At Keller Estate we’ve been growing grapes for 28 years (since 1989) and making wine for 16 years. All of our wines have always been 100% estate grown. For myself, and for our family, this is a source of great pride.
From the beginning, we decided we were only going to make wines from fruit that we could grow on our property. At the time, I don’t think we realized the commitment. It’s a little like having kids: you know they are going to be hard work, but reality always surpasses your imagination!
Sometimes when I see friends who buy fruit from different vineyards, I feel a bit of jealousy: they can go out and find the aromas and flavors they want! For us, we are stuck with ourselves. In order to make different wines, we need to look for the diversity within our vineyard. Sometimes, the different vineyard blocks and their clones are enough, however we have to be very specific on our pick dates, so that gorgeous fruit forward strawberry that we find in pinot noir clone 777, is just right. And then, we must make sure that the opulent 828 gets a bit more time to mature so that we get very intense, ripe cherry flavors. That my friends, is a luxury. From that luxury we begin to make wines just how we envision them. After that, winemaking takes its course, gently guiding the fruit through native fermentations and a gentle process until they arrive to the carefully selected barrels for that specific clone of pinot noir. The barrel must compliment the fruit, never overpower it. With time, we’ve learned, and each year we continue to fine tune this matchmaking.
I’m on my way back from a trip, and it is always good to come home. The wines, now are all resting, maturing, evolving, so we can all focus on making sure wines get to their new owners in time to celebrate the holidays and ring in 2017!
With all the forecasts predicting a strong El Nino winter, Keller Estate increased the pounds of cover crop seeds by 50% to insure maximum coverage and to help eliminate soil erosion from the potential heavy rains. The winter conditions turned out to be ideal in all regards with constant light rains mixed with good sunshine. The cover crop stood 2 feet tall by December. Good steady rainfall from Nov-Jan gave the Petaluma Gap a great start in exceeding its normal rainfall. However, February was very dry and resulted in zero rainfall after all forecasts predicted the heaviest El Nino event ever. February recorded 17 days above 70 degrees, topping out with 82 degrees on the 15th. This unseasonably warm weather led to early warming of the soil and we saw our first bud break in the last week of February.
The rains reappeared in March to help reinvigorate the early growth of the vines. These March storms came with unusually cool northern winds and helped counter act the warm February with a more traditional growth cycle.
New additions to Keller Estate’s commitment to sustainable vineyard practices are 20 “Baby doll” sheep to graze within the vineyards. They help in promoting root growth in our cover crop to set nitrogen in the soil and help to reduce the need for roundup beneath the vine row. They also help to eliminate the need for mowing the cover crop, hence reducing our carbon footprint. Currently, the sheep are grazing in the Olive orchards because they still are tall enough to reach the tender grape shoots.
April has been a fantastic growing period with most of our vines increasing to 3 feet or more of canopy growth. All the vines within the Estate have responded extremely well to our ideal early growing conditions but along with that comes an early spray regiment. This is a welcome trade-off since our early sprays are gentle organic oils.
The weather in May has been slightly unpredictable with the presence of early bloom coupled with light rain. The addition of warm weather following the rain reduces the negative impact of rain during bloom which effects fruit set, as was the case in 2015.