shades of gray

By Kevin

Some of you may look at this picture and think this is really cool. Others may wonder what possessed me to kill this animal. I vacillated a bit before deciding to use the image, because I realized it might evoke a polarity of views. Yet the moment epitomizes, perhaps, how much my life has changed since moving to the Central Coast nine years ago.

My parents moved the family from Canada to Los Angeles before my 5th birthday. Our Finnish family, especially those living in Canada, relied on hunting and fishing as a source of food. Dad taught me to handle handguns and rifles at an early age to prepare me to go hunting with him. He also taught me to fish. We did that extensively throughout my childhood. As a result, I’ve become a lifelong avid fisherman. I, in turn, have taught my boys to fish, and we do a lot of fishing together. Especially at our lake home in Canada.

Hunting, however, never materialized. My dad talked often about it, but life got in the way. Living in the metropolis of L.A. was a completely different proposition than my rural birthplace. Not only was it less convenient, but that sense of necessity no longer existed. Over the years, especially after heading off for college, my interest in hunting waned.

I’ve instilled in my boys that even though fishing has an element of challenge, or sport, we don’t kill for sport; we kill for food. And although I’ve caught and consumed probably thousands of fish in my lifetime, to this day I still get a slight twinge of remorse when cleaning the day’s catch. I’m mindful that I’ve killed another life, and I know it has been done primarily for recreation. The reality is I could buy what food I needed, yet I suppose someone else would have done the kill, and I invariably would purchase it to be consumed. Thus, I rationalize why I fish.

So, where’s this going? Growing up in Los Angeles, living the big city life, going to college, I developed a fairly liberal perspective of the way the world should function. I became someone who believes that there should be fairly strong rules on the distribution of guns. I hope that doesn’t shock my more conservative readers. It seemed pretty black and white.

Paula and I planted our first vineyard (all 1 1/2 acres!) in Topanga Canyon, a suburb of L.A. in the Santa Monica mountains. It didn’t take long for me to lose my fondness of those cute little furry burrowing animals we call gophers. Soon I was trapping and killing them. It was them or the vines!

When we moved to the Central Coast and I planted my vineyard and olive orchard (now on 80 acres), the host of pariahs only multiplied. Not only were we dealing with gophers, we now had to contend with voles, rabbits, squirrels, deer, and boar. I’m sure I’ve left something out!. It didn’t take long to succumb to the necessity of purchasing a .22 rifle to eradicate the squirrels. We became pretty proficient at trapping gophers and voles. We fenced our property and effectively eliminated the deer pressure. But the boar were an entirely different proposition. Over the last several years, we’ve seen them on the property; we’ve seen evidence of their rooting around the walnut orchard; we’ve seen the damage to our fruit in the vineyard, and for the most part it was never bad enough for me to hunt them. Two years ago, I did get a depredation permit which allowed me to kill destructive pigs on the property. Yet, with my crazy schedule and my hesitancy to have a large caliber weapon in the house, I never followed through.

During the last few years, I found myself reflecting and coming to terms with the realities of living on a farm and how different that was than living in the big city. The economic viability of our project to a large degree would be effected by how we dealt with the wildlife that roamed our farm. So, some of my assumptions about gun ownership were being altered. Maybe it wasn’t so black and white!

A month ago, at the beginning of September, Paula and I were hanging out with some out of town friends in the kitchen, having breakfast. I was gazing out toward our pool and the surrounding landscape when my eye caught what appeared to be a roto-tilled lawn. On closer inspection, we discovered that nearly half of it was turned over. By the footprints, it was obvious we had at least one pig causing the damage. Over the next several days we repaired the lawn a number of times, only to see it destroyed yet again. I renewed the depredation permit and capitulated on the gun purchase. That was the easy part.

Our destroyed landscape sat literally right below our master bedroom. So I carved out 2-3 hour slots each night to stand vigil at the windows overlooking the lawn. No pigs showed up. I started scanning blogs on pig hunting; I experimented with outside lights on and off; I had the doors open, then closed; I started feeling like Bill Murray’s character, Carl Spackler in Caddyshack. Of course, the nights I decided to sleep, it (they?) showed up. The blogs suggested using red or green lights to illuminate the area. Finally, after three weeks of waiting, I happened to get up and caught the pig in the act. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take the shot because the red light I used was too dim and the angle of trajectory might have hit the house if I missed the target. I let it go. At least now I knew it was a lone boar (male). The next day I switched the light color to green which proved to be much brighter. That, in combination with a motion sensor device mounted next to the lawn, and an alarm on my bedside table proved to be the right formula. A few nights later, the alarm went off, the light shone bright, I got my shot, and the pig was killed.

I was elated! Like the gophers, it was our grapes and landscape, or the pig. An easy decision.

Reflecting on all of this, now a few days later, I’m glad I killed the boar. Interestingly, I thought I would feel remorse, yet that hasn’t happened. I will confess that the challenge and success of the hunt was a rush. If you’re wondering, I dressed the boar that next morning and it is now at a butcher’s shop being cut into meat for our consumption. Some of it will be shared with our club members who come to our pick up party on the 26th of October. The rest will be shared with friends and family over the next few months. And if you’re wondering if my beliefs about gun control have changed, the short answer is no. But maybe things aren’t entirely black and white, either. Perhaps some shades of gray.

all things not wine: kitchen, olive oil, and more

By Paula

Like the grapes, olive harvest came early this year. We had scheduled the harvest for November 1st--more than a month earlier than we’ve ever harvested before, but when we took a closer look at the olives in the beginning of October, we realized they would need to be picked even earlier! So we picked on October10th and 11th. And instead of having the mobile press come to us, we brought the 3 1/2 tons to the press for processing.

We will still be selling our 2012 oil (harvested in December 2012) for a few months yet. If you haven’t tried it, samples are available in the tasting room, and if you are a wine club member you have an 80 ml sample bottle coming with your Fall club shipment. We have special BTGOF holiday pricing on the 250 ml bottles-- that is: buy three, get one free, through the end of the year. The olive oil makes a great gift for teachers, coworkers or hostesses, and this is a perfect time to stock up!

In addition to the usual stuff (wine jelly, spice rub and more), we also have some new products in the tasting room. We brought in some new garment dyed tees this summer in more sizes: a general kukkula shirt in a charcoal color and sisu and Lothario shirts in the color of their respective labels (reddish and purple). For the first time we also purchased the kukkula shirts in women’s sizes. While supplies last, we are selling the old shirts at sale pricing (limited sizes). Also new, we have tiny kukkula bottles (called viniatures). They are about three inches tall and some come with corks, some with hanging tops. They are great holiday ornaments or decorations for gifts. All of these products receive wine club discounts.

distribution update: kukkula goes international

We have been flirting with international distribution for some time now. Not because we’ve been proactive. In fact, distribution has become less important for us. Today, we distribute to only two states. A few years ago, it was seven states. Since our tasting room opened, our tasting room and wine club sales have risen to around 95% of our revenue. Needless to say, we’re happy with the way things are progressing.

That said, in the last year, we’ve been approached by a couple of people about distribution in Finland (Cool, my Homeland!), and China. Well, a few days ago, we shipped off our first wine (sisu and vaalea, of course!) to Finland.

Distribution to China is in its infancy. Normally we probably wouldn’t pursue this, but because of conversations with a good friend and someone who does business there, we’re exploring it. Who knows, it might just happen! We’ll keep you posted.