Tag archives for “Vineyards”
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.
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 VINEYARD
Harvest kicked off at our Anderson Valley Estate at the end of August and was completed by September 18th (save for the late harvest Chardonnay which will be picked in the next few weeks). Cool nights in early summer, heatwaves (especially the one over labor day weekend), and hillside vineyards all played a part in making the 2017 harvest unique. We caught up with our director of agriculture and our Anderson Valley winemaker to get a peek into how this vintage is going.
We harvest Chardonnay and Pinot Noir at night because it’s cooler and the grape quality is better when they’re cool and crisp.
Winemaking starts with farming. How do our farming practices set up up for success?
Joseph Hardin, director of agriculture (JH): Our organic, sustainable, integrated farming system relies on each part of the ranch to contribute to the health of the whole. Timing also plays a large role in harvesting the highest quality fruit.
When the heat wave came through Anderson Valley in the middle of August, how did that affect our fruit?
Stéphane Vivier, Anderson Valley winemaker (SV): Through the heatwave, the vineyards held up very well; our fruit looked really good. We knew the pick date was going to change, we just had to watch and check often to determine by how much. The biggest impact was that we had to speed up picking from a two to three-week stretch to picking everything within ten days. That was intense!
JH: Basically, we’re dancing with mother nature and she’s always in the lead.
How will this translate to wine?
SV: From the extremely cold spring and early summer nights (temps dropping to 40 degrees) to the heat waves at the end of summer, the weather this year led us to a longer bloom time and smaller clusters and berries which resulted in a lower yield with fantastic quality of fruit. The wines will be a little more powerful this year but with the same vibrancy and freshness as prior vintages.
So once you’ve determined the fruit is ripe and ready for picking, how do you decide where to start?
JH: We pick on a lot by lot basis and keep each lot separate throughout crush and fermentation until blending takes place. We want to make sure the juice is good before we blend certain blocks together because you can’t ever un-blend.
Can you tell us a little bit about where we are in the winemaking process for a few of our Anderson Valley wines?
SV: Sure, we harvested our Chardonnay the first week of September. After spending 3-6 days in stainless steel tanks for primary fermentation, we moved it to 25% new French oak barrels for secondary fermentation where it will stay for 12-18 months. We harvested the Pinot Noir during the first week of September. It is finishing right now in tanks and heading to secondary fermentation in 25% new French oak to age for 12-18 months.
The Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir Blanc was also harvested during the first week of September. The Pinot Gris had 6 days fermentation in stainless steel tanks and is now finishing fermentation in oak (no new oak) for 7 months. The Pinot Noir Blanc had started fermentation in stainless steel and is currently aging for 7 months in 5% new oak.
What are your overall feelings about this vintage?
SV: The Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are showing great freshness compared to 2016. The Chardonnay is showing a lot of floral character and elegance. It will be accessible and balanced at an earlier age compared to the last two vintages which needed more time in the bottle. The 2017 vintage will be more old world/old school wine, which is really great. The wines are going to be mind-boggling!
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!
WHERE WE ARE
ANDERSON VALLEY ESTATE
Our Anderson Valley Estate, in Mendocino County, stretches over a diverse mix of elevations with the Navarro River forming the southern boundary and cool sea breezes from the Pacific bringing the marine layer through our vines.
Located in the west or “deep end” of the Anderson Valley, approximately 100 miles north of San Francisco, our estate has 69 acres planted to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.
With the Navarro River to the southeast and close proximity to the Pacific Ocean, a natural marine layer blankets the vineyards and creates terroir ideal for our estate-grown Burgundian varietals to mature slowly and ripen to the peak of their varietal character.
The mix of elevations, natural mixed forest vegetation (Coast Redwood, native oak varieties and Douglas fir), and diurnal temperature swings consistently at 40 to 50 degrees, we produce wines from our Anderson Valley Estate that are driven by the personality of the terroir with the muscular tannins of the Sonoma Coast combined with darker fruit tones of the Russian River.
Anderson Valley has evolved greatly since the 1850’s. Once its mainstay, apple orchards have almost completely been replaced with vineyards that produce some of the world’s best wines. We are thrilled to be a part of this up and coming wine region.
From the Vineyard
Vineyard pruning is the practice of removing last year’s growth from the vines. We manipulate the vine to give us the fruit quality, quantity, and light environment we want for the growing season. Pruning is the most important vineyard operation all year, because it casts the die for the season’s upcoming crop. We prune to create balance between vine vigor and fruit load. Pruning takes place annually when our vines are “sleeping” (aka the dormant season) and before bud break to promote growth and prevent disease. This timing is important, because all the nutrients have moved to the root from the leaves.
Pruning methods vary based on trellising. We trellis our vines in two different ways: open lyre and bilateral cordon. Therefore, they’re pruned differently too: cane and spur pruning.
Guyot Style Cane Pruning
To get started, scope out all of the shoot growth from last year and choose the four best canes to be laid down as the new fruiting canes. We’re looking for healthy canes that will promote ideal fruit orientation with open clusters, even light (sun and shade) and airflow. Remember, all vines are unique.
Next, remove last year’s fruiting canes with all of the unchosen canes attached.
Cut the length of the new fruiting cane. Typically, this is 8 to 10 buds in length. In a perfect world, each bud will have one shoot with two clusters.
Carefully massage the chosen cane (you’ll hear a little crackle), wrap once around the fruiting wire (bottom wire), and tie down the end.
Move on to the next vine!
Bilateral Spur Pruning
Look at the prior year’s shoot growth and choose the best oriented canes with the ideal wood diameter (a little bigger than a #2 pencil) and the healthiest looking buds on each spur.
The first bud on each cane is called the basal bud and it has the least amount of fruit. Count 2 clear buds (can fit your pruning shears underneath) above this and cut the cane. Ideally, the remaining clear buds are pointing upright and not crowding each other.
Repeat with every spur on the vine, then move on to the next vine!
From the Vineyard
We've been busy since harvest!
At the end of 2015 harvest, we removed an old Sauvignon Blanc block from our Rutherford Estate (the photo below is from the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc harvest).
The first step in removing a vineyard is to pull out the posts (we donated ours to ranchers affected by the fire in Lake County to make necessary repairs from fire damage), remove the drip irrigation, any overhead sprinklers and the catch wires (we rolled these up by hand and recycled them).
And then it’s time for the big, bad bulldozers!
Following the vineyard rows, this bulldozer, fitted with a vine pulling tooth, digs 36" underground to remove as many of the roots as possible, while pushing the vines to the left making a neat and tidy pile. After each pass with the bulldozer, our crew then also takes a pass through the block to pick up any roots the bulldozer missed by hand.
Next is the bulldozer with the brush rake. The teeth at the bottom of the rake reach 4-6” under the soil to tease the remaining roots to the top, while pushing the pile of vines out of the block.
Now it’s time for the amendment cocktail! Ours is made of gypsum, limestone and compost (all organic). The amendments are evenly incorporated into the soil with a tractor (shh, don't tell him he's not a bulldozer).
In the next step, we get back to old-school farming and bring out the slip plow. This behemoth is 5’ tall and 12’ long and is attached to the back of a bulldozer. This technology was used back in the 1950’s and is making a comeback. The slip plow rolls the soil by digging 5' under ground, bringing it to the top.
Up next is the 18’ disc. The discs reach 12” into the soil, mixing the new top layer to prepare for new vines.
Finally, the box scraper (a glorified rake) takes a couple passes through the block to level the ground.
After all this hard work, the soil is now 18” higher! Or, as our Agricultural Operations Manager puts it, “We’re breathing the love back into the land.”