Tag archives for “Wine”
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 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 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!
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.