Welcome to the web home of Flint Ridge Vineyard & Winery here in the Flint Ridge region of Southeastern Ohio. We are the Jahnes Family and our vineyard and winery is our attempt to draw out the beauty in a played out hill farm, breathing new life into it by first being attentive to it and then working in concert with it. From the left, let me introduce Ben, Diane, Megan, Jeff, and Carl. If you're wondering how to pronounce our Name, in the old country it is pronounced 'YAWN-ess'. When grandpa moved to West Virginia, he thought it would be simpler for folks to pronounce if he hardened the 'J' sound. All our friends know us by the Americanized 'JAW-ness' pronounciation, and we are pleased by either pronounciation! My seventh grade geography teacher prononced my name Jo-HAN (like the 'a' in 'hand') - sen. I'll never forget her and my repeated efforts to correct her.
Grapevines grow everywhere on our farm. Our first year here we received cost sharing funds from the ASCS to cut grapevines out of the timber in our woods. Leave this land to go fallow and it grows grapes.
15 years into our life here, we faced the obvious - that our farm could be meant to bear grapes, and we spent 6 months studying temperature patterns. Here, where you see my Daisy Dog scanning the horizon, last frost ends a week to 10 days before it ends in the valley below. First frost in the fall, likewise, comes a week to 10 days after first frost occurs in the valley below. I am standing at about 970' elevation, and the hill falls to a 734' elevation where the hills fold in the background. Our site slopes 10 to 15 degrees due south, with an east west roll. Our soils are clay, clay loam, and jumbled glacial spoil, 4' to 6' deep over a shale base. Breezes always blow across our hill keeping whatever is on it dry and ventilated even on the most humid day... Some of my mentors in grape growing have told me we'll eventually have trouble keeping birds from stripping our vines clean of grapes. Really? With the red-tailed and marsh hawks which have always soared above our farm and now hunt the vineyard?
And our site is on the very edge of the Flint Ridge. The ground is actually peppered with flint. Starting in 1995, we planted anywhere from 800 to 400 vines a year, and hand dug holes to plant the two dollar vines. I bet that out of every other hole, the excavator pulled out a chunk of flint of every kind of purity, every kind of color, every kind of size
Eric in our third year of planting (the guy on the very left) pried up a shoebox sized chunk of flint, all so a Chambourcin vine could have a twenty dollar hole...
We are fortunate that we live in an area rich in craft, rich in tradition, and history with worldwide recognition of excellent pottery arts, mosaic arts, and our own lesser publicized treasure of painters, sculptors, chefs, musicians, jewelers, stained glass artists, basket makers, masons, who work with or without recognition, who are compelled by an inner drive to create. Not far from us, an internationally known basket company produces tangible connections, its fine hand made baskets, to a time when work and schooling and entertainment were more unified.
It is good to earn the money to pay the bills, but all of us have dreams of unifying in our lives what our society's rush rush slavery to efficiency and technological wizardry has compartmentalized away from them. These dreams are nourished when we contemplate our collections of baskets as if they are Icons. Icons, you know, to Orthodox Christians, are windows through material objects to Eternal Spiritual Realities. Its as if these handicrafted artifacts are worm holes which transport us into slower and more relaxed bygone time, where in the rising sun we can see the horse drawn milk wagon slowly cresting the hill on the way to our house in the village...
An Advertising Expert told me that this, in advertising, is how 'Branding' works. Branding creates a symbol of an Object which evokes an irresistable desire in a consumer to possess the Object. The exact characteristics which evoke this desire are carefully and extensively researched, are very deliberately designed into the branded Object. The Object is then tested and retested so that its symbolic power to infect a passion to possess because of what 'possession' confers (health, potency, power, intelligence, wealth..) is intensified. Through a purchase the buyer can affect his world by ornamenting it with these symbols, which become a ritualitic filter through which he looks at the intolerable world, now made tolerable and consonant with his fundamental beliefs about reality. Heady, huh? Sure, but indulge me for a moment.
How does this act of changing the world by ornamenting it with symbols work? In "Natural Symbols" by Mary Douglas , she explains that we are symbol making creatures, and at the Dawn of the Third Millennium, we use symbols to mediate between ourselves and the world we feel carries us helplessly along like a drop swallowed up in a river. We have to work to pay the bills - yes - but if we wear Land's End togs to dress down Friday, and if a Lumberjack stares back at us in the mirror when we steal a bathroom break, do the images evoked by Lumberjack symbols - that of a Free Soul who answers only to Himself and Nature Alone - become the Iconic window through which we see a reality more real and more tolerable than the one we now inhabit? Does this vision enable us to bear numbing hours we have to endure crunching scrolls of numbers on electronic spreadsheets swallowed up in a sea of identical grey cubicles strobed by cool white fluorescent lights?
This Expert told us that '...even Vermont now is a Brand,' and that Vermont will sue you if you imply in print, that she is 'impure'. Far be it from me to even imply... Even if we have a rudimentary understanding of the manipulation these highly paid consultants employ to create the preconditions of 'sales', please don't suspect us of duplicity. We don't commute away from this place to Gattica as if our farm is a disguised theme park a-birthing - another slick money extraction machine. We live here, and what we do comes out from what we are. We have our contradictions, to be sure (for example you are reading this on one of the most complex and sophistocated technologies in history...) but we are doing our best to untangle...
There is my attempt to illustrate my take on the French concept of 'Terroir'. For us, earning our membership in the Terroir of the Flint Ridge with all its other inhabitants seems to be a strenuous and constant effort at recovery. Technological improvements in transport can get grapes here from California which we can make into wine, but why not just buy the wine shipped to your local wine store? Technology can kill the insect pests, but it can't replace generations who have accumulated wisdom by living on the land in a place so that they almost become part OF it.
We believe that if we did this, shipped our juice from California, say when we have a 500 year frost like we did in 2002, we'd only achieve mediocrity at what Californians excel. We want to know what we are capable of! We want to know if we inhabit a terroir which can produce notable wines. Consult Wendell Berry on his ideas of Localism. Of Think Little. Of bodies meant for more than purposeless motion - aerobics to balance 8 hours of sedentiary time in an office chair. Of 'household economics.'
Our intention is to grow Flint Ridge grapes, make Flint Ridge wine, serve it in spaces and terraces and gardens the likes of which you find nowhere else but Here, hopefully to inspire in you the faith that you can recover a more unified life, can extract it from the 'rush to nowhere', and center it on important things.