Winter 2014: The Vines are Sleeping

The harvest is past, the netting pulled off and stored, the grapes fermented and on their way to wine, irrigation systems drained, the equipment winterized and wrapped, and the wood stove is devouring the woodpile. Winter is here, and the vines are sleeping. After a decent rain year — over 13 inches at the ranch — and an early snow, it’s been warm and dry for the past month. But the canyon country aquifers depend on a snow pack, so light some sage, say a prayer, or just send good thoughts skyward; we need the water.

North vineyards Christmas Day 2013

It’s winter duty time — time to fix and tend to all the things that get pushed to the bottom of the list during the mad growing season. Accounting, mending, restocking the ranch’s pantry, organizing the library, racking and bottling, chopping firewood, all in a day’s work.






2013 Harvest in progress!

A cold snap moved up the grape harvest date one day, to Friday, October 4th. Pictures and a run-down coming soon.

Summer is here, and the vines are cranking!

After a 2012 summer of biblical events (freeze, windstorms, and pests, all in the same year!), the summer of 2013 has been very welcome: mild temperatures, frequent short monsoon rains, and plenty of sun have combined to pump up the vines, and generally turn our canyon very green. The WWOOFers have been busy tying, pruning, and weeding, and the result is traffic-stopping (by that I mean that, on average, the two cars a day which pass through the canyon usually stop in amazement at the first sight of the viticultural oasis in the desert).

The apricot and cherry crops were smaller than usual this year, and we saw (and ate) a normal crop of peaches, but the apples and pears are coming on huge. Look for them at both the farmers market and Moonflower Market in Moab!


The vines are netted now, keeping the birds at bay, and we are waiting for the sugars and acids to reach the magic levels….Harvest Festival II is just ahead.


Some pics for you:

Martha’s Office” chardonnay block, just inside the main gate

Summer is here 2013New farmers market canopy for fruit sales Jack and Polo in the West Orchard August 2013 chard august 2013 Martha's Office Chardonnay block avec pommes



The grapes are picked!

Our first annual harvest festival is  now just a good string of memories, as alumni from years past, and new friends converged on MCR to pick, crush, and party!. Music by the the Salt Lake City band Ghost Dance, and a full harvest moon made for a great two days. Don’t miss it next year!








Rest In Peace, Our Friend Jose Garcia

Jose’s brother, mother and sister

For all the amazing things this canyon has blessed us with, the arrival of Jose Garcia into our lives was right there at the top. We came to know him as the only slightly more ambulatory half of Chuck Burand’s “seasoned” construction crew, and we watched in awe as the  colorful  fellow scampered up and down scaffolding, all skinny legs and bare chested under overalls, greying hair braids flying as he balanced on swinging roof beams, in almost single-handedly building the guest cabin. His colorful pan-racial appearance, able to look vaguely Navajo when it suited him, and Mexican when it didn’t, was matched by his  language; a conversation with Jose (uniquely pronounced “Ho-see” by his friends and family) always included enough colorful, unconstrained language to make even a construction hand blush. Jose’s foot injury mid-way through the cabin job created an opportunity for Danny to join the crew, and in turn learn the construction trade, and how to curse in three languages at the same time. We watched with hilarity, and not a little parental concern as Burand, rodeo-bowlegged and past his best roof-climbing days, and Jose, right leg in a cast to his knee, shouted directions at Danny, who did the roof scrambling, and hammer and nail work. Somehow it all worked out; The cabin was finally finished, and by the time the 3 builders signed their name in the wet entry-way cement, Jose was truly part of our lives, and of our never-ending canyon project crew.

Jose lived in a well-traveled trailer, which he had towed down and placed near the North Cave, setting out steps, a small rock and odd-treasure garden, a chair, and a generator, and he could be found there in the evenings drinking his Budweiser, playing his music, smoking something or other, telling whoppers to the amusement and wonderment of the WWOOFers, and talking to the canyon animals that he loved. Part cowboy, part artist, and usually only a step or two ahead of the authorities, Jose loved to craft beautiful things, in a kind of timeless ancient peoples’ style. His Dreamcatchers belonged in a museum, but Jose would work weeks or months on one, and then give it to someone he just met, and connected with. He was as generous a person as I have ever met.

In the four years he was with us, he left his mark: He found, cut and hauled many of the cedar posts that anchor our vineyards and gates, sometimes, belying his size,  one on each shoulder. He built the straight and long grapevine trellising north of the west orchard, and worked endlessly one year doing nothing other than making our deer fencing higher, tighter, stronger, and then higher, tighter and stronger again. The deer herd had their way with him at first, and would confound us all by finding the tiniest rent in the fence to crawl under, or the perfect single spot to vault over. But Jose doggedly went higher, tighter and stronger, until the deer just finally gave up, and moved on. If you look on the west side of the property, you can see fencing way up on the slick rock, where he surely had to rope himself in to drill the holes for the posts into solid rock, amid the spiny cactus. The deer never really had a chance against Jose.

The WWOOFer cabin owes its stout foundation to Jose’s unique improv design and construction style. Canyon walls may erode, but Jose’s cabin foundation will still be there, something surely  for 25th century archaeologists to scratch their heads at.

Jose’s big heart gave out this year. We never got a chance to say goodbye. I am surprised by how much I miss him, a what a big hole this unlikely person has left in our universe.




The WOOFER Cabin is Operational!

Our bunkhouse for WWOOFers at MCR is finally operational. Sleeps 8 in, well, in a certain style. A fully functional bathroom and giant shower, lots of deck space for relaxing, or partying, after a day in the vineyards. A wood stove keeps it warm on both ends of the growing season. We have started construction on a saloon in the North Cave, a few steps from the bunkhouse. More to come…..

Albuquerque Academy Program Returns to MCR

Students and faculty from New Mexico’s prestigious Albuquerque Academy visited MCR again in 2012, and got some up-close organic farming experience. Part of the private prep school’s Experiential Education Department’s program for two years now, the group stayed at the ranch and in addition to exploring the canyon, worked together to plant the vineyard block above. See the grades 6-12 academy at More on this visit coming soon.


Quick 2009 Summer Update

We are done with planting for this year! So far we have 2500 Chardonnay, 750 Riesling, and 250 Chenin Blanc in the ground, and as a week ago leafing out. All the projects are coming along nicely, but are too numerous to plow through in this short update. The main reason I am updating is to point everyone over to the newest picture albums, so you can get a feel for what we have been up to around here and also to show that the video section has been updated as well. We also have lots of new additions from around the world to the ranch through the WWOOF program keeping it more interesting than usual around here.

Spring 2009 is Approaching

Spring appears to be arriving early this year in Montezuma Canyon, and with it a ramping up of activity on the ranch. A massive vineyard project is in the works, which will eventually total around 21 acres of trellising. Check out the new property map and the full facts and figures. Another surprise we got recently was getting to see an absolutely beautiful landscape painting of Martha’s Apricot Tree! It was painted by the talented Lee Chew of Sandy, Utah, from a picture she took during a visit to MCR last summer with husband Mike and sons Ty and Bennett.
In other cool news around here, our neighbors the Tracy family were featured in the magazine Living Cowboy Ethics by the Paragon Foundation. You can check out the article on the three generations of the Tracy family, and their nearby Wagon Rod Ranch right here online. To find out more about the Paragon Foundation, check them out on the web. It is a great organization that educates ranchers on their rights and opportunities to help save the ranching lifestyle in the west.

Keep checking the interactive webcam through april to see the trellising progress. Also Check out the Raw Feed for the latest pictures and videos from the ranch, before they are organized and cut down to slide shows. The Raw Feed gallery is 10,000 photos and videos and growing.

White Christmas 2008!

The Christmas storm that hit the Pacific Northwest, but only grazed our friends in Southern California, dropped more snow on Montezuma Canyon than locals can remember. We spent Christmas doing all the things Southern Californians like to say they escaped, in moving from wherever they came from: shoveling snow, fixing roof leaks, trudging through thigh-deep snow for more firewood, and wearing four layers of clothing – inside! With perfect timing, Chuck was able to get away to visit family and friends just as the first flakes flew, the week before Christmas. So, with Chuck decamped to warmer climes, Mopit the cat spent his second Christmas with his adoptive family, entertaining us, and generally avoiding going outside, where he would have to burrow through fresh \”overhead\” snow. We rediscovered the adrenaline rush of fast ATVs in the snow, and generally enjoyed the canyon’s unending parade of wildlife: the mule deer herd, our turkeys, a few feral cats, and the eagles. Neighbors have all seen the elk coming through, but so sightings so far this winter at MCR. The deer have outsmarted every attempt to keep them from eating green shoots in the vineyards and orchards. We’d exhaust ourselves chasing them out, and locking the gates, only to see them leap over, or in some cases, through the fences and gates. It’s a war, though, not just a battle, and we all stay up late at night thinking of new ways to win this one. Spring will likely see taller deer fences and vertical reinforcement at all the known weak spots.

New Year’s Eve was spent not watching balls drop two time zones away on the tube, but hosting a warm dinner created by Martha for canyon friends, followed by a Mule ride through the snow down to Danny’s Men’s Club barn – a perfect oil-lamp lit setting to say goodbye to a tough year, and to look with optimism and friendship to the new one. We huddled around a Chuck-created campfire, told lies, sang a song, blew some noisemakers, drank some hot cider, and watched Danny light off some definitely-not-safe-and-sane fireworks in the snow. A donkey down the canyon brayed noisily as we ended our week-late and wrong-pitched version of Silent Night; we laughed at his perfectly timed, thumbs-down critique.

We made some improvements to our small wine operation, some adjustments to the process, and added the trellising for a third vineyard, as yet unnamed. Jose (pronounced locally \”Hosey\”), who worked with Danny and contractor Chuck Burand on the house that Chuck lives in, returned to the canyon in the late Fall to do the trellising and staking, using cedar posts we found in Southwest Colorado to make the \”H\” pattern end stakes. If there is a straighter, prettier vineyard hardscape around, I have not yet seen it. We’re thinking about planting Riesling grapes, as the new very dry style Rieslings are making a comeback, and the European and Midwestern tourists who frequent the Four Corners wineries generally like them. As you can tell, the work never ends at MCR, but these are labors of love, and we never tire of the process.

There is a new interactive webcam up! Just click on the image to re-cetnter where you want to look, and the camera will pan and tilt to give you a 180 degree view of the canyon facing south.

Montezuma Canyon Ranch website by danny.
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