I am thrilled to announce that the Petaluma Gap American Viticultural Area will be official on January 6th, 2018. You may wonder: what does this mean? The official recognition of this area as a significant and distinctive grape growing region marks that beginning of a road to a broader acknowledgement of the quality of the wines produced in this area.
As time goes by, you will start to see wine labels and restaurant lists stating in black and white the origin of a bottle of Chardonnay or Pinot Noir as Petaluma Gap. Gradually as wine lovers become familiar with “the Gap” they might decide that they enjoy the beautiful bright acidity of a Chardonnay (like our “Oro de Plata”), and when you just can’t find a bottle of our wine, you might reach out for another Petaluma Gap Chardonnay, with the confidence that the qualities you love in our Chardonnay will most likely be in the new bottle you are reaching out to.
The work that grape-growers, winemakers and wine marketers have done to accomplish the Petaluma Gap is truly a tribute to the close tight knit wine business community: we know that “a rising tide lifts all boats”. I’ve been honored to have been part of this remarkable effort and I trust my children will continue to further the development of this region when they become stewards of our Estate.
At Keller Estate, in the Petaluma Gap, Sonoma Coast. The 2017 growing season started with heavy, wonderful rains that saturated the parched clay soils. 2017 will be known as a year of extremes and abundance. Record setting rains, followed by warm weather led to the abundance of cover crop, weeds, and vigor. Cultivation and vine row management was delayed in many blocks due to wet conditions limiting tractor access. Saturated soils delayed budbreak 1-2 weeks and bloom and verasion experienced the same delay. However, we experienced only average crop set due to the weather at bloom in 2016.
The average weather during bloom in May starts at 70 and raises to 80 degrees. 2017 had 10 days in May with temperatures above 85 degrees. This led to excessive vigor and laterals leading to an above average “second crop”, which added more manhours to our canopy management. Early wet conditions and high vigor contributed to a difficult canopy management season in a time when the labor force is at a premium.
Intermittent rain events created botrytis pressure, with even more demand on labor passes in the vineyard.
The high wet winter, caused the first 12 inches of the clay topsoil to become extremely hard and limited our ability the cultivation of our cover crops. Our irrigation regime started 2 weeks later, which was some benefit, because we would end up needing that water later in the season.
Verasion in the Petaluma Gap was late and slow to finish due to the abundance of early morning fog where many days didn’t blow off until 1pm. We were green thinning in mid-August and phenolic development was anticipated to be finished September 7-15 on most blocks.
The last weekend of August, most Pinot Noir blocks were still two weeks delayed and the sugars were 20-21 brix. August 26th started 15 days of extreme heat above 95 and 7 days above 104. Diligent watering saved us from catastrophic damage but prompted us to pick our early blocks immediately. The next week set off a furious picking schedule that could not keep up with demand. Labor Day weekend followed with three straight days above 105 degrees without any of the cool Petaluma Gap winds by night. We normally pick our Pinot Noir blocks in a span of about one month to ensure a range of phenolic maturity. In 2017 we picked our entire Pinot Noir in 10 days. In a cruel twist of fate, temperatures dropped after the heatwave to below average temps for 10 days. Many blocks that survived the heat went backward in brix and have turned out to be some of our most intense, opulent lots in our cellar.
When the heat wave hit, Chardonnay was only 17 brix, and got a jolt of sugar, without much phenological maturation. However, once the heat subsided and we had 10 days of below average temperatures with a breeze, Chardonnay was able to get back on schedule and has turned out to be an exceptional year from early indications. We are looking forward to some beautiful Keller Estate Chardonnays! One positive from the heat was the fact that it dried up any botrytis pressure that was previously in the vineyard.
Syrah was generally unaffected by the heatwave due to the fact it was still finishing verasion during the worst part. According to the Sonoma County Grapegrowers Association all reporting AVA’s in Sonoma have recorded the highest “degree day summation” on record for 2017.
Without those 15 days of extreme heat, our opinion is that 2017 would have been one of the better vintages of the decade. With the heat, we can say, the vintage went from exceptional to a wonderful vintage here at Keller Estate.
Dear local Friends of Keller Estate,
Petaluma has been spared during this fire, and we have, once again emerged as a strong community that has been the hub for hope. Each hour, we see new creative ways of bringing relief to our friends in need and we are proud to be part of such a beautiful community.
During this harrowing times it’s important that we all take care of ourselves and our families. All our team has found ways to donate time and resources to those in need. Our deepest gratitude goes out to the first responders and in particular I am humbled by the strength and determination of our local Lakeville Fire Deparmtent. We know that it will take time and perseverance to rebuild and we as a family look forward to doing our part for Sonoma and our wine community.
We are maintaining our open tasting room hours and will have an area set up for donations, which we will distribute to our local community in need. We are specifically focusing on “back to school” Items. These items will be distributed via our friends at Petaluma Active 20-30 next Monday.
While our tasting room offerings will be less due to minimal staff, we are doing so because during tough times like these, it’s nice to have a place as a safe haven to take a deep breath and be able to relax for a short bit. Being able to enjoy some beautiful wines doesn’t hurt either!
Please feel free to book via our automated system, give us a call at 707-765-2117 ext. 1 or send our Tasting Room Manager an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to book a time to come up, donate and take a break with some beautiful wine.
From all of us at Keller Estate, be safe, keep your families safe and we wish all of you the best in these tough times.
Dear friends and fans of Keller Estate,
As the days slowly winds down, I feel we can find some words to express our gratitude for all the message of concern we've received. The winery is well, we had a few small fires nearby all day, which kept us concerned and making evacuation plans. Our region is well away from the other fires, and it seemed logical to focus on the devastating fires in Santa Rosa and Napa. Our strong volunteer Lakeville Patrol contained the fire and we can now focus our attention on supporting our friends in other areas.
We trust that we will all come together as the strong community we are and re-build our region and continue to teach our children the value of community. Our entire team is safe, some have been evacuated, some have their jobs in peril, and we will be here for them and for all our neihgbors. My heart goes out to my many friends in the indsutry who have lost it all. Please keep them in your hearts and mind as you continue through your day.
The Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance organized a fantastic trip down the Rhone River, France. I was fortunate to represent Keller Estate; my husband and I shared some great memories with some of our great club members! If you have never cruised, I would highly recommend it. You arrive, unpack once, and specially in a small river boat, with about 130 passangers, you have a feeling that you've found a new home. Every morning we rose to a new adventure, perfectly oerganized and made to suit many different levels of activity!
From a winemaking perspective, this was a fantastic route, since we make our Keller Estate "Rotie". This wine was inspired by the wines made in the town of Vienne, where, a small region is called the Cote de Rotie. Syrah here is cof-fermented with Viognier to produce some of the most elegant wines I've ever tasted. Our homage to these wines tries to arrive to that same elegant wine. Nvertheless, the conditions in the Petaluma Gap are very different. Where as the French hills are some odf the warmest in the region. The windy Petaluma Gap is one of the coldest areas of Sonoma.
As we glided down France we had a chance to take in the temperatures, talk to new friends, visit many vineyards from Beaujolais, Saint Joseph, Chateauneuf du Pape and my did we get a chance to enjoy some beautiful wines. I came to see the same passion and joy that I feel as I present my wines to fellow wine lovers that our French hosts enjoyed as they shared their creations with us. Our friennds from the Petaluma Gap, Fogline Vineyards, Trombetta Family wines made the days extra sepcial as we shared new adventures together.
I hope we get a chance to share many more with our members!
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.
I like to make ceviche because it has a WOW factor, but also its heathy, fresh and easy to do ahead of time. Feel free to experiment adding or deleting ingredients depending on who I am cooking for! I love pairing it with our Keller Estate “Oro de Plata” Chardonnay and hope you’ll enjoy it too!
HOW TO MAKE THIS RECIPE
Remember I said you could do it ahead of time? The fish may be marinated a day in advance; after about 4 hours, when the fish is “cooked,” drain it so that it won’t become too tangy. For the freshest flavor, add the flavorings to the fish no more than a couple of hours before serving.
There are many ways to serve ceviche. Here are some of our family’s favorites: Place the ceviche in a large bowl and let people spoon it onto individual plates to eat with tortilla chips or saltines; spoon the ceviche into small bowls and serve tostadas, chips or saltines alongside; or pile the ceviche onto chips or tostadas and pass around for guests to consume on these edible little plates. Garnish the ceviche with cilantro leaves before serving.
This is true Mexican comfort food, always served after a party to ensure that all those fun drinks settle properly! Chilaquiles are essentially corn tortilla pieces that are fried, cooked in salsa, and sprinkled with cheese. They are often served for breakfast with eggs and a side of beans.
Red chili sauce
Take 4 dried ancho chiles, remove seeds, stems, and veins. Heat chiles lightly on a skillet on medium heat to draw out their flavor. Put chilies in a saucepan, pour boiling hot water over to cover. Let sit for 15 minutes. Add chiles, 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 1/2 cups of chili soaking liquid to a blender. Hold down lid of blender tightly while blending, blend until completely puréed. Strain through a mesh sieve into a frying pan to make the chilaquiles.
Put 1 lb tomatillos, husks removed, into a saucepan, cover with water by an inch. Add 1 jalapeno, stems and seeds removed. Add 2 cloves garlic. Bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes until tomatillos have changed color and are cooked through. Use slotted spoon to remove tomatillos, jalapeno and garlic to a blender. Add a cup of the cooking liquid. Blend until completely puréed. Add salt to taste.
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!