WootBot


quality posts: 14 Private Messages WootBot

Staff

Welcome back guest blogger Scott Harvey of Scott Harvey Wines, here revealing his origin story to the world.

When sitting around enjoying a glass of wine with a group of fellow wine people, the conversation invariably comes around to “How did you get bit by the wine bug?” or how did you get into the wine business? Drew Thurman aka WineDrew, a winedavid39 associate, was by the other day and after a few bottles of wine he asked. I told him over another bottle of wine and he goes, “You got to write it down so we can put it on the blog.” So here it is.

Although my step-grandfather grew grapes, I did not grow up in the wine business, being the son of a high school teacher. While in high school, I was sent to Germany by AFS (American Field Service) on an eight week summer exchange program. I was placed with a family in the picturesque wine region, Rheinland Pfalz. The first day I was there they set me down and gave me a glass of Riesling. I’m thinking I’m going to like this. Looking out the window all you could see were hill after hill of beautifully manicured vineyards. My first sentence was, “Does this wine come from those grapes?” They said, “Sure it does, do you want to see where it is made?” They took me into the basement and pulled me another glass from the barrel. Ever since then, “I’ve been bitten by the wine bug!” Check out our YouTube video taken in the vineyard looking up at that window where I was sitting 38 years ago.

Having a real low draft number, I came back from that idyllic AFS experience, basically to go to Vietnam. Luckily, Nixon ended the draft and I didn’t have to go. After going to college for a while, I set my sights on becoming a winemaker. What better place to learn than back in Germany. After working the 1974 harvest at Montevina for $1.25 an hour, I saved about $600 and set out. I had a full beard and long sun bleached blond hair down to the center of my back. With limited funds, I needed to get there as cheaply as possible. With a backpack and a five string Vega banjo in hand, a buddy and I started our trip by hopping a freight train down through the Central Valley of California and over the Tehachapi’s to San Bernardino. Today, some of the wine I make is at a custom crush winery in Lodi right along those very same train tracks. I always smile as a train goes flying by, still drawn to look and see if there are any open box cars.

From San Bernardino we hopped another train to El Paso, Texas. In El Paso, we were caught by the railroad yard “Bull” detective and thrown out of the yard. So, we had to start hitchhiking our way across the longest driest state in the Union. The beard was lost along the way in San Antonio. Hitchhiking across the country, especially carrying a banjo in the south, you realize that this country is full of wonderful people, always willing to help you out with a warm meal and a roof over your head. Southern hospitality is alive and real. We did get stuck in Mobile, the local Sheriff wanting to take us to jail. I remember humming the Bob Dillon song “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again”. The Sheriff didn’t think it was funny.

On Christmas day we finally made it to Miami where we met up with friends. My buddy now staying behind, I made my way to Tampa Bay where I paid passage on a German phosphate freighter to Rotterdam. We left on New Year’s Eve. Floating out of Tampa harbor at midnight with a Becks beer in hand, I remember looking at the lights of the city, thinking, it’s going to be a long time before I see my home again. Knowing German, I got along well with the crew and spent two weeks steaming across the north Atlantic drinking my share of beer. When we came to port in Rotterdam, I had a hard time getting into the country. With little money, long hair, and no one knowing I was coming, they took me to be another young American hippy wanting to participate in the Amsterdam drug scene. As of yet, I had not told my German AFS exchange parents I was even coming.

I did get in, and started hitching my way across Europe. With $150 left in my pocket, I showed up at my AFS parents’ doorstep. Totally surprising them, I claimed “I want to become a winemaker.” They were so excited to see me and offered to let me stay there. My German father, a 6 ft plus ex SS officer from the war, said “First thing is, you need to cut off that hair.” So, off to the barber I went. The barber cropped the ponytail against my head and cut it off, then proceeded with the haircut. I know some lady in Germany is wearing that hair today. I have never grown it out since.

Having been born to American parents in Germany, I have both an American and German birth certificate. With the German birth certificate I had minimal trouble finding an apprenticeship with K. Fitz Ritter in Bad Durkheim and dropping into the second year of a two year winemaking and vineyard management program at Weinbau Schule Neustadt. It was a wonderful experience. To this day my classmates are still great friends and I still call my German mother once a week. This month, the son of one of my classmates is coming to visit us to start an apprenticeship in the Napa Valley.

After completing the Weinbau Schule, I again hitchhiked to Luxemburg and flew to New York City. The city was on strike and there was garbage piled 6 feet high all over the streets - a shock after such an idyllic time in the Rheinland Pfalz. I bought a bus ticket all the way through New Jersey to the first town in Pennsylvania. I met a student on the bus who put me up, at the discomfort of his girlfriend. I got up early, leaving them a bottle of wine and a thank you note and walked out into a beautiful wooded landscape covered by a dusting of fresh snow. Seven days later and seven dollars poorer, I was home in Amador County starting my career as an assistant winemaker back at Montevina Winery.

NedDawg


quality posts: 34 Private Messages NedDawg

Great story, but I think you want to make that Bob Dylan.

Edited for typo.

MarkDaSpark


quality posts: 168 Private Messages MarkDaSpark
NedDawg wrote:Great story, but I think you want make that Bob Dylan.



Something makes me think that Spell Check is to blame.


Someone has to put WD's kids thru college, but why does it have to be me!
*This post is for purposes of enabling only, and does not constitute any promise of helping pay for said enabling. It does indicate willingness to assist in drinking said wine.

NedDawg


quality posts: 34 Private Messages NedDawg
MarkDaSpark wrote:Something makes me think that Spell Check is to blame.

Shame on Spell Check.

ScottHarveyWines


quality posts: 148 Private Messages ScottHarveyWines
NedDawg wrote:Shame on Spell Check.



No, I think I'm to blame. I'm a terrible speller.

MarkDaSpark


quality posts: 168 Private Messages MarkDaSpark
ScottHarveyWines wrote:No, I think I'm to blame. I'm a terrible speller.



You and WineDavid ...


Someone has to put WD's kids thru college, but why does it have to be me!
*This post is for purposes of enabling only, and does not constitute any promise of helping pay for said enabling. It does indicate willingness to assist in drinking said wine.

zeusonethree


quality posts: 0 Private Messages zeusonethree

Wonderful story! I've recently taken an interest in wine, and winemaking and stories like this are quite inspiring. Thanks!

~Sean~

woopdedoo


quality posts: 35 Private Messages woopdedoo

Hi Scott -

I remember some of this story from lunch - such a different time just being on your own and relying on the kindness of strangers. When I was in high school I was in Germany (near Freiburg) for two months and hitchhiked. It was rare that if it was not the very first car would stop to pick me up.

How do you think your experience learning winemaking has informed the way you approach wine making today?

crzycajn70


quality posts: 2 Private Messages crzycajn70

Great article, Scott. Germany is such a wonderful place. Time for another extended layover next trip home. BTW, with winter definitely set in a large part of the US, do you have any tips or special gluwein recipes you'd be willing to share? Thanks!

"The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page." --St. Augustine

joshaw


quality posts: 23 Private Messages joshaw

Wow, I'm glad I didn't miss this blog post. Thanks for sharing, what an amazing story!

ScottHarveyWines


quality posts: 148 Private Messages ScottHarveyWines
woopdedoo wrote:Hi Scott -

I remember some of this story from lunch - such a different time just being on your own and relying on the kindness of strangers. When I was in high school I was in Germany (near Freiburg) for two months and hitchhiked. It was rare that if it was not the very first car would stop to pick me up.

How do you think your experience learning winemaking has informed the way you approach wine making today?



The school I went to (Weinbau Schule Neustadt) was a Staatsweingut geared towards small family estate wineries. We had to grow the grapes, make the wine and sell it. I learned a lot about the business of wine production and sales. Also, winemaking is janitorial and I learned how to keep the winery clean.

ScottHarveyWines


quality posts: 148 Private Messages ScottHarveyWines
crzycajn70 wrote:Great article, Scott. Germany is such a wonderful place. Time for another extended layover next trip home. BTW, with winter definitely set in a large part of the US, do you have any tips or special gluwein recipes you'd be willing to share? Thanks!



Gluhwein is great on a cold winter day. I thought we had a recipe on our website, but could not find one. I found a good one at http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art25534.asp.

ddeuddeg


quality posts: 23 Private Messages ddeuddeg
ScottHarveyWines wrote:Gluhwein is great on a cold winter day. I thought we had a recipe on our website, but could not find one. I found a good one at http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art25534.asp.

Thanks for the tip. Looks like you can make a batch and reheat it as desired. We'll need it more here in Buffalo than you will in St. Helena. Best wishes for the holidays to you and Jana.
Here's a live link for that Gluhwein site.

"Always keep a bottle of Champagne in the fridge for special occasions. Sometimes the special occasion is that you've got a bottle of Champagne in the fridge". - Hester Browne


Ddeuddeg's Cheesecake Cookbook

richardhod


quality posts: 261 Private Messages richardhod
ScottHarveyWines wrote:Gluhwein is great on a cold winter day. I thought we had a recipe on our website, but could not find one. I found a good one at http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art25534.asp.



what wine do you reckon's best for making a good gluwein... without wasting your best ones! :D

ScottHarveyWines


quality posts: 148 Private Messages ScottHarveyWines
richardhod wrote:what wine do you reckon's best for making a good gluwein... without wasting your best ones! :D



I like to use Syrah. Looks like a good one being offered on woot right now. The Cathedral Ridge.

tenuki


quality posts: 7 Private Messages tenuki
ScottHarveyWines wrote:I like to use Syrah. Looks like a good one being offered on woot right now. The Cathedral Ridge.



Hey Scott, great story and thanks again for the cigars! Tried one the other night, really enjoyed it. Remind me to set aside some time next time though, I kinda pulled it out on a whim, but it takes a long time to get through one of those Hope you and Jana have a great holiday season!

CT