New Wine in New Bottles

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Every August and January, we wake up to the sound of glass against glass as our wine gets bottled – and it continues for the rest of day - for an entire week. Over the years, as I have become accustomed to this sound and begun to understand the process, it is less discordant and more musical. This week, we are bottling over 5,000 cases consisting of 12 different wines from the 2010 vintage.

Bottling, the last step in the winemaking process, is an exercise in organization and synchronization. Months in advance, label designs are finalized and sent to the liquor board for approval. As soon as this is received, labels have to be ordered from the printer, press-checks scheduled and shipping arrangements made so the labels arrive in time for application. Simultaneously, the glass bottles, cases and corks are selected and ordered. For each, there is a very rigorous quality control process…and the road is not always smooth.

With all these variables in the mix, bottling preparation requires constant communication between departments. Marketing designs the labels, accounting submits them for approval and the winery sends them to the printer in addition to ordering all the bottling supplies. When things go wrong, tempers flare and the Lynmar life can become a tad stressful. The liquor board rejects a label or the bottle, which was perfect when the vendor presented it, does not have the exact curve we specified, making the applied label look lopsided. This year, the press broke just as the last batch of labels were being printed, causing an enormous amount of stress for the bottling crew. Nonetheless, we go on and the wine gets bottled.

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A relatively mechanical process for the people on the line, bottling is nerve-wracking for the winemaker who must watch every step with an eagle eye to make sure that the product she so lovingly crafted is treated with the greatest care and presented exactly to her specifications. Bottles are removed from their packaging and nitrogen is injected to remove the oxygen. Then, the bottles are filled, corked and the capsules are applied. Each bottle is manually checked to make sure it is filled exactly to the same level and the capsules are even. The labels are applied and the bottles get packed in cases, sealed and palletized to be sent from our care to the warehouse where they will age for almost a year before being released.

By the end of the day, we will have bottled more than half of the 2010 vintage. There is a tremendous sense of satisfaction seeing our precious wine in the caves ready to go. With them, they take the blood, sweat, tears and love of the entire Lynmar team.

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Meanwhile, the preparations for another harvest are beginning….

Veiled Vines

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The delicate veil covers her visage, almost touching the ground. Beneath, her frame stands still. Her arms outstretched, she faces the setting sun. Its gentle warmth penetrates, giving sweetness and color to the gift she bears. She stands stoically with her sisters, surely aware of her importance in the creation of exquisite nectar.

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A graceful vine, a witness to forty seasons, she is a treasured inhabitant of our oldest vineyard. Over the years on this earth she has extracted wisdom from the soil, her biography reflects deep conversations with the sun and moon, and she has known the cold touch of the west wind. All this is captured in her fruit.

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We salute this lovely lady and pledge that we will honor her precious fruit with the respect it deserves. After all it bears her unique essence.

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In The Vineyard

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With all the rain, the vines have been rapidly expanding up and across.  The grass between the rows has also grown unchecked, creating a haven for gophers that have reproduced and are apparently lactating. Gopher management is the bane of a farmer’s existence and a frequent topic of conversation between Lynn and Jason, our vineyard manager. The garden crew has a gopher trapping competition that is ongoing and our vineyard, like many around us, is a network of connected gopher tunnels. No matter what we seem to do, those darn gophers seem a step ahead of us! 

Last year we invested thousands of dollars in owl boxes (owls are their natural predator) and we were told that a single family of owls could destroy up to 1000 gophers a year. A year later, not all the boxes are inhabited – apparently it is a sellers’ market in the owl real estate world. Our other would-be natural defense is the family of feral cats that live on property, but alas they are being secretly fed by our cat lover Stacy, who cannot be persuaded that gophers are a balanced diet for feral cats.

As the crew works the vines, they separate and position the shoots between two wires in three layers: bottom, middle and top. This obviously demands a careful, yet firm hand and great care not to damage the small clusters of just-formed grapes, delicately joined to the vine with the equivalent of a gestational umbilical cord. One by one, the rows go from looking like a group of unruly schoolchildren; slouching, undisciplined and facing every direction, to a group of well trained soldiers; smart, upright and proud to march between the lines.

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But then, the beauty of wine is that it is a communion of the land, weather and human effort. Handcrafting begins in the vineyard, as skilled hands deftly train vines, trap gophers and ply the tractor between the rows, theoretically in anticipation of the weather, but in reality, in response to it. This week it has literally been all hands on deck with the winery staff joining the vineyard crew in a race against time.

Harvest Updates

Posted by Anisya Fritz, Proprietor

Harvest is upon us. Each morning that we harvest, the trucks and lights move into Quail Hill Vineyard at 3:45, and the crew begins to pick at 4:00 am, in the cool (cold) night. Our vineyard manager, Jason Saling keeps us posted on the progress of the “pick”. A few notes from his journal.

9/20

After yesterday’s Chardonnay attack on the Kistler Selection Old Wente in Block 11B, we’ll move forward with the rest of our Kistler Selection Old Wente in Block 11C. All in all, there should be approximately 2 tons hanging in there. Then, we will grab the first wave of Summit, which gets picked in two phases. The upper portion of Summit is a little bit ahead of the lower portion, so, we get it when it is ready. Even with all the sub-sections and micro-blocks, we further segment the vineyard for ripening and harvest in order to make the best wines.
Looking like ~ 8 tons tomorrow. We’ll get rolling about 4:00 am.

9/21

Last year we were hard pressed to get 10 tons per day. Tomorrow we are looking down the barrel of 11 – 12 tons, and everyone is excited about it. Last year we were barely making 1 ton per hour, a ten ton day would have taken 10 long hours, at best. With the lighter crop loads, the time was mostly spent walking to and fro looking for fruit. There were a lot of cuts, 7 or 8 before you got one pound. This year’s cluster weights bring that down to about 4 to 5, we are averaging 1.45 tons /acre, YTD, and we are just getting warmed up. If tomorrow’s estimates hold up, we should be done in no more than 8 hours.

9/22

Interesting note; it has gotten down to 38 degrees the past two mornings during our picks. This morning it was 50 when we started at 3, but was 38 by 6:30.
Tomorrow we will rest up for what looks like a very intensity push over the next few weeks.

9/23

As of today, we still have 80% of harvest remaining, but, so far, so good!

The Art of Harvest

Posted by Anisya Fritz, Proprietor

The beauty of Harvest is not only in the majesty of nature, but also in the poetry and grace of people as they craft the journey of the grape from vine to wine.

Harvest 2011

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In the days before Harvest, the excitement and adrenaline start to build.

Bibiana, our winemaker, and Jason, our vineyard manager, spend hours together, boots on the ground, debating and discussing the moment that this annual ritual would launch for the year 2011 at Lynmar.

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After countless walks through the vineyard, manifold calculations from harvest data in previous years, hours of analysis in the lab and much anticipation, Harvest 2011 began at 4:00 a.m. last Friday.

As dawn broke, the vineyard crew, led by Jason, received their tubs and instructions for picking the grapes – no leaves, shout your numbers to the tractor driver, watch your footing and work as a team.

At the winery, Bibiana prepared her team to receive the grapes from Blocks 9 (Pommard) and 7 (Mt. Eden). The forklift training was done, the interns from Brazil, France, Australia, Germany and the United States had been oriented, the crush pad readied and the tanks sanitized.

Now, the precious grapes are being received and processed, sub-block-by-sub-block, small lot-by-small lot, to give our talented winemaker the greatest variety of options for blending, eight to ten months from now. Ultra premium wine. Ultra premium care.

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With the temperature in the 90’s during the day, the Pinot Noir grapes are coming in fast and the Chardonnay has begun coming in as well. Night harvest has become the norm in order to keep the grapes and the crew as cool as possible. So far we have harvested  blocks 9E, 3B, 7, 4, 1B, 1C, 11B, 11C, 13, 11A, 3E, 6E,6D, 6C, 6B, 6A. See the map of Quail Hill Vineyard.

Bibiana’s cautious excitement about the quality of the grapes is infectious. These grapes still have a long journey ahead of them, but we are all getting the feeling that this is a very good year.

Was it all the hours of preparation, the endless conversations about the vineyard, the micro irrigation strategy, or the magic of the very special earth on which these vines grew? If you are in our club, you can be the judge in 2013!

In the Vineyard

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Over the past few weeks, the landscape of the vineyard has been transformed. Gone is the stark vista of elegant vines so clearly defined against a lush carpet of cover crop. Instead, the rolling hills of Quail Hill Vineyard are awash in the fresh green of new leaves on the vines, which become more abundant each day. The tractor moves busily between the rows, mowing and mulching the cover crop to rich, organic manure and ensuring the seeds get returned to the earth for next year.

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With the rising temperatures, the soils are warmer and  the roots are more actively absorbing nutrients while restoring color to the vines, peaked after the efforts of bud break in cool weather. Suckering, the selection of primary fruiting positions by removal of unwanted shoots and growth, is in full swing and the pressure is on the vineyard crew. This needs to be completed well before flowering, which typically happens when there are between 12 and 14 nodes on the vine. The more advanced vines in the vineyard are already at eight nodes and the window is narrowing.

There is more the vineyard crew must worry about. As temperatures creep up past 75 degrees, the young vines are susceptible to powdery mildew. Mildew stunts growth and can affect the vintage by affecting the green fruit post bloom and arresting ripening and the accumulation of sugar. So the tractor is out again spraying horticultural oils to smother mildew spores.

This is also the time when the vines absorb nutrients effectively. So organic sources of calcium, boron, zinc, magnesium, nitrogen, iron, phosphorus, manganese and potassium are being applied.

All this is done with consideration to the block, its age, the rootstock, its performance in the last harvest and its growth thus far.

In a few weeks, we will have a sense of the crop….very exciting!

Celebrating the Fathers at Lynmar

Posted by Anisya Fritz, Proprietor

I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”
― Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum

At Lynmar Estate, fathers with happy faces farm our grapes, their boots going back and forth between the over 100,000 vines on our three Estate vineyards. A father with strawberry blond hair and a passion for Pinot Noir makes our wine. A father once, to be one again soon, works hard to ensure the health of our beauteous organic gardens. The abundance of fruits and vegetables harvested there are transformed to delicious, wine-friendly food by another father with a chef’s coat and a twinkle in his eye.

A father-to-be makes sure that every guest has a superb experience and a father with a big baritone voice delights guests in our Tasting Room.

Two fathers, often seen riding the golf cart, take care of our Estate and a brand new father manages our technology.

A father of six is the steward of it all.

We raise a glass to the fathers that are, the fathers that will be and the fathers that were. To my father, the General, who will be 80 this year.

Thank you for all your scraps of wisdom.

January

Posted by Anisya Fritz, Proprietor

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Almost every day, this new year, we have woken up to the most incredible sunrises imaginable. Layer by layer, the vineyards are bathed in an iridescent glow as as dark turns to light and the sky is painted with streaks of orange and pink. The large trees on the property are silhouetted in their bare elegance and the air is still and crystal clear. I feel so lucky to live in this county of great beauty and abundance!

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At Lynmar, the year is off to a great start. Bibiana is busy preparing for bottling at the winery and the tractor can be seen navigating specific rows of vines at Quail Hill spreading dolomite lime to balance the calcium and magnesium levels in the soil. There is concern in the air from the vineyard crew – the unseasonably warm weather and the lack of rain are not too troublesome…..yet, but rain would be most welcome. Jason, our vineyard manager, predicts it will rain on the 19th. We will see.

We have been busy in hospitality as well. On Thursday, we had a visit from Sandy Weill, the benefactor of Weill Hall at the Green Music Center at Sonoma State Unviersity and the Chairman of its Board. He described a vision of this venue becoming a magnet for the most talented musicians in the world, and when I saw it the next day, I was convinced it would be too! Also gracing our table was Jack Stuppin, the celebrated Sonoma County artist. On the same day, Good Morning America was here shooting a commercial!

We have some exciting ideas for the blog this year. Lynn and I will be regular contributors as will David, our chef, and Eytan, our garden maven. They will be sharing their expertise on how to bring the wine country experience into your home with recipes and tips for your garden and table. Patrick, our graphic designer and resident artist, will add his photography and artwork to illustrate the Lynmar Life. We would love to hear your thoughts as well and our newly redesigned blog accommodates your comments and feedback.

Happy New Year!

June

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It has been a busy month!

For Lynn’s birthday, he and I stole some time away and took a vacation to the Galapagos and Machu Picchu. In the Galapagos, we were on The Grace, the boat that Aristotle Onassis gave Princess Grace of Monaco for her wedding, and on which she and Prince Rainier spent their honeymoon. The boat is almost 60 years old, and definitely past its prime, but was our home away from home for the week.

Separated from civilization, 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, with no access to email, newspapers or the phone, we were blissfully relaxed. Each day, we took trips to different islands, walked among nesting birds (completely unafraid of humans), snorkeled with sea lions, penguins, turtles and tropical fish.

Interesting fact – among all of the species on these islands, where Darwin developed his theory of evolution, the female chooses the male. Another interesting fact – during the 7 days that the 12 of us were on the boat, we drank 68 bottles of wine that Bibiana, our talented winemaker, chose for us from around the world  - you could call it a working vacation.

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The second week of our vacation was spent in Peru, an interesting mix of Spanish, Quechua and Inca, West African and Japanese cultures, which must explain the very wonderful food.  The Peruvians have 35 varieties of corn and 200 varieties of potatoes. We tried Pisco, the national drink, but stayed with Argentinean, Chilean and Peruvian wines.

The highlight, of course, was Machu Picchu, the Inca city in the clouds.

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Meanwhile, back home, at Lynmar, the  team watched in dismay as it rained day after day after day. Traffic to the tasting room slowed and the moisture dampened even the most optimistic spirits. There was worry about set and it was clear that 2011 would be another year when farming practices would be the crucial differentiator in the quality of the vintage.

When we came back, the sun came out. The yellow in the vineyards turned back to green, the Wine Spectator scores were published (all 12 2009 pinots scored over 90 points), and the Press Democrat ran a feature about David, our chef. We also launched our Pinot and Pizza program for the season. Exulting in the rain, our gardens are bursting with color and vitality. Spirits are up, we are back and summer is here!

Bloom

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Flowers are surely an expression of earthly rapture and their contagious joy has spread all over the Estate.

The vines are beginning to bloom, and a new vintage is in gestation. The delicate blossoms are an expression of the soil that has evolved over the millennia, the careful planting decisions made over the past forty years, and meticulous care that the farming team has invested in the vines this season.  Self –pollinating, these blossoms will become fruit all on their own.

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The vineyard borders are ablaze in color and activity as bees and other beneficial insects buzz deep into their midst. The wild flowers are at their zenith - the poppy seeds we flung all over the grounds last fall, are manifested in stunning arrays of yellow, orange and red. Humming birds have begun to arrive, delightedly burying their long beaks into the generous depths of the open blossoms.

The tasting room gardens are signaling abundance. Heirloom varieties of vegetables and edible flowers grow more profuse each day. Amaranth, kale, chard, cabbage, fennel, beets, parsley, orach and celery all flutter together in a communal bed. Chocolate mint, grapefruit mint, mango mint and strawberry mint are the newest cousins to join  peppermint and spearmint, the faithful couple that have given their flavor to our ice water and tea.

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The roses climb the fences, enveloping them in a fragrant embrace. The hydrangeas, rhododendrons, and azaleas in every hue have awoken from their annual slumber. Cornflower, iris, violas and nasturtium – is it any wonder that the bees seem to be drunk?

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The earth smiles and all she asks is that we smile back!

Thanksgiving

Posted by Anisya Fritz, Proprietor

At Lynmar we are full of gratitude for the year that has been, for the camaraderie we share and for the vibrant community of advocates club members, customers, friends and family that enriches our daily life. Here are some words of thanks from your Lynmar family about things we are grateful for this year.

For access to this magnificent land, an even growing season and an abundant harvest, for a community of family and friends to share it with – Lynn

For Sonoma County, its kind generous people, wonderful schools, university and the new Green Music Center; for the weddings and babies that remind us of the cycle of life and to savor each moment – Anisya

For my new school and new teachers and friends - Adam

For the smiles shared with family and friends – Meghan

For the ability to travel long distances to spend time with family and friends and for the bonds which have strengthened as a result of seeing them – Patrick

For my loving wife Reva and the birth of my healthy baby boy Zakai – Eytan

To be able to come to such a beautiful place every day, to be part of this wonderful group of people who love what they do – Nancy

For all the challenges that came my way this year, and the strength I gained from overcoming them – Elizabeth

Perhaps Ralph Waldo Emerson captured it best:

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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