Building a winery and vineyard next to a thriving wetland certainly makes for a scenic property but it requires a degree of comfort with sharing the space with some very assertive fauna. Everyone in the Valley Of The Moon has to contend with deer pillaging an unprotected vineyard. Even the wild turkeys that roam can be a threat when the grapes hang low enough. But I think we're the only ones on the block who have a family of geese to contend with. These are some self-righteous waterfowl. They know very well who was here first and that we are only welcome as long as it pleases them. Their favorite hangout is the middle of the only road that leads in and out of the property. I think that they like the warm asphalt on their downy behinds. When you drive up the road, just past the bridge there they are. Politely I wait for them to move to the side so I can get by, but I swear - they enjoy taking their sweet time. I've started to name them already. Tony is the clan leader and he's bossy but he always is looking out for his flock, making sure there's no danger. Ethel is the nice one. She lets me get closer than any of the others. We're all holding our breath at the winery, waiting for the appearance of the new goslings. We're getting a little worried though because we haven't seen any yet and it's possible some nefarious critter found their nest, which I believe is cleverly concealed on the island in the middle of the pond. There's plenty of other types of birds who call the marsh their home, including a beautiful and stately heron who likes to perch atop one of the giraffes.
But geese aren't the only creature we contend with. Our proximity to the pond makes the winery a favorite spot of a huge variety of frogs and toads who just love the cool damp environment of the cave. They seem very partial to the sump room as well (the first stage of our water processing cycle). In the cave one tiny little frog seems like it's croaking through a megaphone - it's always hard to believe when you find them that the little guys have such a load voice. You'd think that bat's would like the cave but in fact they are a menace in the barn where they like to nest in the high peak of the roof and just outside the lab. During the warm months lizards are everywhere but they don't make too trouble. And of course, because we are surrounded by forest and a marsh bugs of all kinds can be found (they especially like taking up residence in my tent). The rain sure does make life abundant and the scenery vibrant. It's so beautiful! I hope you can come visit me and see it for yourself!
One of my favorite parts about living and working at Deerfield is the beautiful wetlands that surround the winery. They support an incredibly diverse wildlife population that animates the landscape. A beautiful egret adorns one of the metal giraffes on the small island in the pond. Here and there a few quails dart down the road. At night the volume of the frogs’ song is incredible! At one point much of the Valley Of The Moon was covered with wetlands like the Kenwood Marsh. Now rows of vineyards cover almost every acre and the marsh is the last of it’s kind. Deerfield was constructed keeping the wetlands in mind and the owners Robert and PJ Rex have set up a non-profit organization called the Kenwood Marsh Checkerbloom Society that is tasked with the restoration and preservation of the wetlands.
A perfect example of the distinctiveness of the rare wetland is the Kenwood Marsh Checkerbloom, an endangered species that is native to the marsh. It is only known to grow in one other area on earth. With the help of conservationists, we are protecting the plant, which has beautiful pink flowers, from becoming extinct. The seeds of the plant have been collected and propagated at the rare plant herbarium in the botanical gardens of the University of California. The mature plants were transported back to the Kenwood Marsh where I helped botanist Kate Symonds of the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife to plant them in a site that mimics where they were originally found. You can watch it on Cellar Rat TV. It was a rewarding experience and I often go check on them too see how they’re doing. Right now they are in full bloom and the pink flowers peek out of the tall marsh grass.
This Saturday we are having our annual fundraising event to benefit the Kenwood Marsh Restoration Fund and the Kenwood Marsh Checkerbloom. You can support the project by coming to “Monte Carlo Night In The Caves”. We are going to have professional poker, blackjack, and craps tables as well as a checkers tournament with big prizes on the line, including a case of DRX and a weekend at the Ranch. There will be a live sushi bar and wine by the glass so anybody can come enjoy some great wine and food to support the Checkerbloom even if you’re not into games or gambling. Click the event flyer below for more information!