Fumie's Sphere

Insights into the worlds of winemaking and nature

Open the North Window March 24, 2016

Filed under: Nature — fumiethorpe @ 3:56 pm
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I have my desk along the north wall of my house, and there is a window not too far from where I sit and work. I have a pair of thick curtains on all the windows in my house that I like to keep open during the day and close at sundown regardless the weather. However, when I quit using a wood-stove several years ago, I found out how drafty my house could get in winter — the massive heat of the wood-stove was covering up that fact. Naturally I started to keep the curtains closed when it was cold outside, especially the ones on the window on the north wall that was almost next to me. They didn’t quite stop all the chills, but were better than nothing. Consequently, I learned to keep this pair closed during the winter.

snowdrops

Snow Drops for you that usually fade before we open for the season…

Though it remained relatively mild this winter, I kept the curtains on the north window closed. When the balmy weather suddenly arrived a couple of weeks ago, I stood right next to this window one morning and thought about a moment, then pulled the string to open the curtains. The light rushed in and made the whole house brighter. I could see a few starlings perching in the red maple tree next door above the Winery Barn.

I instantly recalled the kigo, a word or term that must be included to describe a season in a Japanese haiku; “Open the North Window” (if it were English) is used to indicate the haiku is about spring. They used to (or maybe even now in some regions) close up any openings, windows and sometimes doors, on the north side of their houses to prevent the winter cold to sneak in. They often literally nailed some boards to close them tight. Once the spring arrived, they went out to remove the shields that kept them warm but dark during the winter. I thought I understood their joy to let the light come in again and the relief that the bitter winter was finally over.

The vernal equinox is behind us and the sun has started his trek north to the summer solstice. There is the period every summer when the setting sun over the Lake can be seen from this north window while I sit around. That’s what, of course, I’m looking forward to now.

 

 

Crescent Moon January 14, 2016

The first invasion of the polar vortex of the season to Northeast was taking place earlier this week. The frigid air mass travels over the open water of the Great Lakes causing the formation of significant lake effect snow bands. If you are on the leeward of this air flow, you’d be getting feet of snow in no time.

Many of you ask us how often we get buried in the deep snow after seeing our proximity to Lake Ontario while visiting our Tasting Room. The answer is “not much”; at least not as often as you might expect.

The heavy snow fall occurs most often when the air travels the longest fetch of the Lakes: longer the path, more moisture supply for the snow bands from the Lakes. Thus typically the heaviest lake effect snow episodes occur with the westerly airflow to the east of the Lakes. So for us here the lake effect snow becomes an issue when the wind direction changes more toward northwest.

This Monday the weather pattern was a textbook case of the heavy lake effect snow to the east of the Lakes behind a strong arctic cold front. I saw the Lake Ontario band over the Lake a little offshore from us with lots of whitecaps surging toward the shoreline. I turned back to the vineyards and saw the Lake Erie band above the horizon. In between there was sunshine all day long with a few stray clouds every now and then though it was windy and pretty cold.

crescentmoonAt the end of the day the thin Crescent Moon was above the Drumlin when I walked out to pick up the day. The sun was already behind the Drumlin and the western sky was bright in the evening glow from the horizon to the mid sky. The Moon appeared to have started to be laid back — when you see a crescent moon, it looks either standing up straight in fall or laid back in spring, or in the transition phases in between. In the piercing west winds in the middle of the lake effect snow bands I was confident to have found a sign of the coming spring.

 

Bluebirds 2015 December 4, 2015

Filed under: Nature — fumiethorpe @ 7:18 am
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Eastern bluebird; credit: Bill Thompson/USFWS

Eastern bluebird; credit: Bill Thompson/USFWS

December has started out with rainy days. I see lots of birds moving around in the brush nearby so pull out my binoculars to take a peek. Believe it or not, we always have year-round Robins along this lake-shore. It is no exception today that they are there pecking on sumac and other weeds. Of course, Chickadees, Finches and Cardinals are among them, too.

This summer we finally got a pair of Eastern Bluebirds nesting in one of the two bird boxes that were mounted on the end posts of the North Vineyard over 20 years ago. There had been many attempts in the past, but they somehow always lost their fight against other species. So when I first noticed that there was a pair of Bluebirds hanging around the box, I was anxious if they would make it. There were House Wrens that had won last year, and ever so aggressive Tree Swallows all over the place. But by the time I kept seeing them hopping around the box for two weeks, I came to accept the fact that they managed to establish their home there for the first time. I never saw their chicks, but had to believe their being as the parents were busy bringing their prey to the box all day long every day. They appeared to quit going in and out of the box by late July though were seen around there frequently rest of the summer. I thought the chicks had left the nest with their parents.

Now in December rain I walk out and still find the Bluebirds’ chat in the bush at times. This is another fact that they do over winter along this Lake as well. I hear them more than actually sight them outside the brush such as on my Shop’s roof or power wires — we just need to know their modest nasal voice to recognize their existence. If they are a symbol of happiness, I hope one day their voice will encircle this planet where we all started, and will ultimately return someday. Wishing at this time of sharing and caring, and always.
 

Fialka Story II April 29, 2015

Filed under: At The Winery — fumiethorpe @ 8:37 pm
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Trillium at the Chimney Bluffs

trilliums at the Chimney Bluffs

“What does ‘Fialka’ mean?”

That is probably the most asked question in our tasting room for all these years. It’s a name of a flower in Slovak, as well as in many other Slavic languages, meaning “violet” in English. The original name of this wine was “Trillium” that we lost after having a trademark debate against a winery in Midwest in 1995. For the full story, click here to visit my Blog.

Today I had errands to take care of so went out for a ride. The season is still so much behind this year after having one of the coldest winters in history. But the signs of spring can be seen everywhere so as I drove by, I looked up at the hillside of the Drumlin. As I expected, there were no trillium blossoms yet, but I did see the swelling flower buds on those little plants close to the ground. Maybe we’ll start seeing the open flowers by this weekend if the warmth will really reach here.

Single_Western_trillium

Fully Bloomed Trillium

It seems that ferns are out and growing on the hillside and the tiny yellow flowers are in bloom on witch hazels in the marsh across from the hill. — I’ve believed those are witch hazels for a long time, but I might be wrong. Every spring I think of the innocence of flowers. They bloom, fade and fall while sharing what they can be. Perhaps that’s the way I wish to be.

 

Fialka Story

“Trillium” was created by the request for the sweeter styled wines, and was first released in July, 1994 when the construction of our Wine Shop was completed. Its abundant flavor of fresh grapes and mild sweeter taste gained the popularity very quickly, and it was sold out by the end of 1994.

In July 1995 a mail arrived from a winery in Midwest claiming that the name “Trillium” was theirs as they had registered that name as a trade mark of one of their wines. After a short debate we decided to change the name of this beloved wine. We asked for a suggestion of a new name for this wine through our newsletters as a form of “contest” — if we chose the name you gave to us, you’d get a free case of the wine with the new label!

FialkaDuring the holiday season of 1995 Fumie’s old college professor visited us with his family and one of her classmates. When he walked in, he immediately saw the bottle of Trillium on display on our tasting counter. He took it in his hands and said, “So, is this the troubled wine?” He already knew about the debate from the newsletter we’d mailed out. As soon as he said so, his cousin from Slovakia exclaimed, “Oh, that’s Fialka!” We all turned our heads toward him as the name he yelled sounded very nice for a name of the wine. We told him to officially write the name down onto a piece of paper that we had ready for the visitors to write in their suggested new names for the wine. He told us that the illustration of the trilliums on the label reminded him of the flowers they call “fialka” in Slovakia. Following spring when we had the new labels ready, he took a case of the brand new Fialka wine back home to Slovakia.

Over the years we’ve learned that “fialka” means “violet” in English, and fairly common in the Slavic languages such as Slovak, Russian, Ukrainian, etc. If you have the relatives or friends who came from that direction, ask them if they know the word and its meaning. Most likely they do!

The composition of Fialka has remained basically the same over these years. Diamond contributes the abundant fresh grape taste and flavor while Catawba gives it the spiciness and good acid to counterpart the sweetness. Cayuga White then somehow mediates the entire package to the subtle mildness — that’s the way we feel. The name “Trillium” was originally chosen as the wine was a blend of these three varieties about the same portion of each.

Now you’ve got the story, so get a bottle or two to bring back home to enjoy!

 

Voice of Spring April 8, 2015

Two years in a row we experienced a frigid winter. This year it came with the honor of February 2015 being the coldest month in history in much of the eastern U.S. It was cold indeed, but while being busy with lots of paperwork and shoveling the snow, it went away like a dream.

In March I did three watercolor paintings that will become the new labels this year. I introduced my old customer-friend who gave me his painting in the last newsletter. Perhaps he motivated me to pick up my brushes again this winter. It was fun that came with new learning. I’m now so thrilled to put the new labels on the bottles in the next month or so. As usual they had to go through the approval process by the Federal agency, and I just got it a few days ago. Now it’s time to bring them to the printer.

Snow has mostly receded from the vineyards. It’s time to get out there and start moving. Red-tailed hawks and crows are arguing who will get the spot on the telephone pole. I would rather listen to the finches and cardinals chat — I’m now waiting to hear the loud killdeers overhead and in the twilight the nasal whispers of wood thrushes and nighthawks in the wood.

 

Our Story March 20, 2015

Filed under: At The Winery — fumiethorpe @ 9:20 pm
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The Barn of Straubing Vineyard under construction in 1978

The Barn of Straubing Vineyard under construction in 1978

Bob Straubing of Newark, New York, was a great wine aficionado as well as an amateur winemaker all his life that motivated him to create his own winery. He prepared one acre out of 50 acres of his newly purchased property in East Bay area in Wayne County, New York, for planting grape vines. His first planting consisted of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon on half of the cultivated soil in 1978. The following year he planted Cayuga White on the other half. Soon he realized that Cabernet Sauvignon would not grow well in his vineyard so he replaced them with Riesling. He named his new venture Straubing Vineyard.

As the vines matured, he started making wine using his own grapes. His production soon exceeded the Federal limit of 200 gallons per year for a family so he went to get a license. The birth of the first farm winery in Wayne County took place in 1984. He put his winery for sale in 1988 when he decided to retire to Florida for the winter months.

Fumie Thorpe was born and grew up in Tokyo, Japan, and came to the United States in 1983 to study meteorology at SUNY Oswego. She married to Jock Thorpe, an electrician, in the fall of 1986 while staying in college. When her father came to visit in the summer of 1988, they happened to see Straubing Vineyard for sale. He thought it was interesting, and made an offer to Bob. The deal went through despite the strong opposition of Fumie. It turned out to be the beginning of Thorpe Vineyard.

She became the business owner and the primary workforce while still working for her college degree as Jock had a full time job that prohibited his constant involvement in the operation. She learned everything from scratch; grape growing, winemaking and business practices. The fortunate facts were that she had a strong scientific background as well as having Bob and his long time winemaking friend, Kemp Bloomer, to walk the way through for the first few years of her career. They both had the opportunities to learn some winemaking techniques from Dr. Konstantin Frank. She also frequented the Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva and the Finger Lakes wineries and vineyards to enhance her learning. Their warm hospitality is still deeply appreciated by her.Fialka(2)

In 1991 she completed her meteorology degree with a minor in astronomy. Within a few years another 2 acres of vineyards were planted; expanding the same vinifera varieties, plus red French hybrids, Maréchal Foch and Chancellor. Moore’s Diamond was added in 2007 totaling 3 and half acers of vineyards to date. A good part of the wine currently crafted comes from these homegrown grapes: ever popular varietal Maréchal Foch, Riesling with mineral components enriched by the soil of the vineyards, the most award-winning Fialka whose predominant flavor is derived from Moore’s Diamond. She produces up to 1000 cases of wine per year at the present time.

The business operation has become solely on her own since her divorce in 2008. In the recent years she has brought her long time wish of Sunset Tasting and Starry Starry Night events to reality. Operating a winery was not in the original plan for her life, but it has given her the opportunity to live in a country that was once a dream of this city-born kid. It is truly delightful for her to see the splendid sunset over Lake Ontario and the countless stars shine whenever a clear night arrives. She watches the weather during the day to practice what she mastered in college to manage the grapes. On stormy winter days she might be in her lab to keep track on how the wine is maturing or preparing for the summer events in the coming season. “When no hope was left inside on that starry starry night,” the moment must become a new beginning.

MeatendofOurStory

You are cordially invited to come to experience a good blend
of the wine that reflects this location on our planet Earth and
the Universe that lies beyond us all.