Yesterday our crew - led by Arturo Barragan-Rojas - was working its way up the driveway to the winery completing the pruning of the Mission trees planted along the roadway and in the small orchard near the parking area.
With this last symbolic step, we have completed pruning the several thousand trees located in nine major orchards across the ranch.
Olive trees produce fruit only on last year's wood. So, keeping an ample supply of new wood is part of the art form in pruning an olive tree. Because new wood grows only where there is sunlight on a branch, our skilled team works to open up a tree to light and air "so that a small bird can fly through."
We are vigilant in keeping each tree to less than 14 feet in height (which is the limit we can safely harvest).
Over the next few days, the prunings will be chipped while the wood is still green and moist. The chips will be used for mulch, cover for paths, or as an additional source of carbon in our composting system. The compost will supply fresh fertilizer for the orchards in the fall.
Our orchards also have a gorgeous cover crop of clovers that is now in full bloom. As legumes, the clovers are fixing nitrogen from the air into the soils. This valuable nitrogen will be made available to the orchards for the coming growing season - a key component of our sustainable farming system.
On sunny spring days the clovers are filled with bees which are pollinating the seed heads which, in turn, will provide seed for next seaon's cover crop. And, at the same time, the bees are gathering buckets of pollen to make a bountiful crop of honey.
We'll harvest the honey at the end of the summer (between the grape and olive harvest), which will then be sold at LMR Rutherford Gardens.
I love watching these interlocking cycles of life at work.
We selected nineteen head to be added to the sale catalog, including twelve yearling heifers, seven 2-year-old heifers, and four yearling bulls. We had already selected two mature bulls for the sale.
So, with a total of twenty-one head on offer, our sale is the largest annual Highland sale in California (maybe the largest West of the Rockies). We're proud to feature our nationally recognized bloodlines.
Todd, Adam Tait (our local lead cowhand), and Art Townsend (who operates our pasture lease) brought all of the cattle into the main corrals where we selected the best of our registered stock for inclusion in the sale.
We also had a chance to look over our current crop of Highland and crossbred steers. Everyone agreed that the cattle have never looked better in terms of body condition and overall health.
We had a heavy load in the "rig", our 28-foot Featherlite trailer, but we made the trip back to the ranch in a little less than six hours. The cattle were happy to see the long grass waiting for them. We'll now spend a few days cleaning the animals' coats, checking tatoos, and confirming DNA samples.
The catalog will be ready for distribution online by Saturday and everything will be ready for our buyers on Saturday morning a week later (the 2nd). The sale will be from 11 AM to 1 PM.
As an extra plus, the California Highland Cattle Association will be holding its Spring meeting following our sale on Saturday afternoon. Members of the association will be helping with the sale and will be available to answer questions from prospective owners and new breeders.
Everyone always seems eager to share their experiences in raising Highlands. In return, we have a nice lunch planned for CHCA members featuring the wines, grass-fed beef, and produce from Long Meadow Ranch.
Successful buyers will be invited to join us for lunch. Hope it is a big group.
Courtney Delello held an audience at rapt attention today for her lecture, Starting Your Spring Garden, which is part of our ongoing Sustainable Student Series.
The seminar attracted more than 40 students, a number of whom were participants in previous sessions in the series. We are blessed to have a teacher as talented as Courtney as our farm production manager. She is a former a faculty member in the Agriculture/Natural Sciences Department at Santa Rosa Junior College where she continues to teach in the evening program. Not surprisingly, Courtney's lectures are well-prepared and delivered with enthusiasm and commitment.
Courtney shared many tips on how and when to plant. While many were anxious and ready to plant tomatoes in anticipation of the wonderful bounty of the summer, Courtney cautioned that we can still expect frost until about May 7th here in the Napa Valley. As a result, we will not offer tomato plants for sale until our grand opening for the season on Saturday, May 2. We did have many different plants on offer, including strawberries, lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, and parsley. Many students and visitors were seen carting plants away for the backyard.
We also offered our full marketplace array of olive oil, grass-fed beef, eggs, and fresh organic produce. We even had some of our "secret" olive oil cake to accompany a cup of coffee for the early arrivals.
The eggs continue to be a big draw. Laddie's flocks are really starting to roll with the warmer days (and nights). And, with the introduction of many new hens, we have more "workers." We have even more on the way as Laddie nurtured a batch of new chicks in the brooder through cold nights during February and March.
At the moment we have three different sizes of eggs with Jumbos from the mature girls and "Pullet" eggs from the youngsters bracketing our Regular eggs in size.
As the ground warms and the risk of frost subsides, we'll soon have much of the garden planted. At the moment the green house is bursting with new starts. But, we have already started putting plants in the ground. While Courtney was busy giving her lecture, just a few feet away Marilu Martinez was busy putting broccoli in the ground on a beautiful day.
We have used Ryan McGee for years. We effectively share a state-of-the-art bottling line with a group of our fellow Napa Valley wineries by bringing the "bottling line in a truck" to Long Meadow Ranch about four times a year.
Partners Andy Ryan and Brian McGee also bring their expertise and experience honed by bottling almost everyday - something we could never do on our own.
And then, after the bottles are sparged with nitrogen, filled with wine, capsuled, and labeled in a blink of the eye, they are packed into case boxes and stacked onto pallets.
After a night or two resting in the cave, the wines will be off to our warehouse.
We bottled our everyday favorite Ranch House Red - with our whimsical cork imprinted with "Whoa!" and my favorite horse, E-Z, showcased on the label. But, the highlight was a 55-case lot of our first ever Merlot from the 2006 vintage.
Last year we selected a few barrels of Merlot for a "Left Bank" blend we made for the Napa Valley Premiere barrel auction.
We loved the wine so much that we made another cuvee to savor for ourselves and to offer exclusively in our tasting room. A few lucky members of the LMR Corral Club may also have the chance to try this wine, too.
This rich, succulent wine has the wonderfully graceful mouth feel and long finish that distinguishes the wines from our ranch. The inky black color is also remarkable.
In a few weeks when the "bottle shock" from bottling is passed, we look forward to savoring this wine - probably with a grass-fed Highland steak.
I will be participating in a live Zinfandel tasting panel on the internet today. The webcast is being filmed at Chappellet and will be from 10:30am-11:30am. This will be, I am fairly certain, the first blind tasting panel shown live on the internet. Wish me luck!
To view the tasting please visit www.titusvineyards.com/titus/page/video.jsp
We are very honored to have our olive oil blessed as Chrism by the Diocese of Santa Rosa. Bishop Daniel Walsh consecrated our olive last Thursday in a centuries-old Holy Week tradition. So, this seemed to be an appropriate posting for Easter Sunday.
Used to annoint the sick in what most laymen call "last rights," the oils are also used at baptisms, confirmations, ordinations, and other Church sacraments.
Throughout the Catholic Church for centuries, the bishop of each diocese has distributed oil to every parish for use throughout the year.
In our case, the oil will be used throughout the six-county area covered by the Diocese of Santa Rosa. This means our oil will potentially touch the lives of more than 150,000 people.
Our olive orchards are believed to be the oldest in Napa County, with the original cuttings coming aboard ship from the Mediterranean region around the Horn. The opportunity to provide continuity to a centuries-old sacred tradition and to be recognized for the integrity of our traditional, sustainable approach to farming is truly an honor for our family and for our team at Long Meadow Ranch.
For more background, see our brief press release.
Yesterday was a major milestone for us.
Laddie, Chris, and I were joined by Sheamus Feeley (our executive chef), Kevin Twohey (Whiting Nursery), and Frank Borges and Tony Gouveia (Borges Construction).
The crew began site preparation yesterday morning on the historic Logan/Ives House which will be the new home to our tasting room. Removal of the asbestos shingles will start on Monday. And, in about two weeks the house will be raised four feet in the air so that we can rebuild the foundation under it!
Second, last night we had a very informal reception for our staff and the members of our extended team who have worked so hard to get this project moving so quickly.
LMR wines flowed and Sheamus Feeley prepared LMR grass-fed beef meatballs with tomato-ginger marmalade, "Sheamus-made" ricotta with LMR Rutherford Gardens apple butter, LMR deviled eggs with crispy bacon, and LMR grass-fed beef tartare with chive blossoms and radishes.
What a treat!
After many long months of work, we launched our new website yesterday afternoon. Tomorrow afternoon we will be sending an e-mail announcement to all of our friends, both consumers and trade members. We are looking forward to the feedback.
Many may not know that LMR was among the earliest small wineries to have a web site. We first launched in 1997 - well ahead of the Internet boom - and we were able to take online orders when we released our first wine (1996 Cabernet Sauvignon) in September 1999. The technology was crazily clumsy.
Since then we have continued to modify and extend the original design. Our first web designer was Kim Webb (!) of Webb Design and she was assisted by Freema Hillman, the designer of the distinctive LMR logo and wine labels.
Throughout this period the site was largely homegrown (and continues to be). One of the reasons the site "speaks with one voice" is because it has one, namely mine. A screen shot of our old site is on the left.
We did a major revamp during 2005 as we added more content and improved the beef presentation. Now, with the help of the excellent team at vin65 (aka K-1 Technology) led by Peter Andres and Andrew Kamphuis we have brought the site up to contemporary standards. It's kind of our own version of Web 2.0.
Because we have been at this a long time (especially in "web time"), the site is very deep - in some cases you can drill down five or six layers.
And, we have an extensive archive of much of what we have accomplished over the past thirteen years.
Brendan Scoggin, our Customer Service & Marketing Support Administrative Assistant, did yeoman duty bringing over all of the historical content. Take a look at the Press Clipping Archive or the Menu Hall of Fame for examples.
We hope you will take the time to explore our site. Let us know what you think.
This week we began bottling our 2009 harvest olive oils. The 2009 Napa Valley Select and Prato Lungo blends are among our best oils as of yet. Upon chemical analysis of these oils, we have confirmed that they are well within the COOC (California Olive Oil Council) standards for quality oil.
The COOC (and international) standards for extra virgin olive oil require oil to be less than 0.5% acidity (oleic free fatty acid) and to have a peroxide index under 20. Prato Lungo achieved 0.08% acidity with a 5.0 peroxide index while the Napa Valley Select came out at 0.04% acidity with a 3.0 peroxide index.
Both of of our 2009 oils are more than six times below the standard for extra virgin olive oil. We are very proud to continue our record of producing some of the lowest acidity (most virgin) olive oils in the world.
To learn more about olive oil see: About Olive Oil