Winemaker's Journal - Nov 2012
Gardening for Pleasure
One of life’s great pleasures is passing on a favorite tradition to the next generation. And so it goes with my love of gardening as I hand it down to my sons and their classmates at the Guadalupe Elementary School in San Jose’s Almaden Valley.
This story really begins in the early 20th Century when my grandfather, Rosario Troquato, grew fruit and vegetables and made wine in Calabria, Italy. He later moved to Scranton, Pennsylvania where he gardened and made wine with my father, Angelo Troquato, from California grapes shipped by rail. Fast-forward a few decades to Santa Clara Valley where my father taught me the ropes in our family garden and among the vineyards where he grew grapes for Troquato Vineyards.
Today, our entire household tills the family garden, and it is especially gratifying to see my two young sons get their hands dirty. We have an assortment of herbs and vegetables (sweet basil, lettuces, tomatoes, squash and pumpkins) and fruit trees including Fuyu persimmons, nectarines, apricots, naval oranges, avocado and a volunteer olive tree.
Naturally, we also grow grapes: one huge Bordeaux vine (probably cabernet sauvignon or petite verdot) that was sprouted from seeds on vertical trellising; two Pechetti clones of zinfandel that produce 20-30 pounds fruit per year; and flame seedless, red globe, and white crimson table grapes on overhead gable trellising that is high enough to walk under.
And what backyard garden would be complete without chickens? Our chicken run is home to three egg-producing hens whose manure is combined with veggie and fruit scraps in a compost rotator to make compost and compost tea for our soils.
Students at the Guadalupe Elementary School participate in the Lunch Time Garden Club. Parent volunteers provides supervision, and there is a Tuesday evening gardening session for parents and children. The goal of the program is to maximize the growing seasons so that the garden produces something edible year-round.
The half-acre school garden consists of nine raised beds with open bottoms: 10 inches high, 4 feet wide, and 20 feet long. We mostly grow vegetables (lettuces, beans, beets, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peppers, green beans, squash and pumpkins), but we also have herbs, tomatoes, strawberries, and 13 fruit trees (stone fruits, citrus, fig and apple).
I invest about four-to-six hours per week on both projects, but I welcome spending quality time with family and friends in the great outdoors. I encourage you to try the below lunch menu fashioned from items grown in our gardens and paired with a selection of Cinnabar wines.
Lunch Menu with Garden-grown Vegetables
Onion, cucumber, tomato and squash salad with feta cheese
and balsamic vinaigrette made with fresh herbs (tarragon, oregano, thyme and basil)
Deviled eggs with toasted Acme Sour Dough French bread
(Pair with Late Harvest Semillon)