“Minerality”

Meet Scott and Mary Ann Bubb, owners of Seven Mountains Wine Cellars in Spring Mills, PA. Scott and Mary Ann are participants in Harvest Hosts, which means they are one of the farms, wineries, or “attractions” around the country who have agreed to offer Harvest Hosts members free overnight RV parking. Well, it isn’t quite free, because there is an understanding among members that in exchange for the overnight parking privilege, members will make a purchase at the host location. Elaine and I joined Harvest Hosts last month to check it out. We will be including many (we hope) Harvest Host locations in our itineraries.

Scott and Mary Ann are a fascinating couple. Both of them grew up in the central PA area, and both will tell you that this is not an ideal location for growing grapes. As we were driving in their access road I was remarking to Elaine that it was difficult to see how this forested, hilly area could support vineyards. I was almost expecting to round a corner or crest a hill and find a surprising wide-open valley full of vineyards. That was not the case. We approached the wine cellars and discovered that they were set right in the forest itself.

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One of the first things Scott explained is that they “import” juice for all their wines. He said that it would be possible to grow grapes here, but not high-quality grapes needed for great wines. He had made a decision early on to use only imported juice, because he was aiming to make the best quality wine. This notion of high quality was found throughout their operation.

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When we told Scott (and later, separately Mary Ann) that we were from the Finger Lakes area of New York, they both, independently told the same story. This story says a lot about the sort of person Scott is, and it sheds light on why their winery has been such a success. Here’s the story: Not long ago Scott had been visiting some Finger Lakes wineries with a number of traveling companions of his. He had been marveling at the “minerality” that he was tasting in some of the Riesling wines that the Finger Lakes are famous for. His companions were having a difficult time figuring out what he was talking about. What is this “minerality?” Whatever it was, it seemed to be exciting to Scott, but they confessed that they just weren’t getting it. So Scott marched them outside, took them to one of the vineyards, knelt down and picked up a small handful of the shale that comprises a lot of the soil in the region. “Here,” he said, “take this and taste it!” What???!! Taste the rocks? They did, and Scott said, “That’s minerality.” That’s the thing that gives certain Finger Lakes wines a special, distinctive flavor.

Now what kind of person does this? What kind of friend asks you to taste rocks? What kind of friend would you actually do that for? (In all honesty, some of these traveling companions were Scott’s employees, so they really didn’t have much choice, did they?) What kind of a person can actually taste and appreciate the rocks in a finished wine? It is this attention to detail and this quest for the subtle dimensions of high quality wine that make Scott do what he does.

What he does is to live the American Dream. In their fifties, both Scott and Mary Ann found themselves unemployed after many years of successful careers. It was at that point that they combined the ingredients of vision, courage, optimism, and hard work and used them to create Seven Mountains Wine Cellars. Scott had been a successful amateur wine-maker; now they wanted to try to take that to a commercial level. Step-by-step they located property, obtained financing, purchased the equipment, and built a beautiful facility. Heavily in debt, they began by producing 4000 gallons of wine in that first year. They sold it all before they began year number two. Before too long their wines were winning awards. Currently they are proud to display four Governor’s Cups, which they’ve won. Mary Ann tells us that they’ve told their carpenter to leave room for at least three more display shelves, because they need seven of them – in keeping with the number “seven” in the name of their winery.

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We greatly appreciated their hospitality. We enjoyed tastes of a few of their wines, and we can testify that the quality that Scott strives for, he captures in his products. Minerality, indeed!

Mountain Music Trails

After enjoying our tour of the Crooked Road in southwest VA last summer, I was browsing online to see if there were other, similar trails in Appalachia. My growing interest in, not just bluegrass, but all traditional mountain music, as well as the history and culture of this region, demands further explorations. I was thrilled to find that there are such “trails” in West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Kentucky. There may be more. So we reached a decision to use our travels this summer to explore West Virginia’s “Mountain Music Trail.” (The blog of our Crooked Road Trip starts here, and you can read the whole thing if you look at the August 2015 archives.)

We set out on our trip to West Virginia recently, and our trip report will appear here through the next several posts.

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Who Gets Continual Sunsets?

I was sailing last evening, enjoying a glorious sunset. I was marveling that God takes the trouble to create such a beautiful display for such a short time. Then I had this revelation: for God, sunsets (and sunrises) are continuous. He is constantly…

I was sailing last evening, enjoying a glorious sunset. I was marveling that God takes the trouble to create such a beautiful display for such a short time. Then I had this revelation: for God, sunsets (and sunrises) are continuous. He is constantly creating sunsets and sunrises. They literally never end. Since I’ve been thinking about what to name my travel blog, the idea of continuous sunsets was really appealing to me. This was the birthplace of “Continual Sunsets.”

The real challenge, beyond a catchy name, is to create a travel blog that people will actually enjoy reading. What catches my interest and raises a travel blog above the crowd is a focus on the people who are a part of the places I visit. When I am in a place that is new and interesting to me, that place is home to others. If I can meet those people and learn their stories, I can understand the place I am visiting. If I can tell their stories, I believe I can present my readers with something worth their time.

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