The Road to Becoming a Viticulturist - Mountain News : Mountain Living

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The Road to Becoming a Viticulturist

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Posted: Thursday, March 24, 2016 6:00 am

Landscape architect Richard Krumwiede has found a new love: winemaking.

He and his wife, Elizabeth, bought property in Dart Canyon, where they established Sycamore Ranch Vineyard and Winery in 2012.

“What attracted us to the property,” Richard told members of the Crestline-Lake Gregory Rotary Club at a recent meeting, “was that the area used to be an apple farm.”

When he and Elizabeth moved onto the property, there were only two structures, no landscaping and just nine old trees.

It was Elizabeth’s father who taught Richard how to appreciate wine. “He introduced me to some of the finest wines,” Richard said. “He gave us the opportunity to go wine touring and tasting. We fell in love with the lifestyle.”

When pine trees on the property succumbed to the bark beetle, the Krumwiedes terraced the newly opened area and planted a small vineyard of zinfandel grapes.

“The first wine we made was horrible,” Richard admitted—unlike the hard cider they produced from their apples. “It was wonderful.”

Because their goal was to give good things to their friends—not things that would make them run away—Richard reached out for help. At a wine dinner at the Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa, he talked with a winemaker and asked if he sells his fruit to home winemakers. The answer was yes.

Richard was introduced to Tom Bachman, who invited the Krumwiedes to his home and told them about the wine cooperative he had set up. They followed suit, inviting friends and neighbors who shared a mutual love of friendship and wine to join.

The couple built garden rooms and planted more fruit trees—cherries and pears—as well as raspberries and blackberries. They built a barrel room in the barn. The co-op members would help with the stemming, pressing and bottling and were able to get the wine for the cost of bottling.

“We had about 10 people involved and produced 150 cases the first year from fruit we purchased from Paso Robles,” Richard said.

Last year, after completing the licensing and bonding process, Sycamore Ranch produced about 500 cases of wine. They entered some of those initial wines in the Los Angeles and Orange County fairs. In Los Angeles they won two golds and Best of Show.

The ranch now boasts 65 apple trees. They will have hard cider to sell this summer. Artist John Arthur is designing the Sycamore Ranch labels.

The wine Sycamore Ranch is making is not yet available for sale—that will come next year—but it is available to taste by calling and making an appointment. And folks can buy futures in the wine to come.

While they are growing some of their own grapes, Richard said it’s really difficult to do so here on the mountain. “That’s why we buy so many grapes from up north,” he said. He prefers the Central Coast grapes as they get the upper and lower temperatures that yield a better product.

What you’re looking for, Richard noted, is a “balance between sugar and acid. Without acid, the wine doesn’t taste bright, doesn’t have a lot of character.”

For more information on Sycamore Ranch and to inquire about a tasting, call (909) 338-1725.

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