Tag archives for “Winemaking”
From The Vine
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
From the Team
Long Meadow Ranch Timeless Traditions
A few members of our team share some of their favorite holiday traditions.
“I like to craft wreaths for the front gate and horse barn at the winery. I forage all the pieces from the ranch. It’s a very peaceful time for me, to walk the property looking for the right greenery, and gathering whatever calls to me. Then on Christmas Eve, I will hang a bunch of carrots on the wreath at the horse barn so that there are treats from Santa Claus in the morning for the horses.”
Laddie Hall, Proprietor
“I’m Mexican and English and my husband is German and Swedish. We do a German Christmas with all of his family eating dinner together with my favorite German treat. His mom has a Swedish Christmas gathering with meatballs and rice pudding, and everything decked out in red and white decorations. Then on Christmas Eve, we have Mexican Christmas at our house with tamales, enchiladas and lots of laughs and tequila. Christmas Day we have our English Christmas with crackers that we all pop to get our colorful paper crowns and wear them at dinner. All in all, my favorite Christmas tradition is celebrating all the ways our cultures eat and celebrate the gift of family.”
Becky Willems, Farmstead Bartender
"On Christmas morning my family and I start the day with mimosas then gather around the tree to open gifts. Later on, I go to the beach with a big group of friends to surf and we all wear Santa hats. At the end of the day, my family takes a ride down the PCH on our beach cruisers."
Kory Kovac, Production Coordinator
“My family’s tradition is simple but very meaningful. We celebrate Christmas Eve more than Christmas Day. We get together to cook our dinner, tamales of course, and spend time with each other. Normally we go to midnight church service and then we go back home to open presents. Christmas day is very relaxing, we gather at the kitchen to eat leftovers and we always spend some time calling our friends and relatives in Mexico to wish them all a Happy Holiday.”
Jose Vazquez, Mayacamas Estate Host
“Holiday traditions for my family have always been a little out of the ordinary. I don't think a single year has gone by that we haven't sung Happy Birthday to baby Jesus in the manger of my mother's nativity set on Christmas morning. A tradition that I hope will keep on for generations! We've always valued time together so making sure we are with each other has been one of our most consistent traditions.”
Samantha Klee, Chef’s Table Server
From The Vine
Harvest 2018 Wrap Up
Cabernet Sauvignon grapes - Rutherford Estate
Around mid-summer we saw the first sign that harvest season was near: veraison! Veraison is when the red grape varietals start to change color from green to purple. We started seeing veraison in our vineyards towards the end of July.
Veraison of Pinot Noir grapes - Anderson Valley Estate
Night harvest of Sauvignon Blanc in early September - Rutherford Estate
Harvest began at our Rutherford Estate with a late night pick of Sauvignon Blanc on August 26th. We pick Sauvignon Blanc at night because the cooler temperatures keep the grapes firmer and more stable, which is optimal for processing and fermentation. Our Sauvignon Blanc vineyards were picked over period of about one month.
Our team was on the move with a lot of ground to cover as our Anderson Valley Estate harvest of Chardonnay started on September 6th.
Anderson Valley Estate Winemaker, Stephane Vivier checks the quality of the Chardonnay grapes in the harvest bin after they have been picked .
Stephane does a daily tank walk to quality check each tank of Rosé of Pinot Noir as it ferments.
Next up: all of our Napa Valley reds!
Early morning Merlot harvest - Rutherford Estate
Peter’s Vineyard Sangiovese with leaves removed for an easy pick of the fruit zone.
In early October, it was time to harvest our Merlot and Sangiovese. We have Merlot planted at both our estates, and the Sangiovese is all in Peter's Vineyard, located on our Mayacamas Estate, at 1000ft.
Prior to harvesting the grapes, our crew goes through the vineyard and removes all leaves in the fruit zone. They do this so that no leaves mix with the fruit in the large bins, allowing for a cleaner pick of the fruit.
Cabernet Sauvignon is always last to be harvested, as this grape varietal takes the longest to ripen. We harvested our Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards up until the 1st of November, with the Cabernet Sauvignon at our Rutherford Estate being the final pick.
Arturo, crew lead, keeping bins clear of leaves during a morning pick of Cabernet Sauvignon - Mayacamas Estate
Cabernet Sauvignon, Mayacamas Estate
Cellar Master, Isaac loading grapes into the crusher/destemmer.
Crushpad - Mayacamas Estate Winery
Winemaker, Justin Carr, and intern, Ben Buckingham, on the crushpad, crushing Sangiovese, harvested from the Mayacamas Estate vineyard. Grape clusters are loaded into the crusher destemmer, to separate the grapes from their stems.
Post destemming, the berries and juice are headed into fermentation bins.
Small batch fermentation begins.
November 1st, the last day of harvest.
Our 2018 Harvest Crew
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.
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 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!
ARTISAN OF THE MONTH
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AT LONG MEADOW RANCH (LMR)?
Mayacamas Estate Winemaker
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WITH LMR?
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE PROJECT AT LMR?
Cabernet Sauvignon winemaking
WHAT DO YOU WISH OTHER PEOPLE KNEW ABOUT LMR?
That LMR also produces varietal grappa and olive oil
TELL US HOW YOU GOT INTO WINEMAKING.
I was born in the small mountain town of Zamora outside of Michoacan, Mexico. When I was a teenager, I came to California to help my brother pick crops. We did contract work by the piece, picking lettuce, broccoli, and many kinds of crops. With all the nursery fields, it was breathtakingly beautiful. I returned to Mexico to finish high school and came back to California and ended up in Rutherford. My brother-in-law worked in the vineyard at Freemark Abbey, which gave me the connection that led to my first winery job.
WHAT KIND OF TRENDS ARE YOU SEEING IN THE WINEMAKING INDUSTRY?
In the 31 years of my career in Napa Valley, the winemaking industry has been pressurized by vendors and researchers with innovative winemaking methods, tools and products that are supposed to make better wine for the public. Although, some tools and products are beneficial for winemaking, I totally disagree in using synthetic products as wine additives. Winemaking is a natural process. We the winemakers have the responsibility to produce and deliver a sustainable food product to our patrons.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
BEST VACATION YOU HAVE EVER TAKEN?
Europe with my family
RED OR WHITE WINE?
BICYCLE OR MOTORCYCLE?
SUSHI OR PIZZA?
IPHONE OR ANDROID?
MOUNTAINS OR OCEAN?