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!!
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.