Last Tuesday I had the pleasure of hosting Reka Haros from Sfriso Winery in the Veneto. I met Reka back in February through a mutual connection. John Corcoran, the ever matchmaker thought we'd enjoy sharing our stories! As I met Reka, I realized that her vision of selling wine was not only fascinating but that wanted to think outside the box. After 16 years at the helm of Keller Estate, sometimes, it's hard to keep that fresh perspective, so meeting her was truly an inspiration.
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.
I am so honored to be part if this fundraising trip for the Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance. Join me as we cruise down the Rhone. If you have never been on a cruise, trust me, you'll enjoy the hazzle free trip. No packing and unpacking, not changing hotels, no getting lost. Here's a preview of what our vacation will look like! I really hope you'll decide to join me: for those of you who already have booked, we'll continue to update on fun facts and planning tips here on our blog!
Begin your wine vacation in Lyon, France’s gastronomical capital. From there, cruise through France’s legendary wine growing regions, home to such famous vintages as Beaujolais, Burgundy and Côte du Rhône.
Enjoy wine tastings at local vintners, marvel at ancient Roman ruins, stroll through medieval villages and shop for Provencal crafts. Our itinerary includes the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Avignon as well as Arles, the city where Vincent Van Gogh spent much of his life.
Every evening, Join Four Winemakers and Taste Wine from great Petaluma Gap Wineries, Savor Four Food and Wine Pairing Dinners, Enjoy Wine Tasting Events featuring great wines from the Petaluma Gap. Interact with your Wine Hosts throughout the week, Experience Rhone Valley wines alongside your Petaluma Gap favorites.
We are gearing up for our Second Annual Mother's Day brunch and we are excited about the hum and pace at the winery. We bottled our Rose of Syrah about 6 weeks ago and just had a small tasting to craft our first tasting notes. This is always a fun time for all of us a the winery. Here are some of our first comments on the Rose! I think we were having way to much fun!
1. “spicy watermelon flavors rides the aromas of red roses and pink cotton candy. We set aside a part of our vineyard for this wine each year, picking just a little early in order to preserve delicate fruit and clean minerals. in fact, the flavor is so good that we challenge our members to enjoy it warm or cold! REALLY! We’re not kidding.
2. the earliest red block of our vineyard to be picked, it’s balanced, dry and yet fruity. Get ready for a combo of rose petals and spicy watermelon. this is the delicate sister to our rich Rotie, both made from syrah.
3. think of watermelon. now add a little subtle hint of cinnamon and all-spice. Our rose’ is a sassy southern belle of syrah, decked in soft salmon silk, made possible by a perfect block of our vineyard that we pick amongst the first grapes each season.
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.