Category Archives: Wines
We have a new face on the blog! Lynn Pedone will be working in the vineyard, with Dave Vella and his crew, as she pursues her studies in Viticulture at Santa Rosa Junior College. A little background on Lynn: she’s a recent East Coast transplant, has lived all over the world growing up in a military family and has previously worked in the world of business and finance. She’s now hoping to settle into her “last career stop until retirement” in the wine industry and is looking forward to the opportunity to learn more about vineyard maintenance with Dave. Lynn will be writing a weekly blog post about her experiences working in the Chateau Montelena vineyards. Read her latest post below:
Tuesday was officially the first day of Summer, and in the vineyard here it was appropriately HOT…97 degrees. It seemed fitting that we spent the morning tending to the irrigation needs of the vines. Irrigation involves more than simply keeping the plants alive. In viticulture, the strategies for watering depend on the desired style of wine that will ultimately be achieved – there are different effects of irrigation on berries from budbreak to bloom and fruit set and all the way through to maturity. One of my favorite lessons from vineyard management class is that vines are like cats – they don’t like wet feet! At Chateau Montelena, they practice deficit irrigation, providing just enough water to keep the vines from becoming overly stressed. Heriberto, (Beto, as he is called by the staff here) who I spent the day shadowing, explained that when the vines are young they are irrigated more to grow a strong healthy vine and as they get older and start to produce fruit, the water is greatly reduced. I always think of what Jim Barrett, i.e. Bill Pullman, said in the movie Bottle Shock – making the vines “struggle” intensifies the flavor. Who would know better? And this is where I put in a shameless plug for the movie…if you have never seen, go get yourself a copy and share it with friends. You don’t have to be a wine lover to appreciate this wonderfully entertaining, feel-good movie. If you are lucky enough to live in the area, you can pick up a copy (autographed by Bo Barrett) in the Montelena tasting room if you take the “Bottle Shock Chardonnay Experience” tour. As with the movie, once is not enough!
Returning to the day’s events, I accompanied Beto as he turned on valves for several irrigation pump stations throughout the vineyard blocks. Just when I thought to myself, oh, this will be an easy task….there is actually much more to irrigation and fertilization (fertigation when both are applied simultaneously) than I imagined. As I said to Beto, learning about something in a classroom is never the same as doing it. Beto has been with Montelena for more than 20 years, and it’s easy to see that he loves what he does. We began in a hillside block, walking the rows to inspect the drip lines and replacing any failing, or plugged, emitters (the small, round cap-like spouts through which the water flows). Next, travel to the various pump stations where, in some cases, valves need to be turned on. At other stations, filters need to be removed and cleaned out. Valves are shut off at the end of the work day, then the whole process repeats again the next day. I also observed as organic fish fertilizer was applied through the irrigation system to one of the blocks of baby vines (this is done once or twice a year on young vines). The huge 300-gallon tank has to be transported to the application site with a forklift, and then a myriad of hoses connects the tank to the irrigation system with a portable pump. Quite a remarkable way to apply fertilizer, considering how painstaking it must have been in the days before all this wonderful machinery was developed!
I’ve been a big advocate of local farmer’s markets for many years. While I do ponder why the costs of fruit and veggies at these direct-to-consumer venues is as high, if not higher than, some of your finest grocery chains, I’ve also come to realize that it’s still money well spent. Here’s why:
*Quality. Just as in buying wine directly from the source. You know you can count on the quality of it. Did it drive across country and back on warm, summer days? Did it sit next to a furnace in some building? No, it was stored best by the people who know how. For produce, you know where it’s coming from; you meet the farmers and get first hand information. You understand the TLC that went into it. Tasting tree ripened fruit or fresh cut veggies from the ground is so much better. This is as close as most can get in an urban surrounding. And, you’re often getting true organic or non-genetically modified produce; which translates to better for the earth, better for the body.
*Price. Yes, it isn’t “as cheap,” but you know it comes directly from the source, and no middlemen taking their shares. Think back when how farms struggled, and the government had to subsidize to make sure we have food on our tables. They’re not getting the same subsidies. This tremendously helps them to eek out a living. After all, when was the last time you drove by a farm and saw their mansion on the grounds? It’s not high-profit careers until it gets to the hands of conglomerate grocery chains. These folks stress every year about how the weather will be; they’re up at the crack of dawn till sunset; and they don’t often get two days off a week.
*Uniqueness. Some, if not all of these markets will have things you’ve never seen or heard of. Every July, I crave the candycots that are only available at the famous Ferry Plaza farmer’s market in San Francisco on Saturdays. These little gems, appropriately named, are like eating candy. They are exclusively grown in the Fresno area, and just through the months of end of June and July. Being far from where I live, I tracked down the farm and asked them if there’s any way to get these. Their response, “either come to our farm, or the SF Farmers market, that’s it!” Can’t ship, no stores.. And, I’ve never found as sweet boysenberries; heck, haven’t found boysenberries, period; except there, for a 4 week window. And the variety of Asian pears! Oh my, I can go on… You just have to go frequently and find these unique things.
*Fun Factor. It’s just plain fun to walk around with friends and family; sample the “fruits” of their labor, be outside, and eat at the adjacent food tents.
So support these farmers, bring your wallet, and bring home of nature’s goodness!
This Friday, on June 24th, we’ll be celebrating the beginning of summer by cooling down with some refreshing glasses of Sauvignon Blanc in honor of #SauvBlanc Day. To participate in the online festivities, simply use the hashtag #SauvBlanc when you are sharing/tweeting/Facebooking information about this beloved summer wine. Visit the official page for more information: http://sauvblanc2011.eventbrite.com
Most of you know wines from what you buy at the store, read in reviews, hear from friends and enjoy at dinner parties. For those who venture to the regions where it’s actually made, their learning curve goes up exponentially. They get the stories first hand (sometimes, subjective); but even then, that’s a good thing. What makes our wine different than someone else’s may seem better to some, not to others. That’s the beauty of enjoying wine. If it were that easy, it wouldn’t be fun.
Well, we’re taking your learning curve a bit farther if you visit us in Calistoga. Starting soon, on Mondays and Wednesday mornings at 10:30am, we’re offering vineyard tours. Our little 8 passenger electric cart will whisk you around (in an environmentally-friendly way) our 100 acres of vineyards, giving you a fun and educational, Disney-like drive through our Estate vineyards. You’ll get an up-close and personal experience learning how our wines begin. Should start up next week; but check our website for details soon!
It’s official…the 2009 Chardonnay is released and ready to enjoy!
Have you had a chance to try it yet? If so, what do you think?
Chateau Montelena Sauvignon Blanc deserves an ideal companion for pairing. Fresh lime, aromatic herbs, and shellfish compliment the bright palate and crisp finish of this varietal. For me, it’s a light lunch or first course of Bodega Bay Crab Vietnamese Spring Rolls. Our 2009 Sauvignon Blanc has a great acidity that champions both the citrus and the crunch in these delectable fresh rolls! No worries if you’re too far from Bodega – any fresh crabmeat rocks this dish, and so does shrimp. You can omit protein altogether for a veggie version-try adding sliced avocado! I use a spicy peanut sauce for dipping, but any Asian-inspired sauce (mango, lemon, or other prepared sauces) can boost your own kitchen creativity. These rolls take less than 30 minutes to make and plate if you have your ingredients prepped – but you do need to prepare them within 90 minutes of serving. Like sushi rolls, they will get soggy if you try to make them too far ahead.* The good news? Nutritious, delicious, low cal and a perfect match-up for our Chateau Montelena Sauvignon Blanc!
Serves 4 as a light lunch or 8 as an appetizer (makes 8 rolls)
- 1 cup shredded Napa cabbage
- 3/4 cup carrots, fine julienne
- 1/4 cup green onions, fine julienne
- ½ English cucumber, fine julienne
- ¼ cup snipped fresh cilantro, reserve whole leaves for garnish
- ¼ cup snipped fresh mint, reserve whole leaves for garnish
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 8 8-inch round spring roll wrappers
- 8 ounces fresh or frozen crab claw meat
- Prepared peanut sauce for dipping
- Juice of 1 lime
- For filling, in a large bowl combine cabbage, carrots, green onions, cucumber, cilantro and mint. Dissolve the sugar in the rice vinegar; combine with soy sauce. Toss lightly with the vegetables to coat.
- For the dipping sauce: in a small bowl stir together 1/2 cup of peanut sauce and juice of one lime; season with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Place 1 cup of luke-warm water in a shallow dish. As you prepare each roll, dip each wrapper in warm water for 7-10 seconds until limp (as a cooked lasagna noodle). Place on damp dish towel for filling and rolling. Don’t over-soak; they will tear or rip if over-soaked.
- Center 1/3 cup of filling about 1 inch from bottom edge of one of the moistened spring roll wrappers. Top with 2 tablespoons crab meat. Driizzle with a bit of dipping sauce. Fold the bottom edge of the wrapper over the filling. Fold in sides. Gently, roll up tightly as you would a burrito, keeping filling snug. Repeat with remaining filling and spring roll wrappers. Cut in half on a diagonal; serve with dipping sauce. *Do-ahead tip: Prep all the veggies as early as the night before and submerge in ice water; drain well on paper towels before assembling the rolls.
Well, you get down the fiddle and you get down the bow,
Kick off your shoes and you throw ‘em on the floor.
Dance in the kitchen ’til the morning light:
Louisiana Saturday night…….
Montelena’s Estate Zinfandel truly is a versatile wine!
Thanks to my sister Hannah for sending me this picture!
Memorial Day weekend is fast approaching. Besides flying our flag in rememberance of our fallen soldiers and those who continue to protect us, I plan to spend time with my family and friends. What weekend celebrations do you have planned?
No, not referring to “The Rapture,” nor am I referring to The Governator’s Hollywood glory days; I’m talking about the famous day in Paris, 35 years ago today, when a few “kids from the sticks” beat the French at their own game. A tasting set up by Steven Spurrier, in Paris at the Intercontinental Hotel, made history when George Taber, a journalist for Time Magazine, documented this tasting. A group of judges, all French, and in esteemed professions in the food and wine industry, blindly picked the 1973 Chardonnay over the pack, including some top flight white Burgundies.
Not saying the French don’t make good wines. On the contrary, they are truly world class. What I am saying, and what this tasting showed, was that they’re not the only ones anymore!
Join me in a toast tonight, as we honor an important milestone in American history, with a glass of Chardonnay; and make it California…
Ok, so who said Summer is around the corner clearly is not living in Northern California! Wet, cold, and snow in Tahoe still? Just when you thought it was time to hang up the snowboards and break out the Cargo shorts, hold on there.
So the question is, will this affect 2011 harvest? I asked the experts (our dynamic duo of winemaker Cam Parry and his assistant, Matt Crafton), who gave me the assessment that bloom hasn’t happened yet, so we’re still good. Check back in two weeks…
We can all take a collective sigh of relief for now, and appreciate the respite from one of the worst hay fever seasons in years as the rain washes down some of those nasty nose irritants.