My Cousin Julia Bertetta: A Century Celebration of an Incredible Woman

I want to share a special story with you about my dear friend and cousin, Julia Bertetta. I have to say that she’s an amazing lady and someone I’ve admired all my life. I’m inspired not only by Julia, but also by the extreme fondness that my father Noble and uncles Winslow and Whitby had for her.

In fact, Winslow told me on numerous occasions that he had a crush on Julia. Winslow and I used to talk until the wee hours of the morning while we played liar’s dice, cards and talked about the good old times in Kenwood. Julia’s name came up often.

She’s always been the life of the party and has an amazing, charismatic way about her. Back in the day, when the “Ledson boys” were ready to head to town, the first person they asked to go with them was Julia.

And now, at age 100, everyone still takes notice when she walks into a room. There’s something extraordinary about the way she carries herself.

Julia’s family has been in Sonoma County since the turn of the century; they ran the quarry at Annadel State Park. Back then they used the stones from that quarry to build cobblestone streets in San Francisco.  Julia was born at the quarry in a small cabin!

JULIA-BABY-AND-STEVEwpWe were so honored to throw a birthday party for Julia, and I was more than excited that my one-month-old daughter, Taylor Lynn, was there. I’ll never forget the experience. Julia put her loving hand on Taylor’s chest and said to her, “You’re going to be a very wise young lady.” And later she shook her finger at her and added, “You better pay attention to your dad, young lady!”

Julia has been taking a bus up to Reno once a month to gamble and she plays bingo every Thursday night. She’s living life to its fullest, which is what I try to do every day. One thing I learned from Julia is to make the best out of every moment.

Throughout my life I’ve looked up to and admired a lot of people, but this woman has and continues to inspire me so much that I recently named a vineyard after her – one of my favorite spots to have lunch on our family ranch in Anderson Valley. This Pinot Noir ‘Julia’s Vineyard’ is just breathtaking. No doubt it will produce wines with the utmost character, hopefully as fabulous and lively as Julia herself!

Some people in life are just born with the kind of personality that can charm everyone from the President of the United States to some who are just down on their luck; Julia makes everyone smile.

And when it comes to telling a joke, there is no one better. I can’t count the times she has made me laugh.

I love this lady. She makes me smile every time I see her. Isn’t that the way we all want to live our lives? Always with a smile.

I just have a feeling Taylor Lynn will have that same positive, charismatic personality – living her live to the fullest.

Reflecting on Those Special Times: Some Things Never Change

When I was a kid, I loved hiking up Hood Mountain. I tried to make it at least once a week, weather permitting. It is just breathtaking when you’re on top of the mountain – you feel like you’re miles from everyone yet you can see the world, especially from my favorite place on the mountain.  For centuries it’s been know by locals as Gunsight, a big out cropping of rock sitting 2700 feet above the valley floor. It will literally take your breath away, just standing on the edge looking down.

On a clear day, you can see San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. I was there just the other morning. I still love going up there every chance I get, which is probably about once a month. It’s best at daybreak, when no one else is ever around. It’s great thinking time.

It takes me about 50 minutes from the parking lot to the top, which I always thought was pretty fast, until my cousin Ken Lambert told me he makes it in 36 minutes!  Being twenty years younger to the day seems to help.

Gunsight-photoFBA while back, our Ledson team wanted to create a really special blend of wine. It was to be the employee wine, an everyday food-friendly wine. One day, sitting around sipping a glass after work, we were taking in the beautiful mountains around The Castle.  And there it was, right before our eyes, Gunsight Rock at the top of majestic Hood Mountain. It’s not only my favorite spot but a favorite spot for many of us at The Castle. The name of the wine came to us naturally – Gunsight.

If you get the chance to visit Gunsight yourself, make sure you stop by The Castle and pick up a bottle of the most recent vintage and a sandwich to take with you. Don’t worry about how long it takes to get up there, just enjoy the walk. (My cousin Ken runs 50-mile races through the mountains, so don’t use his time to judge how long it should take!).

I never reveal what’s in the blend; I like to say, “Everything but the kitchen sink.” I guess I got that phrase from Dad. He and I used to spend hours in the cellar when I was a kid. Dad loved to incorporate as many varieties as he could to make the perfect everyday “go to” blend. Boy, did we make some great wines. When I was growing up on the ranch, and anyone happened to stop by, we poured these blends and Mom would put out a bountiful spread of home-cooked food.

Gunsight wine reminds me of those days of sharing with friends and family. That’s just the kind of wine it is. Every time I enjoy a glass of Gunsight, it takes my mind back over years of my life. I cannot tell you how many times I have been up there or actually how many times I figured out an approach to something that seemed so hard when I was caught in the middle of the everyday hustle and bustle of life. It is nice just sitting there alone, dreaming of all the opportunities life can bring us. It seems like an opportunity can be staring you right in the face and because we are all so busy we may never see it; I guess that could be the difference between being successful and not.

We just released the 2009 vintage. It’s a seductive blend that deserves serious attention. Aromas of dark berry, violet, spice and gentle brown sugar are friendly and charming. A cavalcade of juicy black fruit gives this plush wine a resounding vitality. The finish has smoky blackberry with just the slightest hint of toasted nuts.

Just like there’s comfort food, this is a comfort wine. People seem to be drawn to it. Especially if you include the view.