Sean McEntire (our oil maker) and I are working together in the frantoio today and we are very excited about making citrus-infused olive oil from our own organic olives and citrus.
For the past few years we have been talking about making a citrus-infused olive oil, but we never felt we had the right combination of fruit ripeness and availability. We also wanted to wait until the end of the season just in case something went wrong with our new process. Well, we are at the end of the olive harvest and we will only be making some soap oil tomorrow.
So, today we are midway through processing our first batch of citrus olive oil. The frantoio smells simply fantastic with all of the lemon zest in the air.
Courtney and Marilu picked about 175 pounds of our own Bearss limes from a tree at our residence yesterday afternoon. And, we added about 50 pounds of Meyer lemons from Frank and Beth Leed's ranch. All organic, of course.
Bearss limes are unusual in that they are yellow when ripe and contain very few seeds. (They originated in Tahiti.) Yet, while they look like lemons, the distinctive smell and taste of lime is extraordinary. Meyer lemons are similarly intensely flavorful. So, we are expecting a very wonderful oil.
The fruit was cut in half and then added to the olives just prior to going on the crushing stone. We doubled our crush time on the stones until the citrus became very well mixed with the olive paste. Then, it was on to the malixer where the paste was kneaded and lightly warmed prior to going through the decanter.
Out the other end of the decanter our newest product is now arriving.
Wow! We have just created a wonderfully zesty, fresh new oil. Imagine LMR Citrus Olive Oil drizzled on wood oven-roasted asparagus. . . and whatever else Sheamus dreams up.
We are making some amazing olive oil this season.
And, what an unusual season it has been. Our yields are more than double the yields from our previous highest year. And, we are still harvesting in January (only twice before have we harvested this late). Furthermore, we may be only halfway through our crop at Long Meadow Ranch. So, another ten days of picking are probably required.
We started picking in our oldest olive orchard yesterday, which has traditionally been the source of our exclusive Prato Lungo oil. The oil is just amazing: soft, almost sweet, with hints of tropical fruits and even honeydew melon.
We are blessed to have inherited this orchard from our original pioneer, E.J. Church. Imagine planting these hillside orchards with cuttings from around the Horn in the early 1870s. The trees were lost in the forest for more than sixty years and then we restored them to health over the past fifteen years. Incredibly, the trees (still an unidentified culitvar despite multiple DNA test) make truly world-class olive oil. We are the very lucky benefactors indeed.
Sean McEntire, our olive oil maker, and I are immensely enjoying every afternoon as we sample the lots of freshly made oil. Yesterday the oil seemed more like an elegant drink than a condiment. We can't wait to share it with our family, friends, and fans.
We have always tried to avoid touting our wine scores, but we're having fun with this one. Wine Enthusiast Magazine has named our 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon to the Top 100 Wines of 2010. Not only that, we're #5 overall and the top domestic red wine. We were the top-rated Cabernet Sauvignon in the fall buying guide (among many fine wines) and we were also designated "Editor's Choice." Whew!
Our philosophy has always been to let our wines speak for themselves. Raters can be very fickle and we believe that our customers should enjoy our wines because they like the wines, as opposed to being told to like them by a high rating. Our balanced, elegant, moderate-alcohol style has also been difficult for some comparative tasters to recognize - especially when a wine is evaluated in a flight of 8 wines where the other 7 have been made to be "gladiators in sniff-spit contests." Usually the high-alcohol, highly extracted wines prevail because they attract more attention in the noisy "wine coliseum."
We believe that wine should be presented (and thought of) as food and that the appropriate wine tasting protocol should always include an appropriate food pairing. After all, that is how the wine will likely be consumed. (A very prominent wine critic mentioned at a meeting with Napa Valley winemakers last month that he never tasted wine with food. Hmmm. Most of us never consume wine without food. . .)
In any case, we are very pleased to have been chosen by the Wine Enthusiast for this honor. Even better, we actually agree with the tasting notes. We are starting to see a trend where wine (and food) critics are taking seriously the role a wine will play when it is poured, namely as part of a meal and paired with a particular food. After all, caviar is probably not the pairing for a top cabernet any more than champagne is a proper pairing for a New York steak. In that context a number (e.g., "96") cannot capture the whole picture. It can, however, call attention to the intrinsically attractive qualities of the wine.
Maybe I am getting wiser in my old age. We like getting a "96" and, even better, like being on the Top 100 list. We really do appreciate having attention drawn to our wines. After all, unless someone tries our wine they'll never know what it stands for.
Many thanks to Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
We began the 2010-11 olive harvest today.
This vintage is our 15th commercial olive harvest at Long Meadow Ranch and we are very excited. After the smallest harvest ever last year, we are now expecting our largest harvest in LMR history. Of course, over 1000 of our trees were planted in the 1870s. So, the record may have occurred during their storied past.
While the 2010 growing season was long and cool, we had excellent conditions at bloom in late May. Olives need ample moisture to keep blossoms hydrated at the crucial moment of bloom in late May. This year we had a cool, moist spring without the sudden heat spikes and high winds that were so damaging last year.
Our trees are laden with fruit and many of our orchards are also now reaching full maturity. Several of our orchards were planted by our son, Chris, during the summer of 1998 and the promise he helped create twelve long years ago is now finally coming to bear. So, we have had great conditions coupled with maturing tree; hence, the record crop.
Over the years we have almost always started harvest before Thanksgiving. So, we are about two weeks late. We expect to be harvesting over the next three weeks (at least fifteen processing days in the frantoio). If we're lucky we'll finish by Christmas, but the weather will be the key determinant. While rain doesn't hurt the olives, we can't safely harvest in the rain. We can wait out the rain. We just don't want high winds to blow the fruit to the ground. We won't be surprised to be harvesting during the first week in January.
We tasted the first oil of the season a couple of hours ago (unlike wine we can experience immediate gratification). The oil was clean, had beautiful aromas, and offered sharp pungency. We're excited. Stay tuned.
We were very pleased to learn this morning that the St. Helena Star had named our 2007 Ranch House Red as Wine of the Week. What a nice surprise for the Thanksgiving weekend! We very much appreciate the Star's suggestion to visit our tasting room, too.
For those of you receiving our This Week at Long Meadow Ranch newsletter, you knew that we were featuring the wine at our farm stand this week, too.
Previously, the Star had highlighted Ranch House Red on a list of "Best Picnic Wines under $25." So, now we have been upgraded to Thanksgiving dinner as well.
We love the local recognition. After all, the St. Helena Star has been "Published In The Heart of the Napa Valley since 1874."
Take a look: St. Helena Star Wine of the Week
The 2010 vintage is now "in the barn" and we are very pleased.
The winery crew is busily cleaning our crush equipment today as we prepare to return it to storage. All of our red wines were "pressed out" ten days ago (i.e., taken off the skins). And, we have already completed moving the reds into barrels in the cave to begin the aging process.
Our Sauvignon Blanc has already been racked (i.e., taken off the lees) several times and we are close to assembling the final blend for bottling. It is hard to believe that we started our harvest just twelve weeks ago with the first pick of Sauvgnon Blanc (on August 30th).
The season's weather was unusual with long periods of cool temperatures punctuated with two very sharp heat spikes. As is often the case during cool growing seasons, our grapes had the opportunity to fully develop deep, rich flavors. The first Fall rains did not come before we were completely harvested. While the heat caused some problems elsewhere, our vineyards were well protected and we did not suffer any significant problems, like sunburn or raisining. In most of our vineyards, we have never seen more beautiful fruit.
This harvest was our 17th vintage. We are very pleased with the early results.
We started the harvest for the 2010 vintage today. Hard to believe, but this is our 17th vintage at Long Meadow Ranch.
We've learned a lot over the years, but every harvest is unique. This year is no exception.
Our unusually cool summer has most of our grapes ripening very slowly and the standard forecast among Napa Valley winemakers is "two to three weeks late."
In the case of the Sauvignon Blanc grapes, we didn't expect to be harvesting for another week to ten days. Last year our first pick was on August 17th. Well, last week we had temperatures of about 111 degrees in our San Mateo Vineyard over a three day hot spell. So, the Sauvignon Blanc grapes were suddenly ready to go.
We started at dawn this morning and picked almost 14 tons of beautiful cold fruit. Bin temperature was about 45 degrees, which reflects our very cool nights, and is great for wine quality. Then, it was off to the winery to get it into a tank while still cool.
We "whole cluster" pressed the grapes in a gigantic press this afternoon - all 14 tons at once. So, now the juice is safely in a tank (sparged with CO2 to protect it from oxygen) and will soon be ready to ferment. Tomorrow it will be back the vineyards for more grapes.
There is nothing like the anticipation of the new vintage. We are all looking forward to seeing what this season brings us. Right now, we're fresh and excited. But, we'll be harvesting from now until late October. Then, we'll be tired and, hopefully, very pleased.
Posted by Ted Hall
We were all very proud on Monday night as Farmstead restaurant presented its first "Corkage for Community" grant to St. Helena FFA students amidst a sea of blue jackets (and supporting parents).
Chef Sheamus made the grant presentation of $3000 to FFA chapter president, Rachel White, at Farmstead restaurant in front a collection of smiling faces in the distinctive FFA blue jackets.
In response, the students honored Sheamus and Farmstead restaurant with an autographed magnum of Zinfandel wine made in the school's enology class. (Yes, the same wine sold for many thousands of dollars at the annual FFA auction!)
And, after the presentation, every table with a FFA jacket or 4-H uniform received a 25 percent discount on their table’s dinner check. We filled the dining room with students and families. It was a great feeling for all of us.
As Sheamus pointed out in his presentation, the initiative demonstrated by these young men and women to raise animals, learn the craft of agriculture, and demonstrate personal leadership is very inspiring.
These "kids" are the future of agriculture in our community and we are thrilled that the St. Helena FFA program is so strong (more than half of all high school students participate and the program has been named "Best in California").
The St. Helena FFA program is led by a extraordinary faculty (Randy Mendes, Laura Mendes, and Sarah Herdell), has an active and effective Ag Boosters support group, and has enjoyed the support of the district's administration and school board.
We are also pleased by the response to our "Corkage for Community" program. Instead of the typical $10 to $20 corkage fee charged for opening a bottle of wine brought to the restaurant, Farmstead collects a $2 fee for every guest's bottle. The unusually low corkage fee is donated to a different community-based not-for-profit organization each month.
Its our way of promoting a community meeting place and supporting our neighboring community at the same time. We want vintners, growers, and wine enthusiasts to come to Farmstead to show off their wines while at the same time contributing to our community.
Future grant recipients include Rutherford Grange, St. Helena Community Swimming Pool, and Rianda House. We're going to designate the first Monday of each month as "Corkage for Community" Night when we will make presentations and toast recipient organizations.
FFA Night was great. Hope you'll come to the next one.
Last Mother's Day I was visting my mother in Pennsylvania as had become my practice over the past few years. Today is our first Mother's Day without her. She died on October 3, 2009. We all miss her deeply and continue to be inspired by her commitment, energy, and strength.
My blog posting from last Mother's Day is reprinted below, along with a photo I took that day.
Today is the day to celebrate the root of it all: Mom.
Anybody who has been on a tour of the ranch has heard me start the narrative with: "My mother was an organic gardening pioneer in the 1940s."
Today I am back in Pennsylvania spending the day with the source, my mother. Although our small family farm is long gone (we left in 1961), Mom is still going strong (at least in terms of her ability to tell me what to do).
Today we reminisced about her early start with gardening. Her father and mother (my grandparents) operated a small grocery store in Beaver. It was a neighborhood store with a confectionary and sandwich shop. Mom isn't sure about its proper name because everyone called it "the little store." But, we think it was officially known as DeHass Grocery.
The family provided fresh produce for the store from its own gardens just a few blocks away. As children, my mother and her two brothers and sister worked in that garden. There was always a compost pile and my grandfather mixed a variety of potions, including soapy water and tobacco juice, for pest control.
Sadly, my grandfather lost the store to bankruptcy in 1936 when he could no longer pay his own bills after providing credit to so many of his customers. But, the traditions and skills of growing for the market were already in place.
When my mother and father were married, they soon acquired a small rural property and, as they say, the rest is history. The bible, according to Mom, was "Five Acres and Independence," a book first published in 1935 which became popular with young couples following World War II. One of my most prized possessions is my mother and father's copy of the book, which Mom presented to me a few years ago.
Mom reminded me this afternoon that I turned the compost pile for the first time when I was five years old.
Thank you, Mom.
The results for the 2010 Yolo County Fair Olive Oil Competition were posted Saturday night. We were delighted to discover that our 2010 Napa Valley Select was awarded a Gold Medal for Organic Tuscan Oils - Moderate Flavors and our oil was also named Best In Category among organic oils.
This is another "big deal" for us. As I wrote in February when we won a gold medal at the California Olive Oil Council annual meeting, these evaluations by our peers in the industry are very gratifying. Winning another gold medal is very pleasing, but Best in Category means even more.
Napa Valley Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil is our "mixing and blending" oil made from a blend of cultivars, primarily Frantoio, Leccino, Morialo, and Pendolino. It is our favorite for salads, pesto, and Tuscan beans.
We are very proud to receive this additional recognition for our organic farming and oil production practices. Bravo to Jason, Frank, Pilo, Todd, Lauren, Sean, and all of the crew.