My favorite kind of wine is natural wine. That’s literally to how they’re referred––Les Vins Naturels. These wines are typically unrefined, unfiltered, ornery, and I love them. They can taste sweet and bright, or like manure, but mostly they just taste alive. Anyway, I remember ten or so years ago when some of us in the wine trade first started referring to these wines as “Natural Wine” that many other wine professionals threw a fit, and the fit went like this: 1) Natural is too vague a term to use, and/or 2) Because wine is a product that is made by humans, it can therefore not be referred to as natural.

Argument number 1 is fair. Natural is a vague term. But we weren’t using it as an official label. We were just grouping a bunch of wines together and giving them a name in the same way we group stylish young individuals together and call them hipsters. And, perhaps like “hipster”, the word “natural” wasn’t always something producers wanted their wines to be called. It was unavoidable, though, that they would be grouped together somehow. These wines were all different, sure, but all had one unique feature in common––for hipsters, it was style, for natural wine, it was vivacity. We just wanted something to call all these wines that we so loved, and it could have been anything, but natural wine was what stuck. Argument number 2, however, that since humans produce and bottle wine it can therefore never be considered natural, has always grated on me.


Why as humans do we cling so fast to the idea that we are even remotely capable of doing anything that is not natural? We intensively cultivate crops, milk animals and keep livestock, you might argue. Well, so do many types of ants. What about the fact that we make and drink wine? Not to be a spoilsport––pun intended?––but we’ve been doing that since we lived in trees. In fact, our relatives who still live in trees, still do it––they just don’t bottle and sell the stuff (yet). How would I argue against that fact that we synthesize chemicals to kill unwanted plants? That has to be unnatural. Well, sorry, plants did it first. In fact, 99.9% of the pesticide and herbicide residue we ingest is actually made by the plants, according to THIS ridiculously interesting study. Moreover, many of the petrochemicals we do create can actually be completely dismantled by fungi––called mycoremediation––or bacteria. So, perhaps maddeningly, even the chemicals we create ourselves––which no one would really refer to as natural––are not so unnatural after all. Otherwise Nature wouldn’t have an answer for them. Also, just for fun, did you know dolphins in the wild each have their own individual names with which they introduce themselves to other dolphins? Yep. So in short, we, too, are just animals. And we are doing nothing different from what Nature does, only most other parts of Nature are better at it; most other parts do it on a more sustainable scale.

We just have to stop thinking that there is Nature, and then there’s us––it’s not healthy, and it’s definitely not correct. We are a product of Nature. From the earth we came and to the earth we shall return, right? It is easy to look around at the manmade world we’ve created and think we did it on our own––easy, but wrong. We were domesticated by plants like wheat, soybeans, corn and the grapevine––which collectively possess the vast majority of our farmland, I might point out––in the same way that the squirrel was domesticated by the oak tree, or the hummingbird by the flower, or the hipster by The Strokes. In the end, perhaps it is symbiosis we are outside of, not nature. Nature we are very much a part of, even if we suck at it.

– Jesse.



Persimmon Root BeerI’ll be honest, I like soda (or pop, or cola, or whatever your colloquialism may be), but I hardly drink the stuff. Too sugary, too processed, not my thing. But having grown up with soda I do sometimes get the craving for one, especially around the fall when a good root beer, or root beer float, could really hit the spot.

So here’s our recipe to make your own root beer, only using water, roots, honey and fruit (if desired)—no starter needed (though if you keep a ginger bug, go nuts). IMPORTANT NOTE: this is a fermented product and the end result will contain a slight bit of alcohol, akin perhaps to kombucha. If you don’t let your kids drink kombucha, this may not be your recipe. Also, the longer it ages, the higher the alcohol level will rise, so kids should drink it fresh and in small quantities. OTHER IMPORTANT NOTE: if this post looks funny, it’s because I (Jesse) am doing it all by myself and can’t figure out how to put spaces between paragraphs. You will have to pretend they’re there. And they’re awesome.


Makes One Gallon

you’ll need:

1-2 lbs dried sassafras root (and/or other flavorful roots such as sarsaparilla)
1 and 1/4 gallons water
2 cups raw honey (if not raw, or if you choose to use sugar––1 1/2 cups––you may have to add some form of starter or unwashed fruit)
1-2 lbs wild persimmons or other fruit (optional)
One 2 gallon glass jar or crock
Small plastic bottles for bottling with lids

Chop the dry roots into large chunks. (Our friends at Rolf and Daughters even suggest toasting the roots slightly first to concentrate the flavor.) In a large pot, simmer the roots with 1/2 gallon of water for at least one hour until fragrant and dark. It should reduce slightly, and be a deep red. Add the rest of the water and let cool to room temperature. Once sufficiently cool, stir in raw honey and persimmons whole. Do not crush fruit or the drink will become pulpy (speaking from experience). Place in crock or glass jar and cover with cloth tied on tightly to keep bugs out. Leave at room temperature. Let sit overnight. The next day, stir vigorously two or three times with wooden spoon. Fermentation should begin within 48 hours.


Once it begins to bubble slightly, put it into bottles or jars and put lids on. At this point, allow to sit at room temperature for one day, until carbonation is visible, or until you hear a light “fizz” when you open a bottle. Place in fridge and drink anytime thereafter. Take into consideration that the bottles will become highly pressurized from the carbon dioxide, and if not consumed within few days will need to be “burped” by removing the lid carefully and releasing the gas. The fridge will slow down the pressurization, but keep an eye on them. Otherwise you may have an explosion. For serious. Again, this fermentation will produce trace amounts of alcohol and that percentage will increase over time. Consume fresh and cold.

– Jesse


cedar creek vineyards.

We had so much fun this past weekend at WILDfest at the beautiful Cedar Creek Vineyards. Jesse taught a class on homemade wine, and the day was filled with many other foraging and fermenting workshops, including the amazing Doug Elliot and Sandor Katz. We met lots of wonderful folks, exchanged seeds, and basically felt guilty for spending a gorgeous, sunny day off the farm.

cedar creek vineyards. cedar creek vineyards. wildfest.wildfest. sandor. wildfest.wildfest.




bringing wine home 2.

You can find it on Amazon HERE  (and as an e-book very soon) and read it anywhere––your apartment, the train, space––totally your call.

For the uninitiated, Bringing Wine Home is a book project I’ve been working on for the last couple of years. It’s the story of how I came to find farming (Book One), my first year on the farm and how I met my wife (the recently released Book Two), then our crazy first year of marriage (Book Three––available spring-ish 2014). Do you have to have read Book One to enjoy Book Two? No way––at least not necessarily. Though I believe Book One enriches the experience obviously, it’s not a necessity. If you want, try Book Two out, and if you enjoy it, go back and read the first. Oh, and as the description reads, although it’s technically a book about wine, and a book because of it, it is hardly a technical wine book. It is for anyone and everyone and that’s you!

Thank you and enjoy!

– Jesse.


Some random photos from the past week.

fall garden.Pretty obsessed with the fall garden right now.

persimmons and grapes.Wild grapes and persimmons (for wine, of course.)

coffee.Birthday care packages from Chicago, arriving on the day you run out of coffee.

zinnias and overalls.Overalls and zinnias.

sweet potatoes and ginger.Sweet potatoes and ginger!

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