Kukkula Wines

Tuesday October 1, 2013

shades of gray

By Kevin

Some of you may look at this pic­ture and think this is real­ly cool. Oth­ers may won­der what pos­sessed me to kill this ani­mal. I vac­il­lat­ed a bit before decid­ing to use the image, because I real­ized it might evoke a polar­i­ty of views. Yet the moment epit­o­mizes, per­haps, how much my life has changed since mov­ing to the Cen­tral Coast nine years ago.

My par­ents moved the fam­i­ly from Cana­da to Los Ange­les before my 5th birth­day. Our Finnish fam­i­ly, espe­cial­ly those liv­ing in Cana­da, relied on hunt­ing and fish­ing as a source of food. Dad taught me to han­dle hand­guns and rifles at an ear­ly age to pre­pare me to go hunt­ing with him. He also taught me to fish. We did that exten­sive­ly through­out my child­hood. As a result, I’ve become a life­long avid fish­er­man. I, in turn, have taught my boys to fish, and we do a lot of fish­ing togeth­er. Espe­cial­ly at our lake home in Canada.

Hunt­ing, how­ev­er, nev­er mate­ri­al­ized. My dad talked often about it, but life got in the way. Liv­ing in the metrop­o­lis of L.A. was a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent propo­si­tion than my rur­al birth­place. Not only was it less con­ve­nient, but that sense of neces­si­ty no longer exist­ed. Over the years, espe­cial­ly after head­ing off for col­lege, my inter­est in hunt­ing waned.

I’ve instilled in my boys that even though fish­ing has an ele­ment of chal­lenge, or sport, we don’t kill for sport; we kill for food. And although I’ve caught and con­sumed prob­a­bly thou­sands of fish in my life­time, to this day I still get a slight twinge of remorse when clean­ing the day’s catch. I’m mind­ful that I’ve killed anoth­er life, and I know it has been done pri­mar­i­ly for recre­ation. The real­i­ty is I could buy what food I need­ed, yet I sup­pose some­one else would have done the kill, and I invari­ably would pur­chase it to be con­sumed. Thus, I ratio­nal­ize why I fish.

So, where’s this going? Grow­ing up in Los Ange­les, liv­ing the big city life, going to col­lege, I devel­oped a fair­ly lib­er­al per­spec­tive of the way the world should func­tion. I became some­one who believes that there should be fair­ly strong rules on the dis­tri­b­u­tion of guns. I hope that doesn’t shock my more con­ser­v­a­tive read­ers. It seemed pret­ty black and white.

Paula and I plant­ed our first vine­yard (all 1 12 acres!) in Topan­ga Canyon, a sub­urb of L.A. in the San­ta Mon­i­ca moun­tains. It didn’t take long for me to lose my fond­ness of those cute lit­tle fur­ry bur­row­ing ani­mals we call gophers. Soon I was trap­ping and killing them. It was them or the vines!

When we moved to the Cen­tral Coast and I plant­ed my vine­yard and olive orchard (now on 80 acres), the host of pari­ahs only mul­ti­plied. Not only were we deal­ing with gophers, we now had to con­tend with voles, rab­bits, squir­rels, deer, and boar. I’m sure I’ve left some­thing out!. It didn’t take long to suc­cumb to the neces­si­ty of pur­chas­ing a .22 rifle to erad­i­cate the squir­rels. We became pret­ty pro­fi­cient at trap­ping gophers and voles. We fenced our prop­er­ty and effec­tive­ly elim­i­nat­ed the deer pres­sure. But the boar were an entire­ly dif­fer­ent propo­si­tion. Over the last sev­er­al years, we’ve seen them on the prop­er­ty; we’ve seen evi­dence of their root­ing around the wal­nut orchard; we’ve seen the dam­age to our fruit in the vine­yard, and for the most part it was nev­er bad enough for me to hunt them. Two years ago, I did get a depre­da­tion per­mit which allowed me to kill destruc­tive pigs on the prop­er­ty. Yet, with my crazy sched­ule and my hes­i­tan­cy to have a large cal­iber weapon in the house, I nev­er fol­lowed through.

Dur­ing the last few years, I found myself reflect­ing and com­ing to terms with the real­i­ties of liv­ing on a farm and how dif­fer­ent that was than liv­ing in the big city. The eco­nom­ic via­bil­i­ty of our project to a large degree would be effect­ed by how we dealt with the wildlife that roamed our farm. So, some of my assump­tions about gun own­er­ship were being altered. Maybe it wasn’t so black and white!

A month ago, at the begin­ning of Sep­tem­ber, Paula and I were hang­ing out with some out of town friends in the kitchen, hav­ing break­fast. I was gaz­ing out toward our pool and the sur­round­ing land­scape when my eye caught what appeared to be a roto-tilled lawn. On clos­er inspec­tion, we dis­cov­ered that near­ly half of it was turned over. By the foot­prints, it was obvi­ous we had at least one pig caus­ing the dam­age. Over the next sev­er­al days we repaired the lawn a num­ber of times, only to see it destroyed yet again. I renewed the depre­da­tion per­mit and capit­u­lat­ed on the gun pur­chase. That was the easy part.

Our destroyed land­scape sat lit­er­al­ly right below our mas­ter bed­room. So I carved out 2 – 3 hour slots each night to stand vig­il at the win­dows over­look­ing the lawn. No pigs showed up. I start­ed scan­ning blogs on pig hunt­ing; I exper­i­ment­ed with out­side lights on and off; I had the doors open, then closed; I start­ed feel­ing like Bill Murray’s char­ac­ter, Carl Spack­ler in Cad­dyshack. Of course, the nights I decid­ed to sleep, it (they?) showed up. The blogs sug­gest­ed using red or green lights to illu­mi­nate the area. Final­ly, after three weeks of wait­ing, I hap­pened to get up and caught the pig in the act. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I couldn’t take the shot because the red light I used was too dim and the angle of tra­jec­to­ry might have hit the house if I missed the tar­get. I let it go. At least now I knew it was a lone boar (male). The next day I switched the light col­or to green which proved to be much brighter. That, in com­bi­na­tion with a motion sen­sor device mount­ed next to the lawn, and an alarm on my bed­side table proved to be the right for­mu­la. A few nights lat­er, the alarm went off, the light shone bright, I got my shot, and the pig was killed.

I was elat­ed! Like the gophers, it was our grapes and land­scape, or the pig. An easy decision.

Reflect­ing on all of this, now a few days lat­er, I’m glad I killed the boar. Inter­est­ing­ly, I thought I would feel remorse, yet that hasn’t hap­pened. I will con­fess that the chal­lenge and suc­cess of the hunt was a rush. If you’re won­der­ing, I dressed the boar that next morn­ing and it is now at a butcher’s shop being cut into meat for our con­sump­tion. Some of it will be shared with our club mem­bers who come to our pick up par­ty on the 26th of Octo­ber. The rest will be shared with friends and fam­i­ly over the next few months. And if you’re won­der­ing if my beliefs about gun con­trol have changed, the short answer is no. But maybe things aren’t entire­ly black and white, either. Per­haps some shades of gray.

all things not wine: kitchen, olive oil, and more

By Paula

Like the grapes, olive har­vest came ear­ly this year. We had sched­uled the har­vest for Novem­ber 1st – more than a month ear­li­er than we’ve ever har­vest­ed before, but when we took a clos­er look at the olives in the begin­ning of Octo­ber, we real­ized they would need to be picked even ear­li­er! So we picked on October10th and 11th. And instead of hav­ing the mobile press come to us, we brought the 3 12 tons to the press for processing.

We will still be sell­ing our 2012 oil (har­vest­ed in Decem­ber 2012) for a few months yet. If you haven’t tried it, sam­ples are avail­able in the tast­ing room, and if you are a wine club mem­ber you have an 80 ml sam­ple bot­tle com­ing with your Fall club ship­ment. We have spe­cial BTGOF hol­i­day pric­ing on the 250 ml bot­tles– that is: buy three, get one free, through the end of the year. The olive oil makes a great gift for teach­ers, cowork­ers or host­esses, and this is a per­fect time to stock up!

In addi­tion to the usu­al stuff (wine jel­ly, spice rub and more), we also have some new prod­ucts in the tast­ing room. We brought in some new gar­ment dyed tees this sum­mer in more sizes: a gen­er­al kukku­la shirt in a char­coal col­or and sisu and Lothario shirts in the col­or of their respec­tive labels (red­dish and pur­ple). For the first time we also pur­chased the kukku­la shirts in women’s sizes. While sup­plies last, we are sell­ing the old shirts at sale pric­ing (lim­it­ed sizes). Also new, we have tiny kukku­la bot­tles (called vinia­tures). They are about three inch­es tall and some come with corks, some with hang­ing tops. They are great hol­i­day orna­ments or dec­o­ra­tions for gifts. All of these prod­ucts receive wine club discounts.

distribution update: kukkula goes international

We have been flirt­ing with inter­na­tion­al dis­tri­b­u­tion for some time now. Not because we’ve been proac­tive. In fact, dis­tri­b­u­tion has become less impor­tant for us. Today, we dis­trib­ute to only two states. A few years ago, it was sev­en states. Since our tast­ing room opened, our tast­ing room and wine club sales have risen to around 95% of our rev­enue. Need­less to say, we’re hap­py with the way things are progressing.

That said, in the last year, we’ve been approached by a cou­ple of peo­ple about dis­tri­b­u­tion in Fin­land (Cool, my Home­land!), and Chi­na. Well, a few days ago, we shipped off our first wine (sisu and vaalea, of course!) to Finland.

Dis­tri­b­u­tion to Chi­na is in its infan­cy. Nor­mal­ly we prob­a­bly wouldn’t pur­sue this, but because of con­ver­sa­tions with a good friend and some­one who does busi­ness there, we’re explor­ing it. Who knows, it might just hap­pen! We’ll keep you posted.

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