At Keller Estate, we have two sources of water: ponds and wells. The priorities around here are: Humans, Animals, Vines, Olives and last but not least landscaping. Because of our proximity to the ocean, our soils and our wells tend to have a lot of minerals and there is hard, we use this water for house use. We have to buy all the drinking water, trust me, you do not want our well water in your coffee, but for all human activities we use this water.
Our rain water is collected, and we are thrilled to say that our ponds are completely full, the soil is saturated. However, this does not mean that we will irrigate the vineyards later, or less: Harvest 2017 will be determined by many factors such as the temperatures in March and April, more rain, summer. One of our ponds is specifically kept for wildlife preservation, so, we will continue to see birds using it throughout the year as a safe haven.
At this stage, what is concerning is that the pressure the water is exerting on our ponds is so much that we fear mudslides and possible damage to our ponds. Water is over flowing but we have a small crack on one curtain, which is alleviating some pressure. However, as rain continues to pour, we continue to worry.
For a long time now, we’ve taken our planted for granted and need to understand that the drought, followed by the massive storms, all are related to our habits as humans. Do not use more water than you need, check your toilets, plant drought tolerant plants, take a slightly shorter shower, question your winery how they save water.
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 Thanksgiving around the corner, now is the perfect time to talk about the importance of bees to our food supply. Most people aren't aware of the fact that 1/3 of the food they eat wouldn’t exist without honey bees and other pollinators! In order for a flower to turn into a fruit (anything with seeds on the inside—so this includes all sorts of things we normally think of as veggies, like cucumbers and pumpkins), it must be pollinated by a honey bee or other pollinator.
In order to spread awareness of how essential bees are to our food supply one of our generous sponsors, Whole Foods Market, created the image above. The first photograph shows a normal Whole Foods Market produce section, while the second shows the same section without all the produce that comes from plants dependent pollination (52% of the produce!) This image shows what supermarkets everywhere will look like if bees continue to die off at their current rate of 44% per year (up 3.5% from the 2014-2015 year!) Our diets will be severely restricted, and a lot of the nutrients we need to be healthy will be missing. Your Thanksgiving dinner will have no pumpkin pie, no cranberry sauce, and no green beans, and your stuffing will be missing a few key ingredients!
These photographs highlight the seriousness of the situation. We need to help the bees in order to help ourselves. This Thanksgiving, add bees in the list of things you're grateful for. If you're in the giving mood, you can always say "thank you bees!" by donating to Planet Bee Foundation, and helping us spread our message to thousands of children across Northern California. Keller Estate is proud to support Planet Bee Foundation and we hope you'll consider the bees too! Join us for our Honey Harvest 2016 and support the planet!
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.
We are thrilled to start the year joined by our fellow club members who shared with us their goals for 2016. I’m also thrilled to know that some club members actually read all our newsletter! I hope you will enjoy the book « Hungry for Wine » by Cathy Huyghe. A friend of mine invited me to a dinner party where I had to bring in a bottle that I was «hungry to drink ». I knew there would be media people there since the dinner was with Cathy herself, so I debated what wine to take: Should I bring in a Keller Estate wine? We were having dinner at a fellow winery so I thought it might not be appropriate? In the end, I remembered a bottle I had bought in Paris at a small shop where I had finally found a bottle of one of my Cote de Rotie heroes. I had bought that bottle so that eventually, I could set up a comparative “educational” tasting at the winery. I suddenly realized that I had cellared that wine for over 2 years, and at this rate, I would never actually set up that tasting; I was Hungry for that wine. We opened that bottle, and made it last for all 14 guests, so I probably had a very small pour, but every sip was glorious! I truly wish that you may all have a wonderful 2016 sharing stories and laughs with family and friends, being hungry for wine, and if you can sneak a bottle of Keller Estate, I won’t mind!
Now on to Keller Estate’s Goals for 2016. We are off to a great start. By the end of February, we will have our Sustainability Certification for both the vineyard and the winery. Now the next phase will be to create our new set of action items for next year’s assessment.
Water is at the center of our attention, measuring, reducing and improving our quality and quantity of water used. Our new flock of babydoll sheep just started mowing and fertilizing our vineyards. Olde English Miniature Babydoll Southdown sheep are an ancient breed with sweet, teddy bear faces. Because of their diminutive size, miniature Southdowns make outstanding weeders for use in orchards and vineyards -- they are only 24 inches tall when mature, and so can't easily reach tree branches or trellised grapes. Their small hooves help break the soil surface without compacting it. They move easily up and down hills, and can get into a field or vineyard much earlier than machinery can. And not only do they provide an organic alternative to pesticides and expensive mowing operations, their recycled grass (manure) helps improve soil fertility as well.