Okies on Tour: Strebel Creek Vineyard

One thousand times, I’ve driven by Strebel Creek Vineyard in The City, always with the thought, “I’d like to check that out.”
At the time of those one thousand drive-bys, I lived less than two miles away, yet never checked anything out. Then I moved to the Out There and promptly forgot about it.
From the street, Strebel Creek looks like someone’s really nice backyard — a small vineyard by the road, a store sitting behind, housed within a discrete steel building — on the edge of a heavily traveled street. Nestled into a neighborhood, the vines grow near a curb by a small sign announcing every weekend, “Winery is Open.”
On the one thousandth and one-th drive, I spotted the Open sign and impulsively turned into the modest drive — the one I’d ignored because it felt so personal, so invasive to turn into what looks like the driveway to someone’s home — and parked in the shade of an ancient oak. (Or Elm, maybe. I don’t know. It’s just huge and lovely.)
Bubs, with no inhibition or thought of invasiveness, ran along the sidewalk to disappear into the building while Mom and I strolled up, stopping at the thriving vines for a couple of Kodak moments before meandering through the door. There, we beheld a large flat-screen tv tuned in to the sport-of-the-day sitting in front of a large area rug and two over-stuffed comfortable chairs awaiting viewers awaiting potential shoppers.
I could hear a gentleman, presumably the owner, gathering the next round of Tasters, but since the Bubs was present, I reluctantly wasn’t one of them. A lady, presumably the also-owner, greeted Mom and I, telling us to look around and make ourselves at home. She waved toward the store, indicating any and all of it was ours for the perusal as she disappeared into the tasting room.
I very much felt like her generous wave wasn’t just a suggestion, that I could in fact kick off my flip-flops and stay a while, should I choose to.
But instead I shopped.
Trinkets, decor, purses, scarves, all things wine and wine-accessorizing, atop table after table, all housed together to create a cozy, fun gift shop. Impromptu as our stop had been, neither Mom nor I had any one item in mind; we simply pawed and investigated every single thing while we listened to the soundtrack of wine demonstration, little descriptors reaching our ears: sweet, bubbly, dessert wine, wife’s favorite.
A few minutes into the tasting, the hostess, indeed the establishment’s co-owner, returned to the store and stood behind one of the recliners, awaiting any questions.
I had many.
How long have you been here? Do you crush your own grapes? Do you bottle here on the premises? Do you live on the property? Is there really a creek?
And with each question, the lady answered matter-of-factly, with humor and grace.
I liked her a lot.
She and her husband open the store each weekend, when day jobs are over until the following Monday. They spend their leisure time chatting about wine, talking with customers, sharing tips about grape growing and getting rid of unwanted garden intruders.
I shared my woes about my fruitless — literally — attempt at grape growing and learned that I was not the birds’ only victim.
“Oh, the birds,” she lamented, then tutted and shook her head. “And the raccoons, and the foxes…One day late, and all the grapes are gone.”
With the few vines they have, and the numerous fauna that insist upon their share from those beautiful bundles of fruit, the owners contract out to other growers for their wines. Northern growers have far more land, with space to grow far more vines, thus generating a better harvest.
I didn’t feel so badly about my gardening skills, about not being quick enough to pluck the fruit from my one little vine, a veritable snack tray for local avian populations.
Now that we’ve met these nice people, when I’m venturing into The City again for a gander at civilization, I won’t just drive by when I see the Open sign at the vineyard. I’ll park and go in to say hello to the folks willing to share their knowledge and recliners with strangers.
Next time I’ll visit a minute, even sit in one of the comfy chairs to lament longer upon tales of gardening efforts gone wrong. And maybe even try the wine.

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