Do Resourceful by Nature
In the early morning sun, just outside the family pool’s gate, I set out down a short path to the vineyard, which led me to Juan Luis, the son and assistant to the viticulturist on this 157-acre wooded paradise. I had no idea I would be embarking on a mystical journey filled with artistic transformations made with nature.
Tooling around in his shed, Juan Luis greets me with a smile as wide as the opened door. On a table nearby, he has artistically wrapped wire around an old wine bottle and transformed it into a wall sconce filled with fresh-picked daffodils.
Having spent the past 11 years growing up on this property, Juan Luis has honed his expertise as a horticulturist. In between planting and weeding, he spends some of his time creating unique gifts for anyone who seeks him out for a nature walk.
Today, Juan Luis is excited to share his finding of a thumb-sized hummingbird nest, once home to three chicks. For now, the nest is simply “show and tell”. As he hands me an ambrosial taste of Calistoga Ranch-harvested wildflower honey, I can only imagine what creative wonder he’ll make from that nest.
As we set off on our journey he points upward to the metal hoop he took from a discarded wine barrel. The sun dazzles off it as it dangles on a nearby oak tree, and I smile when I realize it has been bent into the shape of a heart. Past the tree, we follow a path leading to the Ranch’s chicken coop, to collect eggs to bring to the kitchen for breakfast. We make a stop inside the neighboring greenhouse and are greeted with a heady perfume and bloom of purple shades on every shelf.
I stand connected with Mother Earth on this private walk with Juan Luis, who points to his imaginatively recycled structures that enhance the landscape, including a fence he’s built from repurposed wine barrel-staves. This fence guards the home to sibling goats Olive and Pepper, who frolic around comically.
Juan Luis knows these grounds better than the many animals that roam here, and his walking tour alerts me to a small selection of 137 carefully labeled plants.
Although it appears Calistoga Ranch magically sprouted from the ground in a forest, my time with Juan Luis makes it clear that the work of a talented landscape artist is behind it all.