Tag archives for “Farm”
From the Farm
Once a riverbed, our benchland Rutherford Estate is an organic, sustainable, integrated farming system that relies on each part of the ranch to contribute to the health of the whole. The estate has 74 acres of certified organic vineyards planted to Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. It is also home to our fruits, vegetables, beehives, and a growing flock of egg-laying poultry. Our diverse ranch defies the monoculture that reigns supreme in Napa Valley. Our chefs collaborate with our agricultural team to carefully select varieties that will thrive and provide the best selection for our restaurant and farmer’s market throughout the year.
The farm is bountiful right now. We are currently harvesting summer crops, including shishito peppers, candy-stripe figs, and heirloom tomatoes, as well as sauvignon blanc grapes. The agricultural team is always finding new ways to expand our sustainable farming program, and this year we have harvested our potatoes and sweet corn with horse cultivation. We are preparing for the fall season by planting our Brassica varieties including cabbage, broccoli, kale, and collards.
We checked in with our chefs and farmers to get their thoughts on the relationship between our farm and restaurant and what motivates them.
“There is a synergy between the farm and the restaurant. What comes from our farm, dictates what’s on our menu, so we grow purposefully. We create a year-long planting plan to provide for our fruit and vegetable needs for the entire year. We sit down and look through the seed catalogs and decide what varieties we want to grow and if we want to try new crops.
It’s more interesting to grow something that has a story behind it. We use a lot of heirloom varieties, which survived through seed programs, farmers markets or were passed on family to family. Tomatoes are a great example of this, with all the heirloom varieties seen today. Getting ahold of some of these seeds, it’s almost like lore, which makes it fun. Heirloom vegetables are not about everything being the same size and consistency, it’s all about flavor.”
- Stephen Barber, Executive Chef
“The feedback we get from our chefs is constantly improving what we do on the farm, and that is what allows us to continuously deliver a high quality product.
Planning is essential to what we do, nothing is random or accidental. We have a plan for our restaurant, farmers market, and Chef’s Table. Our goal is to provide the highest quality produce. For the restaurant that means, we pick in the morning and have it on your plate for lunch.”
- Joseph Hardin, Director of Agricultural Operations
"The farm is what defines the restaurant, and is the heart and soul of Long Meadow Ranch. Our farm influences the decisions we make in the kitchen because we focus on expressing the present moment, which means whatever is in season is what goes on the menu. Being able to choose what we grow and when to harvest it, gives us a huge advantage. Without the farm, we’re just another restaurant."
- Kipp Ramsey, Farm to Table Manager
“When I joined Long Meadow Ranch last year, I was excited about the farm and having the ability to take advantage of our terroir and seasonality in the Napa Valley. As the pastry chef, I am fortunate to be able to use only our produce. The summer is a really beautiful time because I have so much to work with from berries to peaches to plums. People ask, ‘When will you make a banana cream pie?’ When you bring me a banana that is grown in California, then I will make it.”
- Lindsay Swetsky, Pastry Chef
“The culinary garden is the main source of our creativity for the Chef’s table. We look at what produce is at its peak and base the whole menu around that, highlighting different vegetables on each course. The menu changes almost every day depending on what’s going on in the garden. We treat all produce and livestock that we produce with respect and want to elevate each ingredient as much as possible.”
- Aaron Marthaler, Estate Chef
From The Vineyard
“We have always been intrigued by the dramatic climate and geography of the Anderson Valley, as well as the region’s potential to make pure expressions of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay...we jumped at the opportunity to plant a stake in this incredible place.” -Chris Hall
Our Anderson Valley tasting room is now open at The Madrones, a boutique resort in Philo, California. The tasting room is a great spot to start exploring Anderson Valley, which offers plenty to discover. (Hint: See our interview with Anderson Valley local and Tasting Room Manager, Mark Mendenhall, below!)
Since we acquired the estate back in 2015, we have been looking forward to providing visitors to the Anderson Valley with an opportunity to taste wines close to where the grapes are grown, bringing the experience full circle.
Our Anderson Valley Estate is located just a few miles away from the tasting room, in the west, or “deep end". The Estate is 145 acres, with 69 acres planted with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris. It is an idyllic property, with the Navarro River forming the southwest border, and the Pacific Ocean nearby bringing in cool sea breezes. The marine layer blankets the vineyard, creating the ideal terroir for estate-grown Burgundian varieties.
This vineyard is named Tanbark Mill Vineyard, named to honor the past where a tanbark mill was in operation in the late 1800's. The Tanbark Mill Vineyard showcases diverse terrain and soil types, producing some exciting wines. There are three primary soil types across the vineyard. Feliz loam, which is the primary soil for our chardonnay vines, and the deep Pinole loam and the more compact Perrygulch loam for the Pinot Noir. All three of these are the namesake for our designated Tanbark Mill Vineyard wines.
Burgundy native, Stéphane Vivier was brought on to the Long Meadow Ranch winemaking team to produce our Anderson Valley wines. Stéphane’s goal is to put the best expression of the region into the glass and create wines that represent the story of Long Meadow Ranch and the Anderson Valley in a way people can connect with.
When you join us at our Anderson Valley tasting room, you will experience flights of our Anderson and Napa Valley wines, which can be paired with house-made products and local cheese. Guests can also taste and purchase our estate grown organic olive oils from Napa Valley and Long Meadow Ranch provisions.
Later this year, we look forward to offering an exclusive Anderson Valley Estate Experience. The guided journey will take you through our estate’s Tanbark Mill Vineyard to explore the rolling hills and diverse soil types. The experience will conclude at the tasting room to taste our Tanbark Mill Vineyard wines and enjoy small bites.
The Long Meadow Ranch Anderson Valley tasting room is open Thursday-Monday, with Tuesdays and Wednesdays by appointment. For details and reservations, please visit our Anderson Valley page.
On The Farm
Calving Season 2018
The Highland breed has lived for centuries in the rugged, remote highlands of Scotland, where extremely harsh conditions led to natural selection. Only the fittest, most adaptable animals survived. We’re proud owners of one of the largest herds of this fine animal in California. Several hundred strong, these pasture-raised cattle are at home on our more than 800-acre Tomales Station (owned and leased). Our Highlands are grass-fed and grass-finished and are raised employing a protocol that is entirely hormone- and antibiotic-free. We have acquired some of the oldest bloodlines in the country, which represent the very best attributes of this classic breed. We rotate our fold to fresh pasture seasonally, allowing them to gain weight healthily while maintaining the grassland ecosystem. These are all factors that contribute to beef that has outstanding flavor and palatability.
A chat with Joseph Hardin, Long Meadow Ranch Director of Agricultural Operations
Why do we breed Highland cattle?
There are many advantages but, mainly, this breed was developed for performance on the traditional grasses from the northern British Isles as well as to produce tasty, highly palatable beef. As exclusively grass-fed and grass-finished cattle, we produce beef with lower levels of fat (i.e., higher protein per serving), higher beta carotene, omega-3, and higher iron content compared to cattle finished on grain. Importantly, beef from Highland cattle is genetically more tender than conventional beef. The muscle contains less connective tissue and the fibers are longer and larger, which are more readily separated during cooking, making the beef even more tender than other breeds raised on grass.Additionally Highlands have a longer productive life than most cattle breeds, typically 3-4 more years for a mother cow. Highland mothers have really strong maternal instincts, resulting in a very high percentage of healthy calves. Lastly, the cattle are aggressive browsers, meaning that they will happily graze just about any grass varietal, and even woody brush.
How long is the gestation period for a cow?
How many calves will a cow produce in a lifetime?
12. We have had a few cows that have produced as many as 16 calves.
How long will cows feed their calves before they are weaned?
Around 7-8 months. Our minimum standard is 200 days.
Are there any methods LMR uses when growing the herd that differs from traditional cattle practice?
One point of distinction is that we operate a full circle cattle operation. We raise animals from birth through harvest. Typical cattle companies pursue only one part of the life cycle and operation. There are three phases in the production of beef cattle. “Cow-calf” is a ranch that has a mother cow herd and raises calves to sell. Next is a “stocker” operation where cattle are raised from 8 months to 18 months (or 550 lbs to 1000 lbs). The third and final phase is “finishing.” We schedule our harvests based on peak grass conditions from each site. Usually April - June in Tomales, and year-round in Ferndale.
How many pastures does Long Meadow Ranch have for their cattle operation?
We have cattle at three separate properties, Tomales Station in west Marin County, Ferndale in Humboldt County, and a summer lease in Carneros in Napa County. Our property at Tomales Station is mainly for our “cow-calf” and “stocker” programs, with some finishing in early spring. Our main finishing property is in Ferndale.
How does Long Meadow Ranch utilize the beef?
We serve only our grass-fed beef at the restaurant at Farmstead, and we also sell directly to consumers at our Farmers’ Market at Farmstead, as well as the St. Helena Farmers’ Market and Napa Farmers’ Market. In keeping with our sustainable farming practices, we utilize the whole animal. The restaurant won’t always have steak on the menu, but we will have other creative menu items to help utilize the whole carcass, such as our grass-fed beef tartare and our grass-fed beef chili. Of course, it’s also featured in our grass-fed beef burger. Our grass-fed beef program is evolving as we grow. In fact, our herd has roughly doubled in the last two years. With that growth, we have also expanded into grass-fed beef jerky that we sell in our General Store at Farmstead and right here on this website.
FROM THE WINERY
Bottling: Reflecting the Vineyard and Winemaker’s Vision
The guiding principle behind bottling wine is to capture the character and flavor at the very moment the winemaker has finished cellar aging. We want to capture the wine in that state without uncontrolled and undesirable effects on the wine during bottling (like oxidation). It is no simple task but we devote a great deal of attention and focus to this.
For most of our wines, we also want them to develop in the bottle. Once we have captured the wine’s character, the biggest effect we can have on the wine’s development is through closure choice.
For red wine, our preference is to use natural cork from Portugal's cork forests. Every one of our corks has been prescreened to ensure a high-quality appearance and the absence of trichloroanisole (TCA). TCA is a naturally occurring chemical compound in cork that results in 'cork taint', an undesirable aroma that detracts from the fruitiness and character of wines. 'Cork taint' can smell and taste like wet newspaper, cardboard, or chlorine. To avoid this, our corks are soaked in ultra-purified water, sealed in a jar, and then smelt by a trained sensory panelist. Yes, every single cork.
For most white wines, we are looking for a very limited and controlled amount of oxygen to be introduced into the wine during bottle aging. With this in mind, we select a closure with a low and consistent oxygen transmission rate (OTR) - enter the stelvin screw cap on the Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc. For our Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir Blanc, and Rosé, we like the slightly higher OTR effect of cork.
Have you ever tried to attach a sticker to a moving object and get it straight? Now try that on a round bottle! The bottling lines will move between 60 and 120 bottles per minute, the pace depends on multiple bottle styles, corks, and capsules. Bottle packaging and bottling lines have a personality of their own and behave differently on different days, they need constant monitoring, adjustment, encouragement, and a little luck.
FROM THE FARM
Full Circle Farming
With five properties consisting of vineyards, olive groves, fruits and vegetables, cattle, horses, chickens, and bees, we take an approach called Full Circle Farming; an organic, sustainable, integrated farming system that relies on each part of the ranch to contribute to the health of the whole. Nearly every ingredient—from the grapes that go into our wines, to the beef used in our burger at the restaurant at Farmstead—is harvested at our farm.
In this months BEET, we’ll introduce you to the Long Meadow Ranch artisans that make it all possible.
Kipp Ramsey, our Farm to Table Manager and Sous Chef, said it best, “we are one team working every single day towards the same goal.” Long Meadow Ranch artisans share an unwavering passion for agriculture, wine, food, and service. The success of the whole relies heavily on each and every artisan excelling at their particular craft.
MEET OUR FARM TEAM
JOSEPH HARDIN, Director of Agricultural Operations
Joseph Hardin oversees all the farming operations for the vineyards, olive groves, fruit and vegetables, cattle, horses, chickens and bees at our five properties. In addition, Hardin also manages our agricultural land trust and conservation efforts.
JEFF RUSSELL, Culinary Farm Manager
Inspired by a love of nature and all things plant related since the age of 14, Jeff Russell never considered an occupation other than organic farming. Russell joined Long Meadow Ranch as culinary farm manager.
SEAN MCENTIRE, Mill Master
Sean McEntire oversees all things olive for Long Meadow Ranch, including maintaining the health of both our ancient and young groves, meticulous lot selection, careful blending, and the milling of our organic liquid gold.
ROB KELLER, Beekeeper
Rob Keller is known around Napa Valley as “THE beekeeper”. Our colony of honeybees is hard at work pollinating our fruit trees, vegetable gardens and vineyards, as well as producing our delectable organic honey.
MEET OUR CULINARY TEAM
STEPHEN BARBER, Executive Chef
Award-winning chef Stephen Barber leans on his Southern roots in his ingredient-driven approach to our restaurant at Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch. Barber brings over 20 years of experience from all over the US.
KIPP RAMSEY, Farm to Table Manager and Sous Chef
Chef Kipp Ramsey plays an integral role between our farm and the table. Learn more about our Artisan of the Month below!
MICHAEL MARKOFF, Executive Sous Chef
Executive sous chef Michael Markoff was born in Vienna and raised throughout Europe where he was exposed to a wide variety of cuisines that expanded his palate and fueled his passion for cooking.
AARON MARTHALER, Estate Chef
As estate chef at Long Meadow Ranch, Aaron Marthaler creates an elegant menu designed to showcase our collection of estate-grown wines and ingredients fresh from the farm at our Chef’s Table experience.
Get to know the team more, here.
At any given time, you’ll find our artisans and their teams walking our properties in order to make sure that every part, is working for the whole. While the culinary team excels at seeing the farm from a culinary perspective, the agricultural team understands the harvest and helps shape what ultimately ends up on your plate. It truly takes a village to carry out our motto: “Excellence through Responsible Farming” and it’s a difference you can truly taste.
FROM THE FARM
If you asked our agricultural team their thoughts on January and February, they’d say, “Is it March yet?!” The year started off with stormy weather and heavy rainfall, which is great news for our vines and farm but makes for cold and wet conditions around the ranch. While we are busy pruning the vineyard (removing last year’s growth from the dormant vines) it’s our livestock that’s buzzing with life around the Ranch.
This month we welcomed one hundred chicks to our ranch. What does the future look like for these chicks? They will spend the next few weeks in the brooder until they have enough feathers to move to a transitional coop with an outdoor run. When they reach 3-4 months old, they will join our main flock of laying hens in our state-of-the-art chicken coop at our Rutherford Estate. They’ll dine like queens on farm scraps from the organic fruits and vegetables we grow for our restaurant and farmer’s market. Their pasture access rotates weekly through the young fruit orchard planted adjacent to the coop. In the fall, they will clean up fallen fruit which aids in breaking fruit pest cycles. That fine cuisine is filled with nutrients and produces deep orange colored egg yolks. While we enjoy their eggs, their manure will be a vital part of our composting program, adding a nitrogen-rich component to the base of horse manure, shavings, and farm waste.
We are grateful to have three Haflinger draft horses on our ranch, as well as three Norwegian Fjord Horses and a handful of saddle horses. Our Fjord Horses thrive in our working farm environment and have recently, lead by our livestock manager Sophia Bates, been focused on integrating draft power into our vegetable production operations. They have been learning new tasks incrementally and brushing up on older skills, so they can be useful in the production fields of our Rutherford Estate. Their tasks this season include cultivating row crops, as well as tillage for cover crop seeding, and lots of work in the potato patch - furrowing, cultivating, hilling, and digging. Get the inside scoop below from Sophia.
We’re proud owners of one of the largest folds of Highland Cattle in California. These pasture-raised cows, heifers, and calves call our 600-acre Tomales Station ranch home. We are just a few short weeks away from the beginning of their calving season. Calves romp alongside their mothers as they learn to graze on the nutrient-packed forage of the Tomales coastline while growing strong on rich mothers’ milk. They are weaned in the fall after their mothers are rebred and need to retain the extra calories to grow a new set of calves. The majority of the calves stay in Tomales until their second season until they move to fresh pasture in Ferndale and Petrolia to finish on premium grass. The grass season on the coast in Humboldt County is longer than in Tomales, allowing us to lengthen our beef harvests into fall, ensuring that we offer consistent and fresh beef for our restaurant and farmer’s market.
In 2017 we selected a new bull calf from one of our top cows. In case you missed it, we asked our friends and family on Instagram to help us with a name and we have put your suggestions to a company vote. Meet, Chewie!
Fuel Your Soul
This classic French omelet is brightened with some
fresh garden herbs and a side of LMR house-smoked bacon.
Enjoy with a glass of rosé, a bloody mary, or a mimosa with fresh squeezed orange juice.
Recipe courtesy: Executive Chef, Stephen Barber
Serving Size: 1 omelet
CLASSIC FRENCH OMELETTE
3 free-range eggs
¼ tsp sea salt and freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp chopped chive, parsley, tarragon
3 pieces LMR house-smoked bacon (optional)
- In a bowl, whisk the eggs and season with salt and pepper
- Add the chopped herb mixture to the eggs
- Heat butter in a nonstick pan over medium heat, until just melted
- Add the eggs and herbs and allow them to set slightly before gently pulling the outside towards the center using a spatula, allowing the space to be filled with more runny egg
- Once most of the egg mixture has set, tilt the pan away from yourself and shake the pan gently, moving the omelet to the edge of the pan
- Carefully tilt the pan towards yourself and gently bump the handle so that the omelet folds over on itself
- Fold over the other half of the omelet using a spatula to create a log-shaped omelet
- If adding bacon, preheat the oven to 375 Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with foil (for an easier clean-up). Place bacon on top of foil and bake in the oven for 15 minutes (20 minutes if you like it crispy), then add to plate with omelet (optional)
- Pour yourself a glass of LMR Rosé or Pinot Noir or whip up a bloody mary with our original mix and enjoy!
FROM THE FARM
Napa Valley starts to get very busy in August as grape harvest sneaks up on us and is in full swing by September. But, before we tackle grape harvest, we are fortunate to experience a fruitful tomato season!
This year we planted 14 tomato varietals, both heirlooms and hybrids, and they are all finally ripening with the heat we’ve had in Napa Valley the last few weeks.
Here’s a little plant 101, in case you need some brushing up…
Heirloom varieties are open-pollinated, unlike hybrids, and are often passed down from generation to generation. When the plants of an open-pollinated variety self-pollinate or are pollinated by another representative of the same variety, the resulting seeds will produce plants roughly identical to their parents.
Hybrids are created when plant breeders cross-pollinate two different varieties of a plant with the goal of producing a plant with the best traits from each of the parents. Cross-pollination is a natural process that can occur within members of the same plant species. Sungolds are, for example, a hybrid and prove that hybrids can have tons of flavor.
Now for a guide to what is growing on our farm and what you can find in our restaurant and farmer’s market:
The Pink Brandywine gets its name from its hometown Brandywine, PA. This heirloom is one of the most well-known. It has a potato leaf shape that can look like a heart. These tomatoes are super sweet and really meaty.
AUNT RUBY’S GERMAN GREEN
A family heirloom from Ruby Arnold of Greeneville, TN, Aunt Ruby’s German Green is slightly acidic and really sweet with a hint of spiciness.
This heirloom tomato is originally from Krim, Russia and is also known as Black Crimea. Sweet, smoky, and a little bit salty, when the Black Krim gets a lot of heat it turns a violet-brown/purple-red (almost black) color. This year these are thriving in Napa Valley!
A predecessor of the “mortgage lifter” tomato, the heirloom German Johnson has a deep, acidic tomato flavor and a rich, creamy texture.
The Indigo Rose is commonly referred to as a blue tomato and was bred by Wild Boar farms in Napa for high levels of anthocyanins. These small tomatoes are high in antioxidants.
Sun golds are an exceptionally sweet, bright tangerine-orange cherry tomato. They are like candy with a tropical fruit flavor and are great right off the vine directly into your mouth.
The heirloom Black Pineapple, also known as Ananas Noire, is sweet with low acid and a hearty smoky flavor.
There are several white tomatoes, but we like the heirloom Great White. It is meaty with few seeds, and has a mild non-acid flavor and a creamy texture.
Gold Medal, an heirloom from Ohio, is an overwhelmingly sweet and meaty yellow tomato with red stripes.
PINK BERKELEY TIE DYE
The Pink Berkeley Tie Dye tomato was developed by Brad Gates of Wild Boar Farms. It’s a psychedelic dark pink tomato with green stripes and the flavor is sweet, rich and complex.
Early Girl tomatoes are named as such because they bear fruit earlier than most other tomato varietals. These tomatoes are extremely popular in the US and are often found in backyard gardens.
Another Wild Boar Farms hybrid, the Solar Flare is luscious and meaty with a slightly sweet full tomato flavor.
This Russian heirloom tomato has an almost cult following for its distinctive, sweet and smoky flavor. It was lovingly named in honor of Paul Robeson, the famous opera singer and equal rights advocate.
A small cherry variety from Wild Boar Farms, a ripe blue berry tomato is dark purple where it received the most sunlight and deep red where the fruit was shaded. These tomatoes are super-rich in anthocyanins and the flavor is intensely fruity and sugar-sweet.
BLUE GOLD BERRIES
Blue Gold Berry tomatoes are incredibly beautiful purple and yellow cherry tomatoes. These little tomatoes are bursting with loads of antioxidants and the flavor is very sweet and rich.
These port wine colored cherry tomatoes have metallic silver green stripes with an outrageous rich, sweet flavor.
As you can see, there are so many wonderful tomatoes out there right now and there are 101 ways to use them - from a juicy BLT to a luscious sauce to a easy snack. Check out our restaurant, chef’s table or farmer’s market for inspiration!
FROM THE VINEYARD
At Long Meadow Ranch, we embrace history and quality over what’s trendy. However, it is imperative we are an economically viable company, otherwise we won’t remain a company for very long, right? After 25 years or so, a vineyard gets to the end of its usable life. Most growers remove these vineyards and replant new vines.
In an effort to preserve the aging historic vines in our Bear Canyon cabernet sauvignon vineyard and maintain profitability, we decided to modernize the trellising and pruning method.
In 1991, when we were considering budwood for the Bear Canyon Vineyard, we were looking for examples of cabernet sauvignon vineyards that produced wines that were elegant, balanced and genuinely a complement to food. We have been guided by these wine profile goals since our inception.
We were attracted to the wines produced by Heitz from the Bella Oaks Vineyard owned by Barney and Belle Rhodes. Up to that time, very few wines in the industry were vineyard-designated (the first was Martha's Vineyard also produced by Heitz), so finding expressions of wine characteristics from a single vineyard was very difficult. We chose to take budwood from Bella Oaks because of the distinctive, balanced style reflected in the vineyard-designated wines made by Heitz. We were also influenced by the dedication to fine food and balanced wines by Barney and Belle.
Similarly, we were very attracted to the wines from Jordan. The 1984 vintage was especially a favorite of Ted’s, because of its elegance and expression of Bordeaux-like character (moderate alcohol, good acid--not flabby, balanced--both oak and grape, tannins, etc.). Andre Tchelistcheff had consulted with Jordan and their style objective was to become the "Margaux of California." Andre clearly had influenced their vineyard selections. So, when we had a chance to select budwood from their top vineyard, we jumped on the opportunity. Moreover, Margaux was a favorite of Ted’s among the great wines from Bordeaux.
We have two blocks (J for Jordan and R for Rhodes) in Bear Canyon with unique field selected budwood that have been used to make our wines for decades. As you can imagine, these blocks are very important to Long Meadow Ranch.
In 2013, we started a discussion about grape quality between cane and spur pruned vines and decided to converted 4 rows of Block J to cane pruning as a long term trial to evaluate the success of this kind of change. As with just about anything, we have learned many things about farming grapes over the last 20+ years and determined that our trellising system also needed to change in order to promote even light and proper canopy management. Harvest 2014 was the first year we had fruit from the modernized pruning method and trellising.
To test the effects of these changes, we made wine from the 4 cane pruned rows and wine from the neighboring 4 rows of spur pruned vines. They were farmed exactly the same way and experienced the same conditions in the vineyard. The winemaking was also done exactly the same - barrels, cooperage, yeast, aging, etc. - so the only difference was the vine the fruit came from. Barrel tastings were done regularly to check progress and, in 2016, we did a blind tasting with our winemaking and winegrowing teams to understand the difference between the 2 wines. The result? The cane pruned vineyard wines were more delicate and fruity with true varietal and vintage characteristics, as well as lower alcohol, all resulting in a better style fit for our wines.
With these results in mind, in February 2017, we converted all of the dormant vines in Block J to cane pruning and changed the trellises in all the rows. This is a lot of work (it took our entire vineyard crew 2 months to complete the change).
First, we pre-pruned all of the vines to just the 4 best canes closest to the trunk.
After we removed all of the canes, except the ones that will be used as next year’s fruiting wood, we had to pull all of the trellis catch wires and the old cross arms (we recycled them, of course).
Then, we carefully removed the cordons as close to the last remaining spur with our canes as possible.
After the cordons are removed, we immediately painted the cuts with a fungicide. Approximately 24 to 48 hours after the cuts are made, the vines secrete a sticky sap-like goo as a natural defense against pests and disease. This goo makes a scab over the cut and pushes out anything that’s unhealthy for the vine.
Next, we laid down the new canes on the fruiting wire. We always want these canes to be around the thickness of a #2 pencil with 10 buds on each. This will also increase our fruit production, because now we have 40 shoots per vine.
We changed the trellising, so that we can better manage the canopy. When the vineyard was originally planted, it only had short trellis stakes, a system also known as California Sprawl where the shoots just fell over the trellis. When the vineyard was updated in 2006, we added the taller stakes to help the higher shoots stay upright. However, this configuration did not provide consistent light conditions - sometimes too much sun and sometimes too much shade. These trellises also only had one wire that couldn’t really hold the canopy properly, so the shoots could fall to the left and right. We couldn’t achieve optimum balance with this system.
Our new trellis system is now modernized with the tools available to us today. We reused the tall stakes and added new cross arms at different heights (12”, 16”, 20” and 24”).
We added more wires, so now there are 2 for each height and side of the vine to keep the shoots from shifting. This also allowed us to open up the center for better canopy management.
The new end posts were installed with with a really neat tractor attachment. You know how we feel about big tractors!
The final step in this process is to lower the head height of the vines. Some are taller than the fruiting wire, so they have to bend in a wonky way to reach the fruiting wire.
We want all of the fruit to be in a 12” window, so that it is consistent with uniform coverage, brix, pH, etc. This consistency results in even ripeness and delicious wine. Moving the head height is a 3 to 4 year process that we are trying to jumpstart naturally by encouraging a new cane to grow further down the trunk. We do this by scraping off some bark to allow light into the trunk to stimulate growth.
Once the new cane is established, we can remove the old trunk and voila!
We completed converting the 3 acre J Block this year and we will do the same work in the R Block when the vines are dormant. This year, we also converted Blocks 7 and 8 (6.5 acres) in Anderson Valley to new trellising. The vines were already cane pruned, however, the canes were stacked vertically (one on top of the other) instead horizontally (side by side). This configuration made for a big clump of leaves and fruit that were susceptible to mildew. In 2015, we converted 20 acres of sauvignon blanc. So, as you can see, our long term redevelopment plan is in full swing!
FROM THE FARM
At Long Meadow Ranch, we take our fruits and veggies very seriously. Not only do we need our organic produce for our restaurant at Farmstead, but we use it to feed our chickens and sell it to our friends at the farmer’s market. We are transitioning from spring into summer and we’ve been planting like crazy the last couple weeks.
We still have chard, kale, collards, lettuces, artichokes, and beets in the ground. If Mother Nature is kind, we should have artichokes through May, chard, kale, collards, and lettuces into June, and beets all year.
With summer just around the corner, it was time to get our summer plant starters into the ground. We start all of our plants from seeds in our greenhouses, then move them into the ground for the majority of the growing season.
This year, Jeff (our culinary farm manager) thought it would be beneficial to plant some produce rows in our fruit orchard at our Rutherford Estate. The soil is rich in organic matter from years of tilling leaves, cover crop, etc into the ground. With the addition of some of our compost, this location makes for the perfect growing conditions for both fruit trees and veggies.
After the soil was prepared, we mapped out each of the beds. There are 2 rows pictured in this bed for peppers--we’re planting 13 varietals this year!
Next, we lay the irrigation lines. Each row gets 2 tape lines.
Once the lines were placed, we laid plastic over the soil and irrigation to block weeds and for water efficiency. This special plastic comes in a variety of colors, but we use green for these plants, because it warms the soil. We use a red plastic for our tomato plants--check out our Facebook over the next few weeks for more information on why we use red plastic for tomatoes.
Before we started planting, we had to mark the distance between the plants. This row is being marked for cucumbers. The distance between the plants is important to ensure enough space for each plant to thrive
We chose to plant cucumbers in this row, because of it’s proximity to the beehive. The bees will help pollinate the Striped Armenian and Diva cucumbers.
Fun fact: the long, thin Striped Armenian cucumber is actually a member of the melon family with light and dark green stripes! Diva cucumbers are tender, crisp, sweet, and seedless.
The remaining rows on the west side of the orchard were planted with peppers. The peppers will really help the fruit trees, as they had a tough winter with all of the rain.
This year we planted: Lemon Drop, Alaku Sarga, Corbaci, Como di Torro, Fatalii, Jimmy Nardello, Leustchauer Paprika, Mayan Habanero, mixed Bell, Padron, Red Cheese, Shishito, and Urfa.
Who knew the orchard could look more beautiful than it already did?! We plan to plant melons in the eastern part of the orchard in the same manner. We’re excited to see how these plants work together in the coming months to produce lots of tasty food for our plates.