Getting the vineyard ready for the season: time to prune
Sauvignon Blanc, San Mateo Vineyard, Rutherford Estate
When we spoke with Pilo Villanueva, our Crew Foreman, for last month’s Beet, he shared that pruning season is his favorite time of year. Preparing the vines for the growing season is hard work but it is the year’s first critical step toward healthy fruit, and ultimately beautiful wines. It will take our entire vineyard crew a couple of months to complete the daunting task, but it’s well worth the effort.
Pruning is the practice of removing the previous season’s growth from the vines. By removing canes and opening the canopy, we create the right conditions for achieving each vine’s desired fruit quality and quantity. It is one of the most important vineyard operations of the year and sets the growth trajectory for this season.
Typically we begin in January and continue through early spring. The timing is crucial as it must occur when the vine is completely dormant to promote growth and prevent disease.
Pruning methods vary based on the type of trellis - the structure for training and supporting the vine - and because we use various trellis types for different vineyards and varietals, our team has become expert in numerous styles of pruning.
open lyre trellis, before pruning
In our San Mateo Ranch Sauvignon Blanc vineyard at our Rutherford Estate the vines are cane pruned on an open lyre trellis.
With cane pruning, the optimal canes from the previous season’s growth are chosen to be the new fruiting canes, and we remove all other canes. Our crew looks for healthy canes that will promote ideal fruit orientation with open clusters, even light, and airflow. Our practice is to leave four canes per vine.
With over 150 planted acres of vines, pruning is no small chore. It is time and labor intensive for our crew, requiring technique and skill. After many weeks of work, we impatiently await bud break, hopefully after the last frost, and the start of a new growth cycle
Follow us on Instagram @lmrwine to stay up to date with what’s happening in the vineyard.
Cane pruned vine
Faces of LMR
Roger ‘Conch’ Beery, Cellar Master
How long have you been with LMR?
Almost a year. I joined the team last February.
How did you get your start in winemaking?
I am from a wine centric family. My parents are wine enthusiasts so I grew up around it. I was going to college for a marketing degree, but was not really enjoying school. My dad actually posed it to me as a joke that I should study winemaking, and I immediately thought it was a great idea. I transferred to Texas Tech University, the first college in Texas with a Viticulture & Enology degree program.
After graduating, I worked at a small estate winery outside of Austin, for my first harvest. I was there for two years in the Hill Country and then I did harvest in the High Plains, in the panhandle of Texas From there, I jumped around the globe to Australia and New Zealand, and ended up in California. I came into this industry out of curiosity and it ended up being fun.
Favorite part of the winemaking process?
Harvest. I like how the region is at the start of harvest, with all of the anticipation. I have a lot of friends in the industry, and it’s like when a new sports season starts, everyone has a positivity to them and is excited for what’s to come.
What is the day-to-day of a Cellar Master?
Right now, racking wines, topping off barrels that are aging, and bottling prep for white wines and rosé. We’re bottling our 2018 Sauvignon Blanc this month.
What’s unique about Long Meadow Ranch?
The winemaking team as a whole is so hardworking, from top to bottom everyone is hands-on. Our team pays close attention to every detail to make the most stellar product we can with what the vintage throws at us. I love coming to work with this team each day, we have a good ethos.
Which wine region would you like to visit next?
Burgundy as a whole, but specifically Beaujolais - I’m a big Gamay fan. I have friends that work in the Mexican wine industry so I’d also like to taste in Mexico.
Favorite food & wine pairing?
Sauternes and foie gras is always good.
How did you get the nickname ‘Conch’?
My dad spent a lot of time in the Cayman Islands, and growing up I spent time there too. Conch is a common mollusk in the Caribbean. It is a tough meat which people eat. In the islands, they nickname each other ‘Conch’ because it means you’re tough like a conch and can endure hurricane season. My dad has been calling me Conch since I was born.
At The Table
Balsamic Braised Grass-fed Lamb Shanks
Balsamic Braised Grass-fed Lamb Shanks
vella cheddar grits and gremolata bread crumbs
Pair with Long Meadow Ranch Merlot, Napa Valley, 2014
INGREDIENTS FOR LAMB SHANK
6 lb. grass-fed lamb shanks (6–8 shanks, depending on size), trimmed
2 Tbsp. kosher salt plus more for seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
1 tsp. coarsely ground fennel seeds
7 garlic cloves, 1 grated, 6 minced
Zest from 1 lemon
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 large onions, minced
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1.5 cups balsamic vinegar
4 cups (or more) chicken broth or lamb stock
2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
INGREDIENTS FOR GRITS
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup old-fashioned grits
4 ounces vella cheddar cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups)
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
INGREDIENTS FOR BREADCRUMBS
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup clarified butter or ghee
¾ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, minced
For the lamb:
1. Season lamb shanks all over with 2 Tbsp. salt and generously with pepper. Mix rosemary, fennel seeds, lemon zest and grated garlic in a small bowl. Rub shanks with the mixture and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour or chill overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 350°. Heat oil in a large wide heavy pot over medium-high heat.
3. Sear shanks on all sides in small batches and remove from pot.
4. Scrape any crusty bits from the lamb-searing off the bottom of your pot (don’t discard, just scrape them up to loosen them and prevent them from burning).
5. Next sweat onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook until golden, 8–10 minutes.
6. Add minced garlic, flour, and red pepper flakes. Whisk to distribute the flour.
7. Gradually stir in 4 cups broth and balsamic vinegar. Simmer until flavors meld, 3–4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add lamb shanks to pot in a single layer, pushing them down until they are at least ¾ submerged.
8. Cover and cook, turning shanks occasionally, until meat is fork-tender and almost falling off the bone, 1.5 to 2 hours (time will depend on the size of shanks). Remove from oven and skim off fat from surface of sauce. Let shanks rest in liquid for at least 30 minutes. This will also benefit from sitting overnight.
9. Remove the shanks from the pot and strain the liquid into a saucepan. Discard the solids.
10. Cook the sauce over medium heat until it has reduced by half. This should take 10 to 15 minutes. Adjust the seasoning with salt and more vinegar if desired. Then pour over the shanks when serving.
For the grits:
1. In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Slowly stir in the grits.
2. Reduce the heat to moderately low and cook, stirring frequently, until the grits are tender, 20 minutes.
3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the cheese, butter, and cream.
4. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
For the breadcrumbs:
1. Heat clarified butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Once the fat is hot add the panko and continually toss to keep from burning.
2. Once it is golden brown remove from pan and cool on a sheet tray.
3. Add a pinch of salt for seasoning.
4. Using a sharp knife, mince parsley and mix with remaining ingredients in a small bowl; toss to evenly incorporate. Add the cooled breadcrumbs and its ready to use.
Place grits in center of bowl or plate and rest lamb shank on top. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and parsley, and drizzle with Long Meadow Ranch Napa Valley Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
face of lmr