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
Today we began tasting through and rating oils made from our Italian cultivars. The Italian cultivars (like "varietals" in grape vines) we produce are Frantoio, Moriaolo, Pendolino, and Leccino.
Typically, these Italian cultivar olive oils produce a dramatic amount of spiciness (pungency) in the back of your throat, causing you to cough or clear your throat.
A particularly pungent oil is a "two cough oil" - something we try to make! After much discussion and evaluation of these oils, we are beginning to see the blend for the Napa Valley Select.
We are now testing our new website with members of our team trying to find all of the good, the bad, and the ugly about the site. We have found many big and small details to adjust, but we still hope to launch on Monday, April 6th.
We started the new design for the site last fall with the help of the excellent team from vin65 (aka K-1 Technology). We are very pleased with the new look, which we completed after four or five iterations in early January. Somewhat surprisingly, the task of bringing over all of the existing content to the new site has taken us nearly three months. Along the way, we have added many new features and pages.
Believe it or not our site now includes more than 400 pages!