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.
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."
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.
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 email@example.com 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.