Tuesday, July 24, 2007


My wife doesn't like Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. On the other hand, its one of my favorite movies. I asked her once why she despised it so, and she responded, “It’s just absolutely ridiculous. Everything that can go wrong, does. No one would continue building in that situation. It’s unrealistic and silly.” Meanwhile, our current house, even reappointed, isn’t much more square than the one General Gates watered his horses at in the beginning of this Cary Grant/Myrna Loy feature.
It turns out I am Mr. Blandings. I was sitting there, day dreaming of the time when I would walk the vineyards in my tweedy coat with my fine baronial hunting dogs, surveying my vineyards like Jefferson at Monticello. It would end violently different from that. For her part, Dominique player her role as Myrna Loy to the teeth, rolling her eyes and ignoring my out bursts.

There is nothing that really prepares you to build a winery. Yeah, you’ve made an addition to your house, you built a new home, you renovated your old one, you added a garage. But so many people have their say in the building of your winery, that it's hard to remember sometimes its yours.
The building inspector naturally has his say. The architect has his say. The builder makes his points. The farm manager weighs in. The consultant tells you what’s wrong. The winemaker tells you that we forgot this or that. A friend asks why did you do it this way? A friend’s wife says she doesn’t like the color scheme. The electrician thinks its all wrong. The government has definite ideas that you must adhere to. And somewhere therein, you and your wife try to squeeze your vision in as to what you want to convey to others when you are building a winery.

In the meantime, we had to contend not only with this hurricane of forces. We also had to deal with Mother- Mother Nature. After the slab was laid down, it was covered over with a couple of large tarps and a thousand used tires - to cure. I thought suddenly some film crew was going to show up and start filming the Blue Collar Tour right at our house. The only thing we were missing was an old Cadillac up on blocks.

Then came the first snow. It was lovely. And we were assured the snow would melt. It’d been a mild winter. Then came another snow instead. And suddenly, the slab was covered with a solid block of ice. It was now a skating rink with submerged tires, like the Meadlowlands swamps had frozen over.

Then the pretty drifts of snows piled up to the point where we could not open either of the house’s two front doors. This went on for a while. And when it all melted, and we were ready to begin work, another snow fell that was just as bad.

If you’ll remember, the snows finally melted when we got hit with heavy rain showers. Now the foundation was back to just being cement. The ice was gone. But suddenly the slab was submerged in a foot of water. We would be the first winery with a moat. There was a veritable stream running down my drive way.

Ralph, our farm manager, showed me by hitting one of the hills with a pick axe, he had started another stream, and then another, in an effort to relieve the earth of the water is was holding. Each puncture in the small hill sprouted another artesian well. The farm was fully saturated. And the water could not be absorbed. As a result we had ponds and running streams.

Finally, by the end of April, the snows and the waters had receeded, and finally work could begin. We were no further behind than ever - and it had been no one’s fault. Tim and his guys worked like crazy. And I showed up from time to time nodding and shaking my head, trying to look smart. While I was indeed impressed, each conversation cost me a little more money. Did I like the 3 inch molding or the 5 inch molding. Did I want the cross beams covered in pine or cherry? Raw outside paneling or pre-primed timber? Dimmers on the lights? Lintels on the trim work? The plumbing had to be completed. Then a burst pipe had to be replaced.

To complicate matters, I wanted to add a coupla. This frustrated the farm manager and builder because it was just another impediment - but they were good natured about it. And many people have since complimented me on it. But that is another story.

And this was just for the building. This wasn’t everything else that was going on inside. This was just the building of the winery.

When it was finished, my wife was barely speaking to me, I had made such as ass of myself, and the building looked wonderful But there was nothing either Cary Grant or baronial about me and my position. Only more mistakes and hard work lay ahead for me.


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