Today we finished picking the 2022 fruit. That being said, we haven’t picked fruit for over two weeks. What does this mean? We picked all of our chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot gris during August and September and only waited patiently for the syrah to finish ripening.
This year we are grateful that we had access to water for our vines as needed. After a mild summer, it surprised us when a heat wave around labor day weekend was predicted, forcing us to make decisions. Julien, our winemaker, tasted the grapes, made lab analysis, and decided to pick some blocks before and others after the heat wave.
WHAT HAPPENS TO GRAPEVINES DURING EXCESSIVE HEAT?
Grapevines shut down in excessive heat, halting maturation, and then restart once temperatures come down. There are always questions regarding the dehydration of the grapes and chemical imbalances. So there is as always gambling in farming.
We are pleased to report that the decisions have given us a wide array of flavors; things are slowly but surely fermenting in tanks and gently put in barrels for aging.
With the grapes harvest over, we now focus on our olive harvest: We are excited to see a bountiful crop. Our goal this year is to produce two different oils: A Spanish Olive Oil and a Tuscan Olive Oil. We’ll release them towards the end of the year and you'll be the first ones to know!
TYPICAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THESE OLIVE OILS
Spanish Olive Oil:
Tuscan Olive Oil:
I always say that there is plenty of bland olive oil out there, so we choose to make ours flavorful, which means paying attention to picking them when half the olives are green, and half have turned brown. Green olives have more flavor but less oil and brown ones have more oil. We aim for flavor and good extra virgin olive oil perfect for salads and dishes where you want to enjoy the oil’s taste and health benefits.
We’ll be back soon with a complete offering of seasonal wines for your festivities; until then, sip smartly.
When visiting Keller Estate and near the end of the winery tour, we walk our guests from the wine production facility, through the cave, and back to the tasting room. Lined up, we see a few hundred French oak barrels along the cave walls, many stacked two high. Here and there, one notices a few dozen stainless steel barrels, and the question has been asked: when and for what wines does Keller Estate use those barrels?
Stainless steel barrels have only been used for aging since the 1950s. Their use swept through Chablis and Europe, and across the US wine-making regions adding a new facet to the wine-making toolkit. The oak barrels in use for centuries adds oxygen, tannins, and layers of flavor to the wine during barrel aging. While that is desired for most red wines and many Chardonnays, those same flavors can overwhelm the taste of many white wine grapes. Stainless steel does not let any oxygen into the barrel, resulting in freshness and a crisp character to the wine. As the wine develops, it builds a more fruit-forward profile, both in aroma and taste.
At Keller Estate, we use French oak for our Pinot Noirs, Syrah, and most Chardonnays. For our Rose of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Oro de Plata Chardonnay, we choose to ferment in stainless steel tanks and age the wine mainly in stainless steel barrels, as it allows us to capture the essence of each varietal and the expressions of the estate.
Additionally, there are many advantages to using stainless steel barrels:
These advantages, along with our cool Petaluma Gap climate, contribute to light, fresh, crisp, and food-friendly wines.
On March 30th, our founder, my grandfather Arturo celebrated his 90th birthday! We had a wonderful weekend with family and friends celebrating a life well lived, shared stories and laughs, took many pictures and of course enjoyed wonderful wines. We dug into our cellar and brought out some of our most stellar wines for the celebration. Our choices for the day were the 2008 Precioso Chardonnay and 2014 Rotie, it made us happy to add a few more milestone vintages to his special day.
There's something to be said about drinking newly released wine, with its robust, fresh, and wild flavors exciting the palate. Although it is known that aging wines can bring out exceptional and nuanced flavors to the tasting and drinking experience, over 90% of wine is consumed within 48 hours of purchase. Yet, there is a wonderful things about aged wines, and there are several tasting room jewels from the Keller Family's Cellar we want to share with you.
HERE ARE SOME OF MY THOUGHTS ON ENJOYING AGED WINE:
Older wine needs to be carefully tended to have a successful experience. Once the wine arrives home and before you decide to open a bottle, it should rest for a couple of days, or longer, in a cool place, allowing the wine sediment to settle and cork to moist and expand.
The optimum temperature is the low 60 degrees when opening wine, as the wine will warm up in your glass.
Opening the wine can sometimes be difficult, as the cork may soften. Do not despair if the cork breaks apart, as you can pour the wine slowly through a filter or tight mesh strainer. Once the cork and foil have been removed, wipe the bottleneck clean. You will want to decant the wine carefully, pouring slowly and steadily, without stopping, into the decanter or large, clean container. Once you see the sediment in the neck of the bottle, stop pouring and discard the remaining wine.
THOUGHTS ON FOOD PAIRINGS….
Let's talk briefly about pairing food with aged wine: an easy rule is that young wines pair better with fast cooked meals, think grilled meats. When pairing for an aged wine, then choosing a slow-cooked food will make that wine shine. Beef Bourguignon, for a pinot noir, a seafood risotto for a chardonnay.
Winter is when we have a chance to forget about the vineyard for a few months. Plants go dormant, and pruning starts early in 2022. As it was to be, we had an atmospheric river come through Sonoma County in October, irrigating our vineyards and putting water in our ponds. We were, of course, very relieved.
However, a warm fall meant that the water reinvigorated the plants and didn't go straight to dormancy. It's December and to our surprise we have some beautiful magnolias in full bloom. Traditionally bloom happens between late January and March. We also are seeing some swelling of the vines; thankfully, it is now very cold, and hopefully, the vines will go dormant. I encourage you to look around, and you will notice these changes. We need to take notice and have a constant reminder to take action and combat global warming.
At Keller Estate, we will continue to review all our practices and establishing new goals to reduce our footprint. Our vineyard practices, infrastructure, bottling, we will do everything we can and invite you to take action too.
As we look forward to new beginnings, we invite you to check out our fun-filled calendar of in-person and online activities for 2022. Some classic favorites (our Harvest celebration and car rally are back). New are some fun activities that will make your day just a little more exciting with a glass of Keller Estate by your side.
I would like to take a moment and acknowledge the work of all our team. Javier Rascon started as Vineyard Manager in January 2021, and he had a brutal drought season. After nurturing and carefully tending to our vines, I know 2022 will feel like a breeze. Julien Teichmann continues to craft stellar wines and find new ways to improve our quality. The third critical member is Jose Cruz, our Hospitality Manager, whose passion for serving wine to our guests and creating a friendly hospitality team has made our Tasting Room a wonderful place to visit.
Together with their teams and the Keller family, we wish you happy holidays and a healthy, happy 2022.
Keller Estate is thrilled to release its 2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir at the May Release Party on Saturday, May 11, 2019. This is the first signature wine made by Julien Teichmann, our winemaker since May 2018, and it is stunning! The salmon colored Rose is a reflection of his and Keller Estate’s winemaking philosophy: letting the wine reflect a sense of place in the cool Petaluma Gap. It is as if Julien’s years of study and work, from cool European climates to multiple stops at lauded wineries across Northern California, all conspired to present the perfect La Cruz Pinot fruit at harvest.
Keller Estate allocates specific Pinot blocks to the Estate Rose, a more French approach to Rose that you would find in the Rhône’s Tavel appellation, or in Burgundy, if Burgundians decided to make rosés. Instead of ‘bleeding’ some of the Pinot juice from the tank as a by-product of standard red wine fermentation, known as the saignée method, Julien employed a whole cluster press, just as he does for the Estate Pinot Noir. Once the grapes were crushed, Julien allowed only 3 hours of skin contact before racking the juice by separating the skins.
The 2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir, as most Keller Estate wines, is of a lighter, more terroir driven style. The wine is clean, approachable, low in alcohol, and acidity driven, but the resulting fruit speaks of warm summer days and gentle breezes. Notes of tangerine, orange zest and a dash of apricot produces a crisp freshness, soft tannins, and a burst of Pinot Noir fruit. Unfortunately, production was limited to less than 100 cases. Get it while you can!
Winemaker notes: 2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir
How have the recent weeks of unseasonably warm weather affected the vineyard?
"Well uh yeah the lack of rain and the early heat tried to wake up the vines but these cold temps and the blow 30 nights have put them back to sleep, they tried to wake up and they have gone back to sleep if we get the rain in the forecast that will help. Vines wakeup due to soil temp, so rain or frost will keep the vines from waking up showing “Bud Break”.
We are currently at 7 inches of rain which is 40% of our normal rainfall, we want to be somewhere between 20 and 25 inches of rainfall by the end of the season, so we are keeping our fingers crossed for the rain. Right now our irrigation ponds give us an ability to have a 2-year supply, and the little rain events that we have had have not increased the reserves, the soil moistures are decent. So we will be good throughout the season. Our landscaping crew will have to use reclaimed water this year to keep the grounds looking good."
What is your prediction of How this will affect the rest of the growing season?
"Right now we have dodged a bullet by avoiding early bud break. If it stays cool through March, we can expect that we will be normal to our growing season. However, depending on how hot it is through April and June will determine when we have to start watering. Generally, our first watering is after 4th of July. Since we are not in a frost zone here at Keller Estate so there is no worry about freezing.
We are going to be doing a water event to add nutrients to the soil in April if all goes well. We might have to go to a more Flair nutrient application depending on if we need to conserve our drip line water. We will need to be a little more dynamic with our farming this year and be able to react to how warm then next few months are. "
Do you have a Bottling Update?
"The 2017 Chardonnay blends will be started in March and will be bottled by the End of May. We are doing a custom blend for the Sonoma County Vintners Barrel Auction that will be happening in April if anyone is interested. It is a unique blend that I make every year for this event, and I am very excited for how this turned out.
We only rack only once and are tasting the barrels and evaluating which barrels are performing well and getting the blends together in my head."
What the biggest challenge right now?
"Our biggest challenge right now is our transition to organic farming, it is a real challenge. We have to break down the estate into three parts, soil nutrition, and herbicides, pesticide/fungicide. So the soil nutrition is probably the easiest to handle and that is going to be a pretty easy transition, however, the fungicide is also relatively easy to transitions over, the biggest challenge is the herbicide. There are very few organic herbicides that are effective, generally, it comes down to manual manipulation i.e. weed whackers or tractor attachments. Either way, there is an additional strain on the labor force to be able to take that on. We are working on the best scenario, to allow for this transition to be made. The growth under vine can increase mold risk and cause competition in the vine. It really comes down to a big monetary investment to transition to organic.
This is the right time of the year to do this, and we are working out our game plan for the complete transition. We are going to a 100 percent organic fungicide program for this year and hopefully implement our plan for organic herbicide as our next steps. I am focusing right now less on the wines, as they are doing very well, and more on sustainability, this year’s action plans, and our transition to organic farming."
For THE CHICKEN
8 Boneless chicken thighs (small to medium in size)
1 container of whole wheat bread crumbs
1 tsp Dried basil
1 tsp Dried tarragon
1 tsp Dried thyme
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Garlic powder
1 tsp Onion powder
Pinch of Pepper
1 cup whole wheat flour
For THE WAFFLE
1 1/2 Cups BOB's polenta
1/2 Tbsp of baking powder
1/4 Cup of cornstarch
3 Cups of milk
2 Tbsp of butter
1 1/2 Cups of sharp cheddar
For THE SYRUP
½ cup of maple syrup
2 tbsp of Huy Fong (Sriracha producer) Chili Garlic Sauce
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and get your waffle maker out and preparing to heat. Get out 3 mixing bowls for prepping the chicken and you will need one bowl for the waffle batter.
2. Wash and dry the chicken thighs. In one bowl mix together all dried herbs, breadcrumbs, and parmesan cheese. In another bowl, put the whole wheat flour. In the last bowl, beat the 2 eggs.
3. First, dust the thighs with flour. Second, dredge the thighs in the egg. Third, cover the thighs thoroughly with the herb parmesan breadcrumb mix.
4. Place them on a grate that will fit nicely on your baking sheet. Put the chicken in the oven for about 30 minutes uncovered, until nicely browned and cooked thoroughly.
5. Combine all waffle ingredients together in a mixing bowl and mix slowly with the hand-held mixer. Do not over mix. Feather in the grated cheese AFTER the other ingredients is mixed well. Distribute the waffle batter to your waffle maker and if you have a toaster oven, set to bake at the lowest temp and keep your waffles warm and crisp in there until everything is ready to be served.
6. For a super delicious spicy sweet maple syrup, combine the syrup with the chili garlic sauce and mix together. It’s unbelievable. If you don’t like spice, omit the chili sauce.
7. Once the chicken is baked, plate the waffle with two thighs and drizzle with the garlic chili maple syrup.
8. Enjoy this healthier version of chicken waffles with the Rotie!
2 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Cocoa Powder
1 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Not strongly herbaceous
1 cup Buttermilk @ Room Temp
2 Large Eggs @ Room Temp
2 tablespoons Red Food Coloring
3 tablespoons Strawberry Infused Balsamic Vinegar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 cup of macerated smashed chopped strawberries
1 tablespoon of red food coloring (optional)
1 – 8oz container of mascarpone cheese
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
½ cup of sugar
2 tsp of vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Rub a 9” springform pan with olive oil (be sure to be thorough) and then dust with flour.
2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together all dry ingredients listed above. In another large bowl, whisk together all the wet ingredients listed above.
3. Using a standing mixer, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Do not overmix! Just enough to combine all ingredients.
4. Pour the cake batter into the springform pan. Place the pan in the oven. Bake for a total of 30 minutes. You will know the cake is done as it will brown around the top edges and start to pull away from the pan. Always do the toothpick test too in the middle of the cake.
5. Remove the cake from the oven and let it stand for 15-20 minutes to cool. You can then release the springform from around the cake. Let cool completely.
6. Macerate Strawberries – Chop two cups worth of strawberries and dust with ½ cup of sugar. Let them “marinate” in the sugar for a few hours if possible.
7. In a bowl let the mascarpone cheese get up to room temperature. In another bowl add the heavy whipping cream and vanilla extract. Using a handheld mixer, beat slowly to whip it and gradually add the sugar. Once the sugar is incorporated, fold the whipped cream mixture into the mascarpone cheese. Spread immediately over the top and sides of the cake. Top with the macerated strawberries and serve it up!!