Once every few years I experience something akin to a miracle. Just at the point when the world stage is so disturbing it is hard to imagine what it will be like to raise children, my community stands up for love. A family tragedy becomes the inspiration for what appears to be the best block party ever.
The streets close down in Los Olivos, the food trucks roll in,the bands set up and families from every part of the valley appear organically to do a part to help alleviate the pain and chaos that is the by-product of something so unexpected that it knocks your world out of orbit.I have seen this scene repeated many times in this small cluster of towns called the Santa Ynez Valley. People rally together and give generously of themselves to a family they often do not know, to help cover medical expenses, housing costs and food for “one of us”. It is to be envied and emulated and is truly something to behold.If all American communities did one thing conspicuously well – took care of their own, maybe it would catch on and give us all back that sense of belonging that is so rare. The gathering point for this event is Zinke Co., a turn-of-the-century farmhouse tasting room (and bocce court!) that showcases the wines from an impassioned winemaker, Michael Zinke. Giving generously of his time and space, so his style, he has opened his gardens for families with galloping children and well-behaved dogs to have an old fashioned small town social.
Me: Michael, you’ve told me that you have fallen deeply in love with this community over the past year. Elaborate!
Michael: Patty, living here has allowed me to see things in a more positive light, even through hard times because I am surrounded by tremendous, salt-of-the-earth people with huge hearts. I was fortunate to have a front-row seat with the Hamilton Children Fundraiser. In 6 days this community raised almost $40,000.00 from the donations of everything from golf outings and vacations to handyman services. The number of donations for our silent auction at Zinke Wine Co. and the turnout from the community was overwhelming and genuinely touching.
Me: In the sense of full disclosure, you found us on a Sideways tour and decided to change your entire life! What, in particular, said “Come now, make this happen”?
Michael: I was living in Pasadena while I attended culinary school at LeCordon Bleu. I made weekend trips to Santa Ynez and fell in love with the Valley and with wine. Ultimately, I moved back to my hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma and started a small business while working for Tulsa’s UrbanWinery. After two years, I took the plunge and uprooted my life to pursue my dream of winemaking. I had a choice between Napa/Sonoma and Santa Ynez. My love for this valley and the wonderful wholesome people brought me here.
Me: I’ve heard through the grapevine (couldn’t resist) that 2015 is going to be an extraordinary harvest and vintage. What do you predict for Zinke wines?
Michael: 2015 was a roller coaster from start to finish. Early bud break kept us in fear. Shatter was rampant in Syrah which is Zinke Wines bread and butter. Our yields were off by 50% but the quality of fruit was exceptional and that combined with new winemaking techniques should give us some really exciting wines from this vintage. So, in this little hamlet in the hills, bordered by two mountain ranges, not far from the sea, people still do the work to keep a community sustainable. We show up to help and to love and remind ourselves that there is still plenty left to believe in.