By Marissa GOULD, intern
Deukmejian Wilderness Park on Markridge Road in La Crescenta is a favorite spot for hikers, nature lovers and even gardeners. Whether traversing the 700-plus acres of trails or spending some quiet time in the amphitheatre near the historic stone barn, Deukmejian offers something for every type of outdoor lover. But visitors to the park may be surprised to see in front of the stone barn a small vineyard carefully tended by the Stone Barn Vineyard Conservancy. On Saturday, members of the Conservancy put on their gloves and got down to the ground to eradicate the weeds surrounding their crop.
It was weed abatement day and from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., Conservancy members traveled Deukmejian to help out.
The morning was cloudy – a welcome condition as the summer heat can be unbearable. The Deukmejian vineyard grows three kinds of grapes: two wine grapes, alicante bouschet and abouriou, and one type for eating, the red flame. Usually, the Conservancy harvests the grapes at the end of August, but it looks like the harvest will come a few weeks early this year. Stone Barn Vineyard Conservancy director, Stuart Byles, and his wife, Marie, said that they are excited about the early harvest.
The stone barn has a rich history of winemaking. According to the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley website, in 1885, two immigrant French winemakers, Georges Le Mesnager and Pierre Durancette purchased the land in Dunsmore Canyon. They had a winery in downtown Los Angeles, planted vines on their new acreage and shipped the grapes to Los Angeles for processing. In 1905, Georges’ son, Louis, built the unique two story stone barn with winery storage on the ground floor. Prohibition brought an end to the wine business but the Le Mesnagers continued to sell table grapes and made a non-alcoholic brandy drink. The vineyard grapevines were planted in 2004 and are maintained by the Stone Barn Vineyard Conservancy which is a part of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley.
Nowadays, the Byleses process the grapes at their house and, after bottling, the bottles are kept in their wine cellar. Stuart said that the Stone Barn Vineyard Conservancy is one way to “help maintain the history of the area.” There are only 71 vines in the little vineyard, but they can yield 200 bottles of La Crescenta wine. Membership in the Stone Barn Vineyard Conservancy costs $30 and $40 (the $40 level includes two bottles of wine). For information, call (818) 249-2414.