In Buellton, CA you can find a calm and cozy private vineyard called the Lavender Oaks. This vineyard is managed by Michael Benedict, one of the pioneers of wine industry in Santa Barbara region in California. He established the first vineyard on Santa Rosa Road in 1971 with his friend Richard Sanford. It became the first world class vineyard in cool climate wine growing region. Sanford & Benedict is one of California’s most historically significant and renowned vineyards because it proved two things: Santa Barbara County is a perfect place for growing Pinot Noir, and the portion of the Santa Ynez Valley where it is located, is a fabulous cool climate location for vines in general. Nowadays neither of these two pioneers are in commercial wine making business but the winery and wines still carry their names.
For Michael making wine is a way of life, he is nowadays mentoring other vineyards in the area. Before he became a vintner, he was an academic, a botanist with U.C. Santa Barbara. He started to make research about growing wine and decided that he can either write a book about how to make wine right or do it himself.
Right equipment for each job
Michael started to make wines in Lavender Oaks 2012 when he planted his first vines there. Last year he got the first harvest from this ranch. Making wine is a delicate job. The plants are fragile for any changes in the climate, to frost and dust and it takes years before a newborn vineyard starts to make harvest. At Lavender Oaks ranch all the grapes are handpicked, early in the morning.
Michael has Avant 528 on the ranch as a helper for all the daily tasks around the year. “I end up buying an Avant by an accident two years ago. I drove past the local dealer’s place and this Avant was standing outside so I could see it. I made a U-turn and went to buy this loader” tells Michael with a smile on his face. He had a similar type of loader in the early 70s. This loader was made by Case, it was articulated 4-WD loader with attachments. Michael had been looking for a similar new loader for a long time but never found one – until he saw Avant. Avant is used in all the logistical tasks, like bringing grapes to warehouse from the fields.
“This is a spectacular loader, just perfect for working in a vineyard. It has all the good features that I require for a loader. It is versatile and agile and performs well with all needed tasks,” praises Michael.
The vines grow in tidy rows with quite narrow aisles, a loader must be able to fit to the fields without making any harm for the plants. But as the work requires an agile machine it also requires lots of lifting power so that grapes can be carried to production as larger amounts.
“When all wine makers here in USA understand to what this small loader is capable of, you will be in trouble at the factory”, laughs Michael. The best part is that with this power horse you can take care of the lawn, do all the logistical work and use it year around as a help in all maintenance tasks.