Random Writings and Photos

random

Jim Fish, Renaissance Man

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on June 6, 2017

 

042411 (16)   KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Found out that Jim Fish died last evening. Collapsed up on a mountain where he’d been hiking, but I’m sure glad he was able to have that experience as one of his last.  His nephew was also with him, and they were good buddies.

Jim Fish was originally from a ranch in Texas, and loved his horses, and the outdoors. He was also a retired chemical engineer, had once worked for the Sandia National Laboratories on nuclear safety. He was concerned about the destruction possible with a core meltdown, and came up a way to reinforce nuclear plants so they wouldn’t melt into the ground, but his superiors didn’t want to implement the solution, due to cost concerns. Jim took an early retirement from the labs.

He lived in Placitas, New Mexico. After retirement, not knowing exactly what he was going to do, he one day looked around the village, and lamented the waste of fruit, like apricots, plums and peaches, that grow in profusion all over Placitas and don’t get used. He decided to try making wine from those fruits. Over the years he made wine from all the fruits that grow in this part of the country, including a few grapes, and he even made wine from cranberries he had to buy from Ocean Spray, because they sure as hell don’t grow around here. It was, as he often said, “A hobby that got out of control.” He eventually built a structure and opened a winery to share these wines with people. He never got rich. In fact, the early retirement from Sandia labs meant his retirement pay was delayed until just a few years back. Jim turned 68 a few days ago.

Jim loved to ski, and in fact, had skied this past winter, despite a bad knee resulting from an injury a little while back. He got a brace for his knee, and skied, he said, the best days he ever had in his life with that brace on. Besides writing books on hiking and the local geology, he recently self-published a book on skiing, titled Dancing The Snow, (A Guide to Skiing for Old Men). It is full of detailed descriptions of trails, techniques, tips, photos and anecdotes. He also wrote poetry all the time, and published a number of poetry books. Poetry occurred often at the winery. There were poets who came from all over as part of the Duende Poetry series, and poetry continued after that series ended. Jim also carved and polished old pieces of “found” wood into fantastic sculptures mounted on large stones and rocks. His sculptures appear all over the winery, and quite a few homes.

While the wines are numerous and often fantastic, like the Wild Cherry wine, and Chokecherry wine, and Synaesthesia – a three-grape wine – the winery hosted many events besides poetry. Belly dancing is a regular event. Food-wine-pairing dinners is another, as well as wildlife presentations, and community meetings, and political events. Placitas is a very old village, yet still very small. There is one church and one school. There are no stores or gas stations in the old village. The Spanish moved in centuries ago, but Native Americans lived there for thousands of years, growing corn, and hunting, as is evidenced by the petroglyphs: designs etched into rocks found all over Placitas, featuring corn stalks, and animals of all types, like cougars and turkeys. In the Southwestern USA, the original inhabitants are known to their modern-day descendents as the Anasazi, or “the ones who went before.” So Jim called his winery: Anasazi Fields Winery.

Jim was a friend to all he met. He encouraged young people to work at the winery, and hoped one day to turn it over to a younger group. Then he would just sit and watch and drink old wines. Jim loved his wines, and found ways to improve them using old European techniques of slow, cool, sugar-starved fermentation, without fertilizers, chemicals or preservatives. In fact, using the whole fruit as part of the fermentation, he found that the fruits’ natural preservatives and antioxidants kept the wines good for three weeks or longer after a bottle was opened! (Even longer if kept in a dark and cool place).

Some of the wines that have survived from the early days, in 1995, 1996, etc. have cellared very well, and it’s always a treat to open one of those. It is difficult to keep wines around there long, as they sell very well, even when Jim had to raise prices to keep the winery in operation. He has a special wine, that one I mentioned called Synaesthesia, that ended up selling for $125/bottle, and no matter what the price, it always sold out. Fortunately, most of the fruit wines are priced far lower than that! Sounds like Jim would have gotten rich, but there are few grapes growing here, and late frosts, birds, wasps, and even bears took their share of those. He always said that he made a grape wine just to prove to his fellow vintners that he could. In fact, using grapes from other vintners, and his own techniques, Jim was able to make those wines taste even better. He liked that a lot.

There’s so much I could tell you about Jim Fish. He was an amazing man. Much of the wine sold was sold through his personal attention to customers, and through the stories he’d tell. He loved to talk about the wines, and skiing, and trails and mountains. He loved to introduce people to the fruit wines, and see their reactions when they paired something like an old tawny-colored and intense apricot wine with venison, or salmon, or blackened tuna. I was amazed to see how much fruitier the wine seemed, and how much better meat or cheese tastes with a complementary wine.

I don’t know what will happen to the winery now. We’ve all learned a lot about winemaking, and we have a lot of stock, so I’d imagine we’ll stay in business, for now. There are around four-dozen partners who have invested time or money into the winery; perhaps they’ll want to sell it. That was always the long-range goal. It won’t be the same without Jim Fish, without that boundless enthusiasm of his, his optimism, and his stories. Perhaps, in his memory, we’ll be able to keep it going.

I met my step-daughter Maya and her friend Jennifer today near the village, at the Placitas Cafe down the road towards I-25. They both had worked at the winery, helping to bottle, label, and sell the wines. When they found out about Jim’s death, they were thrown for a loop, so they drove out there from Albuquerque. We sat for hours talking about Jim, with tears in our eyes, and sadness in our hearts. We tried to focus on Jim’s friendliness and great heart, and not be sad, but it is too soon. I can barely write about him without an overarching melancholia. I have too few friends and family that I care about so much, and losing someone like Jim is gut wrenching. You never know how much you care about someone until they’re near death or gone.

So, I keep trying to say good bye to Jim in this post, but I can hardly type. I know I’ll feel better in a while. After all, Jim Fish made me smile, and I always enjoyed making wine with him. He was passionate about his life, whether it was winemaking, hiking, camping, hunting, wood-carving, or poetry. When I found my ownself retired, divorced, and aimless, Mr. Fish added some hard work to my life, giving me a new-found appreciation for wine-making, farming, a caring kind of entrepreneurship, and friendship.

 

Advertisements

2 Responses to “Jim Fish, Renaissance Man”

  1. delanelevy said

    hi I was wondering if you could contact me by telephone. The reason being I read your posts on limmerence and I wanted to know more. My phone number is 7605679892 I live in southern california

    • Maybe. I put everything I know into the blog, but I am no expert. It was all just trying to help me understand what was happening to me, because it was confusing, painful and so illogical.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
angelalimaq

food, travel and musings of a TV presenter.

Crumble Cult

By Tony Single

Southern Georgia Bunny

Adventures of an Southern Bunny everything from dating, sex, life and shake your head moments.

A Narcissist Writes Letters, To Himself

A Hopefully Formerly Depressed Human Vows To Practice Self-Approval

Rabbits for Luck

Katrina K Guarascio

Amanda Rudd's Blog

fantasy/scifi writer, crazed academic, and unrepentant geek

Midnight, Texas

www.lathamcasting.com

Something Like a Storybook

from Morgan Bradham

CONTRARY BRIN

Speculations on the Future: Science, Technology and Society

UNDER

CONSTRUCTION

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is the best place for your personal blog or business site.

%d bloggers like this: