Back on the farm….

GoldBud Farms & Ron Mansfield

ViewThis farm girl left the cotton fields many years ago, but I found myself immersed in agriculture again when Randy and I moved to Napa in 2006.  One of my favorite parts of being in the wine industry is meeting the grape growers and touring the vineyards with them.   I don’t get to do it often enough, so it was a treat when Randy set up a visit to El Dorado County to see Ron Mansfield at GoldBud Farms and invited me along.

Randy and I purchased fruit from Ron for the first time last harvest and are excitedly awaiting more fruit this year.  Ron is a thoughtful, smart, hard-working grower and it shows in his grapes.   With our focus on single-vineyard Grenache, we aim to make wines that show the individuality of the vineyards.  Starting with fantastic fruit is a sure way to make a killer wine……

FruitOur visit started off at GoldBud Farms World Headquarters, a large fruit stand/packing building where Ron sells and packs his tree fruits.  I love peaches and Ron’s did not disappoint. Randy even purchased a crate to send home to his mother to share the love!  Most of what Ron farms are grapes but he is known around the country for peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots and and apples too.

Ron took us around to the vineyards we source from, Fenaughty and Swansborough, and a third vineyard where we ran into an inquisitive neighbor on a bulldozer.  He wanted to make sure we were not trespassers and said he was just ‘looking out’.  We all need a good nosy neighbor making sure things are kosher!


HeadtrainRon’s vines are pruned to a “vertical cordon” or what Randy called “the Mansfield head-trained”.  The look of the vineyards is much wilder than I’ve seen with the vines curving over the rows protecting the grapes.

The Grenache grapes are still green with a few spots of purple here and there.  We did spot a wonderful cluster showing a perfect example of the beginning of veraison.


The drive to Swansborough Vineyard was a winding road over a one-lane swinging bridge hanging over the South fork of the American River.   Randy and Ron talked shop over the grapes and Ron pointed out the family cemetery up the hill from the vineyard, a small area with a white picket fence.  I couldn’t get a photo but it was fun pretending the old souls watch over the vineyard.

Randy and I get wrapped up in our day-to-day tasks and concerns but we try every week to do something that reminds us of the fun of what we do.  That is as exciting to us as the feeling on that first day we pulled into Napa.

Visiting Ron did that for me.  Seeing Randy so excited about Ron’s fruit.  Hearing Ron’s stories about bears scaring his workers out of the apple trees.   Feeling the hot sun and smelling the dirt and riding in the back of the 4Runner as we drove over that swinging bridge.  It was a great day. 

We bottle more than just wine here at Lightning – we hope we give you a good story and memory with it.

The 2013 LIGHTNING Swansborough Grenache will be in bottle in a little over a month.