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For local winemakers, the end of harvest means start of vacations

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Posted: Thursday, January 6, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 6:13 am, Thu Jan 6, 2011.

Branches have been stripped in vineyards across Lodi and the gondolas have returned to the sheds. Harvest is over. Even though work never fully stops on a farm, area winemakers and grape growers are thankful they have a few weeks to take a short vacation to unwind after another busy year.

For some, an annual trip to a ski resort or amusement park is on the horizon. Others feel the best way to unwind is to head to ocean. Even though pruning, weed control, maintenance or accounting work still needs to be done this time of year, most vintners are pleased with the fact that the harvest is behind them and that they have a minute to breathe.

Grape grower and Lodi Winegrape Commission board member Bob Lauchland knows how to appease his family after spending many nights and weekends during the year in the vineyard. Lauchland, his wife and two children regularly spend a few days after the harvest each year in Disneyland.

"My wife has the mouse virus," Lauchland said. "Every time we see a commercial, she wants to come down."

Although Southern California is commonly associated with sunny skies and warm temperatures, Lauchland and his family were caught in the deluge of rainstorms during their brief time in Los Angeles last week.

"We're kind of hiding right now, someone send an ark," he said Dec. 21.

Another local winemaker enjoys getting away to reconnect with his family.

"Taking a short vacation is a way to make amends with my wife after long harvest," said Ryan Sherman, winemaker for Fields Family Wines.

Sherman is also a Realtor and said time spent after vacation and during fermentation will be focused on real estate.

Other winemakers prefer outdoor sports and nature to amusement parks. Kyle Lerner, owner of Harney Lane Winery, has been making an annual winter trip to Lake Tahoe for the last 25 years.

"Unless the stars align, we can't go during the growing season," he said.

The Lerners typically stay in the Homewood area of Alpine Resort. His two children enjoy skiing and the view at a resort in Homewood.

"They have a lodge at the top of hill that overlooks the lake. It's an amazing space," he said. "The food isn't anything special, but the view is."

Although he is now pruning in his vineyard, Bruce Fry of Mohr-Fry Ranch took the family to Lake Tahoe for a few days after harvest wrapped up. Fry's grandparents purchased a cabin on the West side of the lake near Meeks Bay in the early 1950s and it has been a family destination ever since.

"We're lucky the grandparents could buy it when they did," he said. "It's quiet and there weren't many people up there when we went."

Although he hasn't skied for several years, Fry said he could look to get back into it now that his children are getting older.

"I think it's time to start to throw them down the slopes," he said.

The Fry family also makes a point to visit Sunnyside Restaurant, he said. One item he craves all year long is the restaurant's Hula Pie. It's an ice cream cake and Fry said it is the ideal after-dinner treat, even when surrounded by freshly fallen snow. The name for the dessert comes from a sister restaurant of the establishment in Hawaii.

As for David Lucas of the Lucas Winery, he unwinds after a long year by grabbing his longboard and hitting the beach. An avid surfer, Lucas was slightly disappointed that he missed some excellent winter wave swells in Central California due to a prolonged harvest this year. However, he said the quality of grapes he collected makes up for the loss.

"It was a fair trade," he said.

Shortly after Christmas, Lucas headed to one of his favorite surfing spots: Morro Bay. He enjoys the spot because it's not overcrowded and there are many surfers his age there.

Even though the water is cold, Lucas said he wears a wetsuit and is expecting the waves to be worth the mild discomfort.

Although sharks can mistake surfers for animals in their diet, Lucas said he isn't worried about it since he has spent millions of hours in the water over his lifetime.

"I imagine the adult sharks point me out to the younger ones and tell them they don't want to eat me because I'm really old and tough and would taste like roadkill," he said.

Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at jordang@lodinews.com.

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