Biographical, Historical, Fiction

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The Huffman family winery of Seneca Lake in New York continued to grow. Johan had been able to purchase an additional 2000 acres of land adjacent to his vineyard and had it planted in the same Riesling grape vines as on the original land. Johan and Helga were living a very good life and the business was prosperous. They were shipping wine all over the United States and into Canada. They were also gaining customers in Mexico and South America.

Johan and Helga had three children; two girls and one boy. The boy, Lukas, was a natural for growing wine grapes. From the time he could walk he was helping Johan in the vineyard. By the time he was five he could tell when the grapes were ready to pick. When Lukas was ten he could take a sip of wine from an aging barrel and tell if it was ready to bottle. At age fifteen he could look at the wine and know what the quality of the wine would be and if it was a good vintage. Lukas was born to be a vintner.

Lukas attended the excellent school of agriculture at Cornell University. He could have taught many of the classes about growing grapes and being a vintner but he did learn many things about fertilizers and ground preparation. Lukas finished second in his class and was now ready to make his mark in the world. Johan and Helga were hopeful that Lukas would continue to live at the vineyard and prepare to take over the vineyard and winery when Johan was ready to stop working. Lukas loved his parents and appreciated the start that they had given him but he wanted to make his own mark and not inherit what his father had accomplished. His two sisters had married men that were interested in wine making and he knew that the winery and vineyards would be in good hands. Johan had twenty years to train and teach the men all that they needed to know.

Lukas looked at a number of places where he could make a start. He eliminated Europe for the same reasons that his Father had; no available land. He looked at California on the west coast but determined that it was not an area that he was interested in. He looked seriously at two countries in South America, Chile and Argentina. Wine producing in those two countries was in its infancy with many start-up wineries and a developing local market. Lukas had to determine what his market would be. His Mother had been very good at marketing and she was a big help in showing him how to do the marketing studies. In the final analysis, Lukas determined that Argentina would be best. Chile had an excellent climate for growing wine grapes. From a marketing standpoint, it had a major drawback. It was on the Pacific Ocean. The only markets in the Pacific area were Australia and New Zealand. If shipping to America he would have to ship to California and California already had a large number of wineries. This would make it difficult to market the wines grown in Chile.

Argentina had advantages. The large number of European immigrants in Argentina made a ready market for quality wine. The Argentina government was anxious to help new vintners. Argentina was on the Atlantic Ocean which made the products relatively easy to ship to the populous east coast of the United States and Canada. There was also a newly developing market for wine in Africa. The population of Argentina was double that of Chile which meant a larger domestic market. The large Brazilian market was next door. The foothills of the Andes were warm and dry and an ideal climate for growing grapes. Lukas decided on Argentina for his venture.

Lukas studied all he could about Argentina. He talked with the Argentinean Embassy in Washington. They were very helpful and furnished maps, climate information, and demographics of the population. Finally, Lukas was ready to make the plunge. He decided on a region in the area of Mendoza. This was in the Andean foothills and was reputed to have an excellent climate for growing wine grapes. The embassy had put him in touch with a land agent to help him to find the ideal place. Lukas spent time learning to speak Spanish so that a language problem would not be an impediment to his success. Johan and Helga gave him sufficient money to get started and promised more if needed. They were proud of Lukas and his can do manner. They knew that nothing would stop him.

Lukas wanted to produce Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot as those were the fullest, richest varieties and that is what his taste wanted. He was also interested in Chianti due to the large Italian population in Argentina. He determined that he would only produce red wines. Johan made arrangements with his European contacts to have the cutting of the three grape varieties shipped when Lukas was ready. It was time to get on the boat and make his dream come true.

The ship landed in Buenos Aires. Lukas sought out the land agent and was pleased that the man had four properties in the region of Mendoza to show him. They made arrangements to leave in one week to inspect the properties. This would give Lukas time to recover from a very rough boat trip. The seas were stormy for the entire trip and Lukas was sick for most of the trip.

While waiting to leave, Lukas decided to explore the attractions of Buenos Aires. There were many fine restaurants, both beef and Italian. Lukas tried some of the better known places. He saw an advertisement for a special piano concert by Sophia Cortez. He asked about this at the hotel and was informed that she was a very talented pianist and they could get him a ticket if he wanted. He wanted to do something different. The area of Seneca Lake was culturally sterile. Lukas attended the concert and was impressed by her talent but also impressed by her beauty. He tried to meet her after the concert but was unsuccessful.

The next day he had an appointment with a local man that could help him to market his products in Argentina. The meeting with Pedro Cortez went well and a deal was made. He asked Pedro if he was related to the young pianist, Sophia Cortez. He told Lukas he was her father. In celebration of their deal and his recent arrival in Argentina, Lukas was invited to the Cortez home for dinner.

Sophia was at the dinner and Lukas was able to tell her how much he enjoyed her music and that he had tried to meet her after the concert to tell her that. He explained to the family his plans for the future and that he would be leaving the day after next for Mendoza. Pedro told him that he would be travelling through the Cortez family ranch for most of a day on the way to Mendoza. The next day Sophia was pleased to receive a large bouquet of flowers from Lukas and a note that said how much he enjoyed meeting her and hearing her play the piano. He also said he hoped that they could meet again.

Lukas and the agent left for Mendoza. It was an arduous trip of three days by coach. The agent informed Lukas that the railroad would be finished in six months and the trip would not be so difficult and it would be easy to get his product to Buenos Aires. They looked at the properties the agent had found. One was an existing vineyard but it was not doing well. Lucas determined that the wrong grapes were being grown in that climate. The last place they looked proved to be the one that was best suited for Lukas. It was 2000 acres on hillside land and was facing the sun. There was adequate water and an ideal place for a home and a winery. The price was right and the agent made the deal with the owner. Lukas now owned land but not a vineyard. He sent a cable to his father to have the cuttings shipped and three days later his father cabled that the cuttings would ship in two weeks and arrive in Buenos Aires six weeks from that day. Lukas found people to help him prepare the land for the cuttings so they could be planted as soon as they arrived.

He left for Buenos Aires a week before the arrival of the ship. This would give him time to arrange for shipping the cuttings. He contacted Pedro to solicit his help on who could load and ship the cuttings. He wanted to travel with the vines and Pedro knew the ideal person to do this job and the arrangements were made. Now Lukas nervously awaited the arrival of the ship. He sent a note to Sophia and asked if she would have dinner with him. Pedro had a great deal of respect for Lukas and thought he had a bright future so was quick to give his permission. The dinner was wonderful. Lukas and Sophia laughed and talked for hours. The restaurant had to wait for them to leave so they could close an hour late.

The boat arrived and the cuttings were unloaded first. Lukas was pleased that they seemed to be in excellent condition. They were loaded on the wagons and were on the way to Mendoza. Lukas would be very happy when the railroad line was finished so that he wouldn’t have to make this wagon trip again. The trip by wagon took seven long days of travel from sun up to sun down. Lukas made certain they had adequate water to keep the cuttings moist during the trip. Finally they made it and the workers and Lukas immediately got to work putting the cuttings in the ground. They looked to be nice and healthy but he would not know for a year if they would prosper. After the cuttings were planted, Lukas proceeded to build a house and the winery. His father had taught him the art of cooperage and he made the barrels. There was nothing to do now but wait for the first good crop. That would be in three years.

Lukas was pleasantly surprised to have a visitor. Sophia’s brother Antonio was in Mendoza on ranch business. He had heard about this bright, young American and was determined to meet him. Since Antonio had gone to school in Texas, they talked about life in America and life in Argentina. They bonded immediately and had a joyous time together. Lukas was pleased. He could use all the help he could get to win Sophia’s hand. He had determined that she was the person he wanted for a wife and life mate.

At last the railroad was finished and was running between Buenos Aires and Mendoza two times a week. The trip took 20 hours but this was due to the numerous times they stopped to pick up carloads of cattle from all the ranches on the pampas. The trip took as long on the return to Mendoza as they made numerous stops dropping off empty cattle cars to be filled. It was better than three days by coach or seven days by wagon. The first train from Mendoza to Buenos Aires had Lukas on it. He wanted to see Sophia and used the excuse of needing to attend to business. It was obvious to everyone that something special was happening between Lukas and Sophia.

The vineyard was doing very well. It was now year three and all the vines had survived and were now staked and wired for the vines to grow on. The fruit was setting well and Lukas was confident that there would be a prodigious crop. Pedro came to visit to discuss the marketing plans for the first crop. Sophia tagged along because, she said, she had never seen Mendoza. The subterfuge fooled no one. Lukas was delighted to see her as he knew he would not be able to get to Buenos Aires for several months. The crop had to be brought in and the grapes crushed to get the juice. Pedro and Sophia had planned to stay for three days but ended up staying for ten days so they could watch the gathering of the crop. Lukas and Sophia spent every spare minute together and Pedro watched with delight.

The grapes were crushed and the juice was in the barrels fermenting. Lukas thought that it was time to start another crop. He wanted children. Before they left, Lukas asked Pedro for permission to marry Sophia. That permission was readily given and Lukas asked Sophia. She had been waiting a year for that question and squealed with delight. Lukas now had three months with no pressing duties so the date was set for two months. The wedding would be in Buenos Aires and Lukas asked Johan and Helga to attend. They were delighted. The entire Cortez family would be there as would the Capelli family. The event was destined to be a large affair as most of the socially elite of Buenos Aires wanted to attend. It was a beautiful wedding and the reception was exquisite. The couple left for Rio de Janeiro for the honeymoon.

Lukas arrived back at the vineyard just as the wine was ready to come out of the barrels and into the bottles. Johan and Helga had stayed on to spend some time with Lukas and his bride.

The wine was excellent. One of the best Merlots ever bottled in Argentina. The Cabernet Sauvignon was almost as good and the Chianti was pleasing to the Italian palette. The wine industry of Argentina had taken a step forward and was now producing world class wine.

Lukas was proud of what he had accomplished.

Life was good.

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