As I’ve worked on the development of my small home vineyard, a question has been repeatedly asked of me: What will I call this vineyard?
Acknowledging that some may feel that naming an 87-vine, non-commercial planting in a back yard which is not located in an AVA of any repute is pompous, pretentious or unwarranted; I feel that giving this project a name gives it a focus, a spirit, a personality, and a theme reflective of my efforts and the philosophy driving them.
I have toyed with a few ideas but always wanted to “keep it real”. To me, that means more than something that is neither grandiose of pretentious. I wanted the name to be authentic-sounding and easy to pronounce (hence, no “Przebinda Vineyard”). It had to reflect the Italian theme of the vineyard and its modest and humble origins, while observing some conventions of Italian vineyard nomenclature.
I had reached out to a number of people, including Alfonso Cevola, Terence Huges and Jeremy Parzen, in the hopes of gaining an insight into Italian vineyard nomenclature (and possibly an inspiration). The communication would come in spurts as I got new ideas. I probably tired these folks out with my questions. So, I wanted to thank them, here and now, for their time, information and patience.
I wanted to avoid the obvious misuse of “Château”, “Maison”, “Bodega”, “Clos” and so forth, as that would constitute code switching. The word “Bricco” is fairly common on many Italian wine labels. While it is immediately translated as “jug” by Google Translate, it is also meant to refer to a steep or high elevation planting of high repute and quality. Jeremy Parzen gives a more informed discussion of the term here on his blog. Given that my vines are in their first leaf, it would be rather arrogant to use this term.
One day, as I looked westward across the rows and watched the airplanes circle over downtown L.A. on their way to LAX, I realized I was looking at that view through the chain link fence which surrounds the property. I looked up “chain link fence” and “wire fence” on Google Translate and came up with “recinto di filo”. It seemed to fit the project, while injecting a Randall Grahm-like pun.
But… this just didn’t last too long. The term apparently makes no sense. Too bad. It suited my sense of humor.
“Noce nero” – which is Italian for “black walnut” was an option, as there are plenty of wild California Black Walnuts in the area, and a few are at the bottom of the vineyard. However, it was pointed out that many Americans would be likely to mispronounce that name, as well. So, that idea went in the round file.
Then, recently, as I was weeding and picking out Russian Thistle thorns from my hand, it occurred to me that the site is covered in these plants (which turn to tumbleweeds, when they die and dry up).
There are other plants on the site (besides the occasional wild tobacco and wild mustard). Frank McDonough at the L.A. Arboretum helped me identify them. There is a goodly amount of Santa Barbara (Nuttall’s) wirelettuce, Horseweed, and what we have tentatively identified as Tarweed. While quite lovely when flowering, they do not symbolize the challenges of the vineyard the way the Russian Thistle does. “Thistle Vineyard” or “Vineyard of the thistles” seemed as fitting a name as any and conveys the character of the site and the kind of work it demands.
With the help of Google Translate, I arrived at the essence of the name: “Vigneto dei Cardi” (pronunciation) and Jeremy Parzen corrected the grammar. Thank you, again, Jeremy.
Going forth, any wine I make from this vineyard, will be labelled: “Vigneto dei Cardi“