New Wine in New Bottles

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.

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.

Meanwhile, the preparations for another harvest are beginning….

Veiled Vines

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.

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.

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

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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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

Harvest 2011

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.

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.

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

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.

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!

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.