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The Truck

The Short Version


Pictures do not do justice to the actual hue of green of the truck. You pretty much have to experience it. In fact, I’d be happy to show it to you if you are ever in the valley.

I chose to put the truck on the label for two reasons. For one, I think the wine world takes itself just a wee bit too seriously at times; the heart and soul of wine is not kings, culture, and the four-star dining room table; it is the farmer (and the farmer’s truck). Secondly, the label pays homage to a particular green ’66 Ford Truck willed me by my grandfather, a farmer from Kansas, where I too was born.

For a much more detailed story on the latter, read on (warning: stay away if you dislike sappy—but true!—love stories about grandparents). My grandmother told me this story over Subway sandwiches, with the green truck parked outside the window, when I went back to Kansas to retrieve the truck to help with my vineyard work. It so happens that I was trying to conjure up a name and label for my wine and winery about this same time.

The Full Story


My grandmother Mary was born in southwestern Kansas, the town of Rolla (pop. 200) to be exact. When she was a mature woman of sixteen, her mother, a staunch Catholic, arranged a date for her. The only catch was that the “fella” was in Fredonia, Kansas (pop 2000; the big city) in the southeastern part of the state. So, Mary--at the strong urging of her mother--packed up one summer and traveled over to Fredonia to meet her arranged date.

Thing was, communication then not being what it is now, the fella wasn’t even in Fredonia when she arrived; he was still out on the wheat harvest loop, which at that time took young men away for months at a stretch, traveling with the maturity of the crop from Oklahoma to Colorado to Nebraska and to Kansas.

The fella’s parents, not feeling it proper for a young girl to be about town by herself, assigned her a chaperone for the time being, a close friend of the family. That chaperone’s name was Loren. He would become my grandfather.

Over the next four weeks, Mary and Loren got “hot and heavy,” as my grandmother put it. Then suddenly, Loren and Mary heard word one day that the original fella was on his way home. Not wanting to face the whole situation, Mary and Loren agreed that Mary would head back to Rolla, and they would write to each other every day until they figured out what to do next.

Upon arriving home, Mary wrote one letter and sent if off. She then wrote a second letter the next day. She continued writing for the first week, but never did a single letter come in return from Loren.

“I gave up,” says Mary. “And I started dating a fine guy named Owen.” Owen will creep back into the story later.

So one Saturday night a few weeks later, Mary is up in her room getting ready for a date with Owen when suddenly she hears rocks at the window. She opens the shutters, looks down, and who is standing there?

“I came to do what I said I was going to do,” Loren says.
“What are you talking about?” Mary answers.
“In my letters. You quit writing me, but I meant what I said in those—“
“—What letters? Hang on, I’m coming down.”

And come down she did. Turned out that in that very first letter he wrote, Loren mentioned that he was coming west for a Methodist church camp, and he was going to stop by to see Mary. Mary thought about it, and put it together (and it was later confirmed). Mary’s mother had intercepted the letters, and being a staunch Catholic and all, her mother had decided that Mary didn’t need to be reading no letters from no Methodist. Not a single letter had ever gotten through.

“Well regardless,” Loren says, “I came to do what I said I was going to do.”
“What’s that?” Mary replies.
“To marry you.”
A long pause. “Well, OK.”

“Dad, dad, there’s a coyote in the barn,” Mary says to my her father. But when my great grandfather comes running down, Mary explains the truth. “There’s no coyote in the barn. This is Loren, the guy I was telling you about. We’re going to get married. Obviously mother doesn’t understand, so tell her after we’re gone.”

As a side note, Mary never spoke to her mother again.

“Oh yeah,” Mary added, to her father. “Owen is going to stop by for a date in about twenty minutes, please tell him I went to get hitched.”

That’s how my grandparents got married. That very night. And because my grandfather was about to go away on a harvest loop himself, they rushed back to Fredonia. They moved in with Loren’s parents the next day.

“We don’t have time right now for a honeymoon,” Loren tells Mary just before he leaves for his three-month harvest trip, “but I promise I’ll take you to Niagra falls someday.”

My grandparents were married in 1937 and stayed in Fredonia for the rest of their lives together. They bought the green Ford pickup new from Shawnee Ford in 1966. They went on their honeymoon, in the truck, to Niagra falls in 1982. Grandpa died in 1986, willing the truck to me, and I’ve been driving it hard ever since.

Postscript: After my grandmother shared this amazing story with me at Subway that day, we went back to her apartment in the elderly care home. There, on her mantle, among dozens of other pictures of her family, was a book-frame picture, with a photo on one side of her holding some flowers, and a shot on the other side of a man I didn’t recognize. “Who’s that?” I asked her. Her reply: “Well, I was back in Rolla for my 50th High School reunion, and you’ll never guess who I ran into….”

Owen.

Release News

Current Release: 2015
Status: Available

Direct Buying Window: Open through April 10.

Upon release in late Spring, Road 31
Pinot Noir is first offered to the
“truckers” (mail list).

Accolades

"Each year, Fortner and his green 1966 Ford pickup have turned out a tiny batch—500 to 700 cases—of Pinot Noir that has garnered accolades and a mailing list of rabid fans, endearingly called 'truckers.' His one-man operation is the epitome of specialty small-batch winemaking."--Men's Journal, "Napa's New Breed."

"Toasty oak, good structure and balance; Complex, interesting flavors mark this Pinot -- it's great. 92 pts."–The Pinot Report.

"Road 31's 2011 Pinot Noir impresses for its delicate, understated personality. This is an absolutely goregous wine, especially in the context of a vintage that was full of challenges."--Robert Parker's Wine Advocate.

"This wine walks the walk (or should I say rides the road). The pretty ruby color draws you in. The sexy nose offers up dark cherries, roses, nutmeg, and toasty oak. Flavors of cherries, cinnamon and vanilla are luscious enough to nibble on. The wine finishes with a sexy candied cherry kiss that lingers. A beautifully balanced wine with sensual creaminess that only Pinot Noir can offer."--Pinotfile Newsletter, Dec 2006

"Delicious Pinots from Road 31 and proprietor Kent Fortner. The Road 31 Pinots are aged partly in Hungarian oak, which adds a distinctive layer of spiciness."--Robert Parker's Wine Advocate.
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Phone: 707-649-1200

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Address (My home; correspondence only please)
1175 Azuar Dr.
Mare Island, CA 94592

The caves and winery in the Stag’s Leap district of Napa are open strictly—but happily—by appointment; just reach out via email.