Winter Has Come


I took a hiatus from this blog.  Once I got into the thick of Harvest 2018, while in the second trimester of my first pregnancy, I lost the ability to think outside of the demands of bringing in grapes, processing grapes, fermenting grapes, pressing grapes and putting nascent wine into barrel for winter hibernation.

Winter is my season.  I was born in the midst of an ice storm in Havre de Grace, Maryland in the month of January, after all.  I love snow and staying home to stay warm.  But, this year, as harvest wrapped up and the holidays came along, I felt a sense of melancholy.  This was the first time I had missed spending Christmas with my family – ever.  It’s bad enough that I don’t get to see my family enough.  Missing our family traditions made me feel alienated in our quiet, little farm abode in Newberg, Oregon.  I missed my family.  I missed the Christmas traditions that I looked forward to sharing with my family:  driving through the neighborhood to look at the Christmas lights; the Italian tradition of the feast of the seven fishes on Christmas Eve; Midnight Mass; Danish smørrebrød on Christmas morning; watching my young niece and nephew enjoy the magic and wonder of Christmas morning; enjoying the cozy togetherness, the simple art of hygge (the Danish art of coziness); and going out for the annual holiday movie with my siblings (specifically the blockbuster sequel genres of Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars).

I had to miss going home for the holidays because I was 36 weeks pregnant and unable travel across country by airplane.  And while many friends in my social media circles tried to console me and remind me that I have my own home now and my own family – a doting husband and a baby on the way – I couldn’t shake my winter blues.

While there’s nothing like going home for Christmas, it turns out that my many friends in my social media circles were right.  Traditions can be edited, families grow, and life goes on.  My sweet husband worked hard to ensure my winter – and the holidays – were still warm and cozy.  They were different, but no less special.  We had Christmas Eve dinner with his father, aunt and cousins; we attended Midnight Mass at the beautiful Grotto in Portland; he made us a beautiful Danish smørrebrød on Christmas morning; we quietly opened up gifts that were all for our soon-to-arrive baby; and, on New Year’s Eve we had a magical dinner in and set off crackers that sent brightly colored streamers to adorn our Christmas tree while sipping on Champagne, and then we slow danced to Auld Lang Syne.  It was all perfect.

I got my wonderful winter.  My birthday came along and my husband made a perfect Coq au Vin which we paired with a special bottle of 2011 Clos Roche Blanche Cuvée Pif.  This wine is significant for several reasons.  For one, I made my first wine for my business in the same vintage – 2011.  Clos Roche Blanche was the inspiration for the first red wine I ever made – my Oregon “Tour Rain” Vin Rouge – which is 40% Gamay Noir and 60% Cabernet Franc.  The 2011 CRB was born to go with my husband’s Coq au Vin.  It was nice to finally sip on some wine without repulsion during this pregnancy.  It was like falling in love with wine all over again!

As these annual markers and milestones passed, we were closer to delivering our baby.  On the weekend of our 38th week gestation we decided to take a last minute “babymoon”.  I got the green light from my doctor and we packed up for a much needed respite up on Mt. Hood.  We arrived at our friend’s quaint cabin in the snowy village of Government Camp.  We enjoyed precious time together – just the two of us before becoming three – cooking lovely meals, my husband building the best woodstove fires, playing rounds of gin rummy, snuggling, taking easy walks in the snow, and then snowshoeing a moderate trail for two miles on our last day on the mountain.  I was proud of myself for snowshoeing at 38 weeks pregnant!  It felt wonderful – my joints opened up, the fresh air was like medicine, and the snowfall was a welcome peace.  Our babymoon was winter jubilation.

The following week, I began early labor at home.  Winter had come.

After two days of early labor at home, we checked into the hospital for a light induction.  More than 24 hours later, after active labor followed by 3 hours of pushing, and a baby not passing through the pelvic bone, we were carted into surgery for a C-section.  Our beautiful baby boy was born on January 15th.

For a winemaker, this is the perfect time to have a baby.  The barrels were getting topped, as needed.  And plans for bottling the white wines in March have already been made with minimal work to do beforehand.  My husband was able to take off four weeks from work so that we could create our little fourth trimester cocoon.  We have been cozy at home, our Christmas tree still up (and quite a hit for our newborn’s gazing delight), sleeping, napping, breastfeeding, and eating nourishing, comforting winter foods – rich yellow lentil soup, beef chili, lasagna, baked sweet potatoes, southwest hash browns with farm eggs – our refrigerator and freezer prepped before heading to the hospital.  And, many of our friends in the wine business helped us out with a meal train – bringing restaurant quality foods and groceries to our front door.

We aren’t leaving the house and we aren’t opening up the door for visitors.  We are using this time to nurture and protect our newborn, allowing me to heal from both pushing in active labor and a c-section, and using this time for family bonding.  We are also in the midst of a measles outbreak in the greater Portland / Southwest Washington area – which is causing a bit of panic for many of us with babies under a year old who cannot get vaccinated.  It’s crazy, but suddenly it feels more like 1819 than 2019 with mostly anti vaxxers’ children under the age of 10 getting sick, but, putting babies and immune compromised people in danger.

Sign of the times, I guess.  The world seems crazy!  It is why I take even more comfort in staying home with my husband and baby for a winter hibernation.  It is quiet, healthy and perfect.  I am activated to write more in the few precious moments when I can sit down while the baby is sleeping, sip on some hot tea, and give my patient, sweet cat some attention.  I have a lot on my mind right now – mostly about parenting and processing a traumatic birth and dealing with the physical discomforts that come with healing from childbirth.  So, the blog will reflect what’s going on in my mind.  Eventually, it will turn back to winemaking thoughts and nutrition and living on our sweet farmstead in Oregon wine country.  There’s plenty of time for those things.  We are very much in the moment now, and that reflects mid winter, some solitude and the earliest days of caring for a newborn – with all of its beauty and wonder.  Yes, I got my wonderful winter.





FRIDA KAHLO: cultural icon, social justice champion

Photo courtesy of John Valls

There are many paintings by the Gran Artista that make me feel the depths of my own despair.  I can relate.  The painter who is by all standards a genius can make anyone feel an intended emotion, magically bridging worldviews and experiences to find common ground.

Even after undergraduate art history studies, a woman’s college education and many coffee house conversations on feminism in art, I could only imagine the suffering, pain, love, scorn, hopelessness, and defiance that Frida Kahlo spirited into her paintings. When I went to the cinema to see Julie Taymor’s critically acclaimed biopic, Frida, starring Salma Hayek, I began to understand.  By the time I was thirty-five, and had endured some pretty significant pain and loss, her work began to speak to me in a different voice. 

I have chosen to emulate Frida’s style for many of my professional events, from wearing brightly colored dresses to her signature flower crowns.  It wasn’t just to feel pretty, but to feel empowered.

I work in a male dominated business.  I often have to strike a balance between my masculine and feminine sides at work.  And, so did Frida.

Much of my life is centered around elaborate dinner parties.  Again, mostly through work.  I learned a bit about Frida’s elaborate dinner parties she used to call “dias de los manteles largos” or “days of the long tablecloths.”  She loved to entertain.  Frida, the film, presents examples of her comrades dining, dancing, singing and drinking.  Food was very important to Frida, and her grand-nieces published a cookbook based on Frida’s favorite recipes, most borrowed from the first wife of her husband, Diego Rivera.

I thought about recreating one of Frida’s dinner parties.  I thought about it some more.  In fact, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so, I asked my friend, Julia Raymond, who oversees the Portland base camp for a multi-city culinary event promotion company, Feastly, to meet me for a cup of coffee.

Julia was on board immediately.  She invited me to a Feastly event showcasing a very special Mexican brunch.  There, she introduced me to Elizabeth Baena and Héctor Guerrero, chefs and owners of Chuparrosa Supper Club.

It was kismet.

This magical dinner would need a very special space.  We contacted Brigid, the owner of Cargo, Inc., a colorful, enchanting warehouse space filled with world goods.

Again, kismet.

Weeks unfolded as we created an evening filled with the kinds of artistry that would appropriately conjure the spirit of Frida.  Creative spirits came forward wanting to be a part of this magical endeavor, all donating their products and services, including Nectar Graphics, John & Theresa Valls photography, Mezcales de Leyenda, Nicky USA, mariachi singer-songwriter, Edna Vazquez.


Photos courtesy of Cargo, Inc.

The evening unfolded with nothing short of magic!  Guests were welcomed at Cargo with real golden-orange flowers sprinkled on the rustic wooden floors, as if a religious ceremony was about to take place, a table of complimentary ribbon-tied floral crowns, and stunning Frida inspired art and merchandise installations, including a photo shoot drop with hand-painted flowers modeled after the 1939 French Vogue Magazine cover photograph of Frida.

Frida Vogue 1938

Photo from French Vogue, “Frida on Bench” by Nickolas Muray, 1939.

There were stations with tastes to delight our guests, including my wine table where I poured my 2017 Sauvignon Blanc and 2017 Rosé of Cabernet Franc; a lovely display of beautiful bites conjured up by Chuparrosa Supper Club; and a mini bar with luscious cocktails by Mezcales de Leyenda

All were enchanted by the powerful voice of Edna Vazquez.

Guests were escorted downstairs to a three course meal prepared by Chuparrosa Supper Club with wines paired by my business, Leah Jorgensen Cellars.

After the gorgeous meal, our very special guest, Leda Garside, was introduced to speak.  Leda is a veteran nurse with OHSU Tuality Healthcare and serves our community via ¡Salud!, an auction started by the Oregon Wine Industry to provide healthcare services and outreach to Oregon vineyard workers and their families.

Frida was a champion for social justice and many of her dinner parties were focused on politics and the people.  The heart of our Frida Kahlo birthday celebration was always centered on serving the local Mexican-American community, especially those underserved.  ¡Salud! was the obvious choice!  Leda spoke passionately about the important, noble work of this great cause.  A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales benefitted ¡Salud!

Frida dinnerPhoto courtesy of John Valls