bottles away, whether it comes in the scroll atop the bottle, or is shared through a conversation at the bar, is that there is meaning behind that bottle that we feel compelled to share. We don't know to go about this another way, and to produce and release something without these layers would seem empty to us.

The long and lonely winding gravel road that leads to our tasting room in the woods tends to split those that travel it into two groups, those who begin looking for turnabouts, and others who become more interested and curious, and press on. My sense is that Neil and Frank would be the turnabout type, and yes, the day that Neil Diamond shows up in our tasting room, I will admit that I was wrong about this. However, for those that continue, there is a valley that opens up in the woods, with a railroad and a covered bridge, and just off to the East of the bridge sits the winery. It is here that this dream I mentioned above, the dream of working with "family", is being realized through an extended family of partners and customers and friends. From the True Grit crew, to the Ivy's Axe dinners, to the opening night at the Hollow, Amanda and I appreciate finding and creating connection and meaning with you. Thank you for an amazing 2010, and Happy New Year!


Friday, December 24, 2010


dear christmas eve,

you were a little sunny today, i think, or those were the other days, last week, when i woke and the sky was a blue blast and the sun a whole bunch of shots blinding people unused to its presence. no, actually, i think you were today mostly gray, but to be honest i much prefer you gray than incredible in some spring or summer way, because, christmas eve, you're christmas eve, and if you can't be white i'd prefer you on the darker side, so to make the guts of houses cozier with their heat and holiday smells and people, oh the people.

christmas eve, the people were good this year. they bustled appropriately, and bundled against chill, and rode the trolly that ding-ding-dinged itself through the streets with foggy windows. they were thoughtful and some had tougher tasks than others, and some were more on top of it and some less so, but all of them were electric, and the energy was nice.

i have to say i wish i'd given a cow, or some books, or a toy or two or three. out here at the vineyard everyone put on their party hats and paraded through ideas and wrapping paper and twine and tissue.

christmas eve, if i may be so bold, may i ask for peace? not from the train, because i bet even trains get christmas eve off, and maybe even christmas day; and not from the hubub of people trying to make a little magic from an inexact potion and a sort of short fuse and maybe wet matches (but, dear c.e., we know these people are industrious, they know how to make fire from stone, the smack of two together, and probably have lint collected from the dryer or a frito and can use it to catch a spark and build a flame and create a heat that someone dear to them won't soon forget, will in fact jot down in his or her chest as the best christmas eve/christmas ever in the whole wide world so far); but peace like calm and a set aside of anger or unrest. a choice to accept rather than prescribe. a hope that no one is scared tonight, or tomorrow, or the next day, or the next. for safety for all, because we all deserve that, and if we all had it all our lives then maybe our world that you're a part of tonight, christmas eve, would shape itself alittle differently. a little more kindly. a little more softly. a little more welcoming. a little like a hug.

there's a story i love to read. i can't tell it to you all the way but it's about a bear and all the hugs he gives. how he can't not hug as an answer to all problems. even when his life's problem is a logger come to chop his - the bear's - most favorite tree of all down. i have a favorite tree here. i see it every day i sit down to write and look out the window that abuts my desk. it is broad and bare and glows with moss in the gray, a fan of branches over field. in the summer, it's shade. in the winter, a kind of beacon. a little like a lighthouse, in that lighthouses mean saftey and to see one is to take care. this tree tells me take care, each time i look. in its peaceful feeling. its quiet majesty. and you better bet i look a lot.

so, christmas eve, dear christmas eve. take care. eat your cookies. watch for reindeer. tell hannukah hello and i'm sorry i missed it but i thought if it often. tell kwanza i look forward to seeing it and though we're unfamiliar i'd like to get to know it better. boxer day. boxer day. let it know i'll raise a pint in its honor. and to every other special day or eve, like every day of the year is some special day or eve for someone or something special, thank you. for always coming around. for never disappearing on any of us. for giving us a structure in which to grow.

sincerely yours,

Friday, December 17, 2010

a first friday

I work retail in town, in books, shelving words and building brief homes before realizing it’s not time to be home yet, it’s time to be working, and so I revive, a person underwater up for air.

I’d hoped to write these blogs without any I or me or us or we in them. Nothing of myself but the put-together of letters. Now I’m here and the place is a yard of personal pronouns, like a yard of old cars or a yard of rusting machinery but never so cool as either of those. Those are the places I drive by and want to stop, to poke around, to find a perfect hubcap or rake or to photograph the dying blue or green or orange paint of the contraption that so slowly, leisurely, decomposes.

The covered bridge crosses now ragey thick water, a wooden and white structure good for bouncing sound year round and in the summer a dim and cool break and in the winter a good close vantage point to all the action in the river near beneath it.

Yesterday for a while we planted tulip bulbs in borders. This is what I’ve missed: the abundance of visible life through winter – not so much people life or wildlife or pets that’ve grown their furs a little thicker, but the plants that take the dishing of rain and do something with it already in February. February! It’s unbelievable, but I’m ready to be convinced again. The colors will be pinks and reds and purple stripes and orange and there will be fluff and best of all, first of all, the leaves spearing through soil to show us that they did as we’d hoped – took root, advantage of the climate. Tulips are my favorite.

Last week we found the Chandler & Price in Hillsboro and then went to a Wonderland where we saw a little hitched white horse in the street. The end of the year is near. Have you found your theme yet? You might choose from these: monsters, mustaches, squids, octopuses, owls, and pretty or cool, or pretty and cool, baubles. Did you know that octopuses will eat their own legs to survive while guarding strings of young? If I’ve been had by this fact – as in if this is not so much a fact as a fiction – then I might prefer to remain in the dark, because it’s pretty beautiful, that devotion.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sunday Means Business

Amanda and I on the way to big cities. Window wipers excited with leaves. Maybe a hawk scoping field. Llamas in a yard with a boat and apple tree.


Amanda and the sun: there’s something certain to the day and its light and clouds that allows for her eyes to intake without tint. Which is nice, to be exposed. To feel less aggressed.

The Linger Longer.

The King Kone.

The Sprayfoam eagle!

A four-formation of flight.

Enchanted Forest!

Pruseco in the console to find once forgotten, like a twenty or five or one dollar bill in the gutter, then a pocket.

More birds, ducks, looking in their nearness inelegant but from far away streamlined, perfect, what all flying objects hope to be.

I forget traffic exists. The hugeness of a roadway, an incessance of cars, as in the cars won’t disappear, never a blank spot with only us and the asphalt and weather. Always other colors, always other windshields, all these other destinations we can only imagine and never imagine enough – never plain enough, exciting enough, thick enough or thin – it’s impossible to wholly capture the desire or dread or happiness or sadness that surrounds. We’ll arrive and return in a day, less than a day, twelve hours, less than twelve hours. Others will be quicker and others much, much slower.

A press of stories printing the vineyard, then a person’s wedding, a party, an anniversary, an opening, a reading, a thought. Someone in a necklace, someone barefoot, a quail bevy, the train. Buttons, cuffs, laces. The swimming hole, salamanders, crayfish. A bbq with corn in singed husks and blistering brats. A cartwheel, a handstand, a song.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

steve poltz! steve poltz!

here's the riddle:

who's a tall and lanky and hilarious and kind and generous and tender and brilliant innovator;

who sings about the long haul and then, at midnight, begins packing his cool, cool truckvan with equipment and gorgeously toned guitars and the swellest shirts and cds you ever did see and never quits smiling and joking and being ready for another handshake or hug and wants to see anything and everything he can before hitting the road again, again, again, devoted to his art and its getting out and about;

who sits your kitchen quietly picking before the show once you've arrived home from a full day to a transformed space of quiet, warm light and torches at the driveway's nose and holiday lights wound round the railing and big pale green globes of them inside that could be eerie but this night are just right, the audience gathering and the pallet stage set, the person you're in the presence of about to christen such space as a must-hit venue for intimate shows and artistic adventures to come;

who has the warmest manager, sweet about an earwig swimming and bobbing his drink, dedicated to not just a singer but very obviously a friend, their duo a particular structure of words and gestures and thoughts begun in one head and ended in the other, a seamlessness that knows one's best driving forward while the other rocks back;

who is this, who you could've seen last night, or could be seeing tonight, or might see tomorrow;

who do we miss already, now that he's gone, the second he and chris his manager left, and the tasting room took a big silent breath and its lungs seemed to wait to be filled again with what had just been, which was awesome, beyond awesome, a night of hearts and sleeves and so, so much laughter, until faces hurt, which is best;

oh, dear friends. it's steve poltz! steve poltz! go and find him and see him and love him as we who have done so already do.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dinner at Luc and the perfect day

Nathan here with a few words...dinner at Luc - oh, beautiful. We just arrived back home after a day that needs to be talked about. Today represents an arrival point for our little venture, a culmination of things and ideas and dreams that began over 15 years ago. Today we had the music of good friends Jeremy Donaldson, John Simonds, and Randy McCoy, and it seemed like the tasting room was constantly filling with new friendships, with people being introduced and reunited. We capped the day with an Ivy's Axe wine club dinner at Luc, a restaurant in Corvallis. The dinner is an extension of a tradition that began several years ago, with Amanda, myself, and two of our first wine club members, my uncle Quintin and aunt Debbie.

I need to talk about Luc for a moment. The food was fantastic. The restaurant is specific and full of the depth of character that only a place that is run by its visionaries can be. Chef Ian's menu clearly represents what he loves about food; marrow and butter and pate and all things Oregon like butternut squash, and the simple perfection of common loves like eggs and bacon. Ian is about to be a new dad, and you feel that anticipation in the restaurant, and you are aware that you are in a place that is "real" enough (my cousin Eric never understands my use of this word, hopefully you will) that if a baby were to come at that time, you might not get a meal, because he IS the chef. Adrienne's wine list was the same, including wines that were hand selected with clear intent. Whether they are your style or not is beside the point. The wines represent the vision of a person, and collectively, the wine list tells you about that person and what she loves about her work. The people we shared the dinner with included neighbors and friends, wine club members, fellow winemakers and a future winemaker. Our table was full of people that Amanda and I knew, but who hadn't met one another until that evening. Like some divining rod for injurious (a stretch, but seems applicable here) laughter, we began to bend toward an evening that Amanda and I will never forget. It is fortunate that we were not booted from the restaurant with all of our carrying on (thank you Amity for sticking with us). So, what is the point of all of this? I just broke a facebook post length record trying to tell the world about our day, so I'd probably better not try to articulate something as complicated as a conclusion. Let's just close this by saying thank you to all of those we know who represent themselves in what they do, and who pour themselves into their life's work (whatever that work is) with clear intent and meaning, and for letting us share in that space with you. We are lucky to know all those that we have met through our work at the winery, and we look forward to years ahead with you. Thank you, and good night!


Sunday, November 21, 2010

tonight the weather's working.

i can see the flakes just past the light, ghostly bright. the wind all push: more snow to come, more ice, more cold. something arctic is upon us, and it's strange.

listening to it all reminds me of wyoming, of the second story bedroom in a storm off open plains thrown down the mouth of laramie valley. the dark wasn't dark but orange, really; that's how i've always told snow. a glow in the sky like the lights of town but the clouds and behind them a new pulsing organ.

as a child, snow was only special. we were lucky to get it and lose a day of school, two if we could manage, if the weather was on our side. we'd roll whiteness to balls to roll bigger, into bodies, into towers. we'd pull sleds down silent streets to find any hill to ride down.

wyoming made snow commonplace, and, i suppose, minnesota before that. massachusetts first of all. when i could i moved to places whose winters meant more than endless rain. it wasn't intentional, but happened. green was an option for coats or boots or tights. not the color of things still alive, drawing life to their hearts and spreading slow and gentle as an unalarmed octopus.

this storm feels more like a storm than anything i've been in for years. more than the blizzard of last christmas in laramie when the roads shut down and we were prisoners of our valley. we made do. we skied. we built fires and baked and slippered around the house and snuggled all we could.

this storm feels more than the storm that dumped and dumped until our shoveling made chest-high walls along sidewalks and driveways, looming over toddlers, blinding in the sun.

more than the storms that set my alarm to wake me every three hours through the night to take the stairs into subzero twin-cityscape and pray my car would turn again, its engine breathe and motor roll. boxes of fish at the airport awaited my claiming, to pack them in the truck, deliver them back to the shop where the rest of the crew would be by 5:30, barely awake, dragging boots, wielding knives and sloshing hot water and bleach far better than anything their mouths could make to translate heads and what sat in them.

all this to mean what? that it's a little thrilling out here, up here, on the top story with the old oaks creaking and the flakes smacking windows. i don't know if the kids across the road have any idea, and i wish i could see them find it. watch the amazement, pinch a little of that joy to keep with myself as i sit in the morning at this window again, looking out on who knows what - a winter wonderland, a sludgy slop, a rink of ice and gravel and crystalline leaves. here comes the train, a slug in the dark, spreading the nearby field with light in its turn, announcing itself past our windows that we've darkened to watch something we've seen a hundred times be made beautifully new.

Monday, November 15, 2010

it has been harder, this year, for my brain to take daylight savings. i love that initial "extra" hour, and then, once the transition's happened, i can't believe noon looks and is so much later. an hour, only, i know, but so, so much later.

when i lived in wyoming, a favorite friend yearly anticipated fall-back and the earlier dusk that allowed her to begin nesting at four, get a hot, smelly meal going, start a drink and finish it and start another to finish. we navigated several years of seasons in laramie together, and what i remember most are the dark nights spent at her house while snow fell or sat in its collection or the thermometer dove deep through the negatives. she'd make something thick and garlicky and we'd drink wine and watch TV and if we were lucky eat cake at the end and sit and be warm. happy. satisfied. tucked.

i've never lived outside a town or city before, clear of the blanketing light of dense population. here, darkness is dark. i sit at the window and all there is to see is me, reflected back, maybe the neighbor's dim porch light if the night is clear. dark is quiet is river and frogs, a rare car or truck taking the road, thumping the bridge.

yesterday we put away bird netting. we'd relieved the vines of it but needed still to tie incrementally and store for next year. next year's beauty, its sugars and bunches and long summer light. we began dry and finished wet but for several afternoon hours it was warm if also mutely lit, misty hilled, damp furry air. work here isn't work amid moss and quail and salamanders, those frogs again, that river. amanda and nola and patrick and nathan. bodhi the dog. anne the friend. the cat luna sneaking out the upstairs door. caterpillars and black and orange creepers and gall wasp globes and dirt. rain and gray and blue and heat and new plants and established roots and ideas, always ideas. there's a pregnancy here, an urgency that's kind enough to plant us in moments.

we arrived here in august. it's already november. it's only november. we know a new two, we see our two old twos, a small girl calls us by name, she sings for our dog and cat and sees a hat and knows whose head it owns. the nights come quickly, angling off hillsides and sealing the valley. we heat our kitchen colored summer's melon flesh with dinner, we wake to grapevines shrouded, deer out the windows, bats swooping blindly, coyotes' yips of kills or love or weeping. in a time of such instability we are surrounded by steadiness - friendship, growth, family, love. if we understand little else we can be assured the grapes will come back, their leaves unrolling first, next their nub fruits, sweetness steamrolling, bankside bramble becoming berries of a black to stain us with summertime, our motion always toward.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Where did summer go...

Well it seems the last blog post was in July and here we are in October... What can I say? Life will take over.
The grapes are ripening (amazingly with the limited sun they've gotten), and projects are getting completed at the farm. We are getting prepared to do some landscape plantings, which I love. A big reason this farm was begun was the hope and satisfaction in planting something small and seeing it grow into something beautiful, productive and nourishing.
We thrive in the life around us.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

in the early days of summer when the flowers are just starting to bloom, especially the daisies - there are so many daisies at the farm - i wonder where ivy is in all her days of working on this land. a hundred years ago she was here, maybe looking at the same daisies, wondering if maybe she built the school house just a little to the left it might get some shade from the afternoon sun. maybe she walked the same distance from the tracks to the river and thought yes there is just enough space here to make this land suitable for something great, something good and purposeful. and then there was the school house. and then later there was the vineyard and the winery...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hello blogoshphere!

well here we are. testing. testing. testing.
to begin... let's go back to the beginning... harris bridge vineyard began as a twinkle in the eye of nathan, an urge to get back to the roots of the valley where he grew up, and an ambition to create something real and lasting. in 1998 he began establishing the vineyard and a few years later he, then joined by amanda began making wine and building the winery. the two, now three with baby magnolia, grow grapes, make wine, gab with guests at the tasting room, and work this little piece of land into a space for friends and family to enjoy.
much more expounding, observing and reflecting later... what is dessert wine, where is harris valley, and who is ivy and why does she have an axe?