Monday, August 1, 2011

Firsts and Firsts

We have had some splendid "firsts" on this trip!

While we have subscribed to the Escapees' Day's End listing for a few years, this was our first year to actually use the listing. As we left Arizona, we were looking for a place to spend the night; Day's End suggested Peggy Sue's Nifty Fifties Diner in Yermo, California. We had no idea where Yermo was, but looking up from the map (Suzy was driving, of course) I saw a sign for Yermo, and right after that was a signboard for Peggy Sue's! For those who, like us, don't know Yermo, it's on I-40, just east of Barstow. You can read about that experience HERE. That was our first significant first.

Our second usage of Day's End took us to the home of Phil and Patricia in the little town of Inyokern on Highway 395. They invite traveling SKPs like us to park in their yard for a night or three. You can read about that stay HERE.

Another "first" was to purposely stay a few nights in snow country at beautiful Oh Ridge just south of Lee Vining, CA, on Highway 395. That story is HERE ...and HERE.

Our latest "first" is our first use of the Harvest Hosts program, wherein owners of farms, vineyards, and other agribusinesses invite RVers to spend a night at their facility, at no cost. So here we are at Harmony Wynelands outside of Lodi, CA, for two nights.

Harmony Wynelands is a small family-owned winery producing about 4000 cases a year, with a goal of 8000 cases before long. We are parked in the vineyard, right next to acres of "Old Zin" vines - vines that are 40 or so years old. (Most vines begin to lose their vitality around 50 years of age, so these are currently at their best! And the Old Zin wines we tasted were superb.) We were told their current holdings include 18 acres with approximately 10,800 Old Zin vines!

Winemaker Shaun MacKay was our host Sunday afternoon; his mother and step-father own the place, but Shaun is in charge as far as wine making is concerned.

Shaun and his wines were the cover story in the May issue of "D'Vine Wine & Visitors' Guide" covering this part of the California wine country. He has some wonderful "outsider's" views that he is confident will make a major difference in wine growing and wine making in the area in the future.

Suzy asked Shaun her favorite wine question, "How do wine makers decide the flavors to look for in their wines, such as blackberry, currant, apple, and so forth." Shaun's answer: "It's purely subjective, a way for wine makers to suggest what people might look for in their wine. To me, wine should taste like grapes, but you'll never read on a label 'This wine displays the taste of grapes!'" Suzy finally got a truthful answer!

Shawn went on to show us a cluster of zinfandel grapes he had on the counter. They ranged in color from a flat, pale green to reddish purple,

like these grapes still on the vine.

All the grapes start out that green; they change color as sugar develops in them. It's the process of photosynthesis, which he says is in full swing right now.

Since today is our wedding anniversary, we purchased a couple of bottles of their sparkling California Champagne, displaying a Wedding Celebration label. We had tasted it in the tasting room, and Suzy pronounced it "splendid, the best we've tasted in a long time."
That's Shaun in the jaunty hat, the same one he wore during our visit.
So we have had an interesting contrast in recent days: Shaun MacKay -- young, self-described Generation X'er wine maker in Lodi, versus Mario, the third-generation wine maker, with a marked Italian accent, at Hecker Pass Winery near Gilroy, making wines the old country way.
This is Mario from Hecker Pass Winery.
Who is right? Who has the best idea, the best wines? It's every wine drinker for himself to make the choice for himself (or, of course, herself!). For us the decision is easy. These wines, all these wines, are superb. We buy the ones we like, we don't buy the ones we don't like. And when we're home, we'll probably go to WalMart for Oak Leaf wines at about $3.00 a bottle.

One feature of this winery is very special. Many years ago, Shaun's stepfather, Bob Hartzell, purchased a fine old pipe organ that had outlasted its welcome at San Francisco's Castro Theater. He always planned to install it in a proper setting, and eventually Bob and Shaun's mother Linda set up their Harmony Wynelands' tasting room to actually be an integral part of the organ! While it is still fully functional, and Bob plays it often, most of the organ is operated now through a computer; an organist played the magnificent instrument, the computer recorded every key touch and stop setting. Now the same music can be played back through the organ's pipes, percussion, and affiliated baby grand piano. Hearing that this was our anniversary, Bob selected a trio of appropriate songs, including I Love You Truly, Just a Song at Twilight, and Love's Old Sweet Song. The walls of the building were quivering with the depth of the sound. And so were we!
Monday while we poked around the grounds, we met Dave, the all-around Jack-of-all trades. He was trimming some bushes, moving some barrels, doing whatever.

Dave told us he's been working around the winery for a couple of years, and proudly declared that the 2009 bottling that is just being released is the first one he ever helped make! We mentioned the ripening color of the grapes, and Dave declared that to be "veraison." You can look that up on Google, just as we did. It's too complex to describe here.

Our visit is coming to a close here. If you want to see more pictures of this delightful place, please go to our web album 2011 Harmony Wyneland (Suzy particularly hopes you will enjoy the beautiful flowers and gardens!) And so, it is twilight and goodnight at Harmony Wyneland and in ... Our Life on Wheels.


  1. Happy Anniversary Jerry & Suzy. Hope it was a great celebration for you two.

    Nice interesting blog tonight.

  2. We use Days End listings all the time to find places to park overnight. Love it. We also belong to Harvest Hosts but since we are not wine drinkers we usually buy a bottle for friends and hope they like it. These are great programs.

  3. Happy anniversary, Jerry and Suzy! Has another year really gone by that fast? It just seems like a few months ago you were celebrating your "Golden". I think all your pictures are great and you tell a good story to go along with them. It's a treat to see the "extras" in your web album.

  4. I often think 'firsts' are sometimes the most memorable parts of a trip. It is those first impressions of new experiences & places that sometimes have the longest lasting memories. My question for the winery guy would be, 'hey, can I get a good old glass of pure grape juice without all that alcohol stuff in it please!!' Congrats on the anniversary guys:))

  5. A wonderful post! I enjoyed both the adventure of parking in varying locations via the “Day’s End” publication and your excellent narrative of your visit to the winery.


  6. What a great bunch of "firsts" you have had...Love the wineries...and they seem to be popping up everywhere...If you ever get to the New York State finger lakes region, you will find tons of wineries...Have fun and Happy Anniversary...What a run!!!

  7. This was such a good post... What a great time you have been having and great info on Harvest Host. Thanks
    Have fun & Travel safe

  8. I've heard about that winery program, but you're the first RVers I've heard actually using it. Thanks for the great photos and interesting report.

  9. Those are some great firsts. We loved Peggy Sue's:

  10. A lot of great memories of your trip are nicely captured in this post along with great photos. Nice to have so many 'firsts' as well.

  11. What a perfect post for our trip out west. We were JUST looking at the Harvest Host program, and would you believe it I was also trying to find the name of the campground in the snow you stayed at (I remembered the post, but not the campground details). So, THANK YOU for both...hehe



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