Thursday, August 21, 2014

What is in Fair Play? The History of the Fair Play Wine Country # 2





I was thinking that once you are here in Fair Play and are enjoying some of the great wines from the many great wineries here, you'd wonder how it all started. This is the second part of the History of the Fair Play Wine Country. Lucinda's Country Inn is as much a part of the history of the Fair Play Wine Country as many of the newer wineries.

Lucinda's Country Inn lower entrance.

Lucinda (Cindy) & I bought the property in 1997. We quickly began to redirect the drainage. You never really control the water runoff, but you can help it flow into places you want it to go. We installed a 12" by 450' long culvert on the east side of our building site. On the west there is an 18" by 500 foot long one. That helped keep the vast majority of water from running directly through our building site. We then were able to build Lucinda's Country Inn, with the help a a large 600 foot long french drain on the Perry Creek Rd. side of the building site..

I mention Lucinda's Country Inn before any of the wineries because the first four wineries were the only ones really in Fair Play before Cindy & I became a small part of Fair Play. Well, I guess that's not exactly, completely true. Perry Creek Vineyards & Winery and Single Leaf Winery were in their infancy, a little while before we opened Lucinda's Country Inn. 

Perry Creek was started by a gentleman from Southern California who made his money in the textile business. Michael Chasen built his winery, planted his grapes and became known for his auto collection and the walk-in cigar humidor. He later bought 7UP Bar Ranch and converted it into a B&B  and added more vines on that property. Cindy & I stayed many a night at 7UP Bar Ranch B&B while we looked for our property and started our work on Lucinda's. Single Leaf Winery was started by Scott & Pam Miller, who at the time lived in Carson City, NV. Scott was the curator for the Nevada State Museum while Pam toiled  as a lobbyist for the Nevada Contractors. They traveled over the hill for decades planting their vines and tending to the efforts of starting their winery. They live in a 5th Wheel while doing all this. Finally, after opening their tasting room they got their home built. 

Today this is the view from Single Leaf's deck over looking their vineyard and the Fair Play Valley.

A quick digression: Cindy & I frequented Fair Play from Southern California when we lived there for a few years. On one trip we saw a sign on the road "Winery OPEN". The driveway went up the long hill to a little red building, not much bigger than a small farm barn. There was a concrete pad on the side of the "barn" so we knew it wasn't a farm operation. We heard a man's voice yelling "I'll be right there." It was Scott yelling from his tractor down hill in the vineyard. About five minutes later he was walking up beating dirt from his clothes as he approached. We were the first official wine tasters for Single Leaf Winery.

So when we started the detailed plans for Lucinda's Country Inn there were just 6 wineries in Fair Play. We designed Lucinda's based on the fact of no restaurants and few wineries in Fair Play. Before we started building two more wineries were added. Oakstone Winery and Chalet Fleur de Lys were up and running.
Oakstone Winery up from the ashes as Oakstone2.0 !

John and Susan Smith were the founders of Oakstone Winery. They opened their tasting rooms doors in 1997. In John's prior life he was a chemist with Johnson & Johnson's Life Scan Division. Susan was a teacher in a community college in the Bay Area, where they moved from. John worked with Scot Miller at Single Leaf for a time. Neither will admit who was teaching who the wine making skills, but both do admit they'd be worse off without the other's help. One fine summer night about four years ago a fire started in the Oakstone barrel room. When the forklift's propane fuel tank got hot enough it exploded and blew Oakstone Winery to smithereens. The fire burned everything but one portion of one wall. Everything was lost. Fortunately, a few years earlier John had started another small winery, just for him to have fun making obscure wines, hence the name Obscurity Cellars. So Oakstone 2.0 was born out of the ashes of Oakstone and in the facilities of Obscurity Cellars. Steve & Liz Ryan make an excellent team and have preserved the integrity of Oakstone and are championing great strides to keep the traditions of Oakstone alive and growing.

John Smith summarized another winery was in Fair Play before most of the second wave started.  The Slater Winery specialized in vegetable and fruit wines like cucumber, squash, peach and apple. He lasted only one season. That's why most folks don't list him as a real winery

Chalet Fleur de Lys was born from the labor of love of the outdoors and growing things. Robert Lajoie was in the printing business for many years when he and his wife, Mireille, discovered El Dorado County on a trip to Coloma to pan for gold. Their migration began in Montreal then to Burbank and they finally moved to Fair Play and started their vineyard venture in 1996. The Gilpin family of Windwalker helped Robert with the beginnings of their operation. In fact, Robert used to work in the Windwalker tasting room with Arnie. Both fed off each to tell outrageous stories and have lots of fun. They became "grasshoppers", everlasting friends. Cindy & I would stop in at Windwalker and Arnie would have us take their grasshopper to Robert's, and vise a virsa. The Fleur de Lys tasting room opened as Lucinda's Country Inn was going through the torture of the County permitting process. Cindy & I would venture to Robert & Meri's on Sunday afternoons late and lament about the rigors we went through the past week and shared stories about them & us going through the BS (Business Stuff) of the County. There we few visitors in the tasting room in those early days, so Robert and I would get animated to the hilt.

Cindy & I lived next door to a future winery for two years while getting started on the construction of Lucinda's Country Inn. That winery became a newbies then. I'll explain in part 3.

"Til Next Time...

Daryl