IN THE FIELD
Happy February Club Members!
Remember that awkwardly-obsessed-with-water August monthly I sent out last year? Well it looks like all of my rain dancing has finally paid off! Saddlerock Ranch is now flush with water, filling both of our lakes and then some. It’s nothing new for many of you Californians that the drought has severely affected the health our planet. With the help of mother-nature, our water supply has quite literally quadrupled. This time last year the state was 3% out of the drought and is now sitting pretty at 42%! So exciting right? Well before you get carried away taking showers longer than 5 minutes again (I know you’ve all been timing yourselves), let’s go over what this abundance of agua means for Semler vine production.
Photo credit: Holly Allen
Unfortunately, I have to play devil’s advocate here. First, THIS IS GREAT NEWS. More water means more vine growth, delayed pruning, more crop at harvest and less plant stress. However, a big thing to consider is duration.
Photo credit: @malibuwinehikeswithkurt
Quick tangent- more rain with cooler temperatures=more snow on the mountains. Snow melts=more water….eventually.
Duration: considering the higher snowfall levels, it means that once it melts, there will be more groundwater saturation. This takes time, several months actually, before some areas will receive this large drink. So, the large yield of water you currently have on tap will eventually run out. Think about when you receive your Friday paycheck. You’re all of a sudden so wealthy and you want to make it rainnnnnn. Then, on Monday you look at your bank account and it’s yikes bikes! Same situation with water consumption, (we aren’t out of the drought yet so keep conserving!) For now, we are happy about entering our 2017 growing season with full lakes. Clear eyes, full lakes, can’t lose.
IN THE VINEYARD
Happy New Year Wine Clubbers! We all here at MFW hope you had a lovely new year filled with our Sparkling Brut!
Our vineyard crew has started the process of pruning. To recap - our vines are in their dormancy stage (napping) so that they can have a smooth transition into flowering. Pruning happens every year beginning as early as December and as late as March. Pruning is key as this will set the tone for the rest of the growing year. If you prune incorrectly it’s possible to cut off life to the vine and your crop yields will be lower than expected.
Things to consider when pruning a grapevine are going to be based upon the grape varietal, how it was trained and weather conditions.
Grape Varietal/Training - some vines produce more yields than others based on the way their vines were first trained. What is she talking about you ask? Training is the system in which your vine grows and attaches to the wire. Two main training systems are Cane and Spur. Both require manually cutting back all of the vines prior growth to make room for the new growing season.
Cane pruning is common in cooler climates with less frost vulnerability where the trunk of the vine is responsible for growth. In Spur pruned vines, the stub on the arm of the vine is cut down to a certain number of nodes that best fit your winemaking program. The number of nodes will almost always equate to your number of grape clusters per spur. This is incredibly helpful in determining crop yields.
Weather Conditions - Vines are dormant and can withstand the cold climate however, rainfall and temperature have to be consistent in order to prune. If pruning is happening when temperatures drop below 5 degrees you open your vines up to frost damage and potential freezing. Obviously this does not apply to us here in Malibu but you want to make sure you’ve had consistent cooler temperatures for roughly 2 weeks before you prune. Check and check! In regards to rainfall, you don’t want it to be too damp as the vineyards get incredibly slippery and muddy that leave your crew overexerting their efforts.
I could go on for hours about the different training systems and the best protocol for pruning your grapevines. Viticulture is very complex yet simple once you find your groove.
Pruning season has started and will last 6 weeks or until all of our 69 acres have gotten their winter haircut!
It is finally February; I have never been so excited to be done with the first month of the year! Last month I tried and failed to stick to the Whole30 diet that basically every woman on Instagram was doing. I can take out sugar, carbs, dairy, even food from my diet, but wine? You must be taking crazy pills. The wine guy at WholeFoods would send out a search party if he didn’t see me for a month, or even a week for that matter.
You can still drink a glass of wine a night and be your healthiest, fittest self. You just have to be smart about the type of wines you are drinking. There are plenty of studies that show wine is in fact good for your body. It has 13 essential vitamins and minerals, it’s basically like taking a multivitamin! But the sugar content is the real kicker here for absolute heath and weight management. Full transparency, I would rather choose wine over food any day but you may not be as dedicated to wine then I am.
TIPS TO DRINKING SMART:
1. Choose wine with a lower alcohol content: Wine with less alcohol tends to have less sugar. Dry white wines (Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Vinho Verde, German Riesling, Chenin Blanc) have the least amount of calories with 110-150 calories per 5 ounces with 9-12% alcohol. Red Fans? Dry red wines with less than 13.5% alcohol will be your best friend (Pinot Noir to Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah)
2. Choose European wines: Whaaaaat? Yes. Europe has incredibly strict wine laws that restrict alcohol content to a certain parameter. Remember, alcohol content is key, so go on a world tour and try something new!
3. Stay away from “New World” wines: America to Argentina to Australia, new world wines boast high alcohol and high sugar wines that will undo all that hard work at the gym.
4. Eat Protein!: If you are like me, I am always thinking of French fries after downing the third glass of Pinot. This isn’t because you are weak, the wine is just really good at peer pressuring you. Alcohol enhances the taste of salt and fat so your brain tells you to reach for the bad stuff. To prevent the little voice telling you to make midnight bacon, eat a handful of almonds or cheese to calm your cravings before pouring the first glass.
5. Earn that glass: The greatest glass of wine is one after you kick your own butt at the gym. During my demise with Whole30, I allowed a glass of wine after a great workout and never regretted a thing. Maybe it’s just me, but thinking about getting a “bikini body” doesn’t motivate me at the gym, knowing wine is at home does.
6. Everything in moderation: This is one of those tips that I have to say but don’t follow.. Obviously one glass is better than three but my best writing is after at least two glasses so we give and take here.
So, I passed the Sommelier Exam and officially have enough knowledge to order off of a restaurant menu without breaking out in a sweat. You can call me “baby somm”.
What is great about the world of wine is you are never finished learning. I was taught by 4 Master Sommeliers (all of which were in the documentary SOMM, if you haven’t seen it, get on it) and they made it very clear that you will never know everything about wine. Even the Masters are still students.
I love educating people on wine, and a tasting room is the perfect classroom. Where else in the world can you go and learn about something then get rewarded by getting to drink? Tasting rooms my friend. Tasting rooms are incredibly intimidating but we all want to teach you. You can learn immense amounts over a glass of wine, so ask away! I haven’t heard it all but here are some that I’ve been asked quite frequently.
Frequently Asked Wine Questions (as heard in a tasting room)
1. Q: Is wine vegan?
A: In LA, this questions pops up more than in other areas but it is not a silly question by any means. Most wine is NOT vegan. To filter the wine (make it clear by taking the particles out), many winemakers use elements that are not considered vegan. Thankfully, the internet is making it easier to locate vegan wines due to dietary restrictions, so google away!
2. Q: Do the vines die in the winter?
A: The vines do not die (see Lillie’s article). They are merely hibernating and gearing up for the cold. Their nutrients are pulled down to their roots to protect themselves from frost damage. In the spring, they soak up a little sun and get ready for a new harvest!
3. Q: Do you add the fruits, spices, herbs, etc. to the wine to give it the flavor on the tasting notes?
A: This question is my favorite because we don’t add a single thing. The grapes give these characteristics all by themselves. The winemaker can manipulate the fermentation process or add a yeast that brings out the wines characteristics more but those little babies do it all on their own.
4. Q: How many grapes are in a bottle of wine?
A:Typically 500-700 depending on the grape variety. Some grapes are smaller than others. If you really think about it, depending on the price of the bottle, some grapes can be $0.25 each! The oldest winery in France broke down their grape cost and it came to $10 a grape! That’s a $5,000 bottle!
5. Q: How do I hold the glass?
A: Many people forget that wine is a living and breathing being! The more air you give it, the more aromas and tannin breakdown. If you warm it up, it can lose some key characteristics and even fall off and go bad. Always hold the glass by the stem, the lower the better. Your body heat can warm up the glass and ruin your experience with the wine. Also, you look classy doing it.
Have a grape day!