Wildfires & Harvest

 

On the evening of October 8, we witnessed a furry of hurricane-force winds, the likes of which had never been seen in Wine Country before. Starting in the northwestern section of the Napa Valley, at the foot of Mt. St. Helena north of Calistoga and traveling west towards Santa Rosa, trees fell onto power lines and several fires broke out simultaneously all over our Valley. Suddenly, the mountains of each side of the valley were engulfed, from the south-eastern hillside in Atlas Peak and up Soda Canyon, along the Silverado trail, to the eastern hills along Mayacamas and Trinity Road, Dry Creek and into traveling over the hill into Bennett Valley, destroying homes and businesses and leveling subdivisions as far west as Santa Rosa

Without power in most of the Valley, many people had no cell service and couldn’t be reached. Transistor radios became all the rage for information. At HL Vineyards, we also had no water, as our pump wouldn’t work for the well or pressure tank for the house, so we couldn’t irrigate the vineyard or landscaping around the house (or flush the toilet without refilling it with jugs of bottled water, or wash clothes or dishes or fill the coffee pot… the list goes on!) for 13 days.

Businesses were closed for many days, not being able to get employees to work or product to sell. Parts of St. Helena felt like a ghost town, and everyone was on edge with their most beloved possessions piled up in the back of their cars, just in case. There was only one restaurant open in St. Helena, and it became the meeting place for evacuation stories and amazing wines — lots of older wines came out of cellars that we never thought we would get the opportunity to try again ( I opened a 1997! Our first vintage!), and were shared over a meal.

Our Sauvignon Blanc grapes and the Grenache and Carignan grapes for the Rose had been picked more than a month prior, and were safely fermented dry in the tanks and ready to be racked off the lees. But our main concern was now getting the Cabernet Sauvignon fruit off of the vines. Without power for a few days, many wineries relied on backup generators. But there were still holdups in scheduling grapes to be delivered and crushed at the winery, as wineries lost employees or staff was evacuated or stranded and couldn’t come to work. And our vineyard manager had many of their crews off fighting fires and plowing fire breaks with their heavy equipment in order to save homes and vineyards of their clients.

The winds continued to blow and the fires spread. Smoke and ash filled the air, and suddenly there was a rush on smoke masks at our local hardware stores. Plumes of smoke would develop from peaks on either side of the valley as new fires popped up on all sides, but remarkably, the eastern hillside near Howell Mountain and the valley floor escaped any threat.

Finally, our incredible crew from Barbour Vineyard Management assembled at day break, with stacks of picking bins, trucks for hauling fruit to the winery, fork lifts to stack the bins and bobcats to haul the bins down the rows. Two crews of nine pickers and several friends in the industry spent five hours picking the entire ranch to get the grapes into the winery as quickly as possible. Amazingly, there was very little damage from either the heat or the smoke!

The fruit was separated into the premium HL (from the center block) and the Two Old Dogs blocks, washed crushed and de-stemmed, then sent to the stainless steel fermenting tanks to rest at a cool temperature overnight. Six barrels with stainless steel caps were filled 2/3 full, for the barrel fermenting part of our Herb Lamb Vineyards Reserve wines program, with the final selection to be determined in a year.

After fermenting for more than a week with gentle pump-overs, the wines were syphoned off of the skins and seeds and the juice continued to ferment until dry, when they were pressed off and put into barrels to age another 20 months. By all accounts, the wines in the barrel are beautiful and picked fully ripe, with cherry/berry flavors and bright fruit. 

As we reflect, we’re still a bit raw with emotions and memories of being evacuated, living with friends for a few days, or taking their families away from the North Bay because of the poor air quality and threat of fires. So glad to say that we are all back in business and moving forward to help others and invite customers back to one of the most beautiful places in the world. Come try our restaurants, wines and hospitality and see the passion we have for working hard to make the finest wines we can to share with you!

Summer Barbecues + Jennifer’sPork Shoulder Recipe

There’s nothing quite like summertime in the Napa Valley — filled with great wines, good friends, and barbeques of course!

We recently had some of our favorite locals over for a shindig, where the fan favorite was Pulled Pork Sandwiches.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Start with a 4-8 lb pork shoulder roast. Bring the meat to room temperature, then place on a large, foil lined tray. Smother with the dry “Rub.” This can be a store-bought blend, or mix your own (recipe below). Follow my lead or just empty your spice cabinet and experiment! You’ll need at least a cup. Save some rub to add to the BBQ sauce.

Jennifer’s BBQ Rub

½ cup lemon pepper
½ cup seasoned salt
¼ cup garlic salt
½ cup paprika – smoked or sweet
1 tbsp. ground red cayenne pepper
¼ cup dried herbs (thyme, marjoram, oregano, etc.)
2 cups brown sugar

We have what I call “Herb’s Money Pit” which consists of a 12-foot wall of cooking options: a huge smoker, or “Bar B Que” in the lexicon of true chefs, (ours can hold a small hog or goat), a pizza oven, grill, burners, and sink. The smoker is great for everything – I smoke cherry tomatoes and other veggies and ribs, brisket, chicken, and especially pork shoulders for pulled pork.

The whole purpose of a smoker is to cook the meat over wood at a very slow temperature for a long period of time, using additional chunks of hardwood (cherry, almond or apple are great) which have been soaked in a pail of water, thrown on the fire to create smoke which envelopes the meat. I try to start a fire early in the day to warm the entire smoker, then add the meat (fatty side up) and more fuel to keep the temperature between 200 and 275 degrees, which is tricky when cooking for a long while, as you have to keep adjusting the vents and opening the door to re-fuel the fire. Five to seven hours should be enough for a chunk of meat up to 12 lbs. This gives the meat a crusty “bark” and keeps it moist with a ring of red smoke under the crust. If the bark is getting too dark, you can wrap the meat in foil the last few hours (if you are simultaneously cooking beans, put the pot under the roast to catch the drippings).

Take the meat out and let it rest for 15-20 minutes before you pull it. Because pork shoulder is so fatty, it tastes best paired with a vinegar based BBQ sauce, pickles, cucumbers, and/or slaw. You can use store-bought sauce (sometimes in a bind, I do, then add lots of apple cider vinegar and spices) or make your own.

Jennifer’s BBQ sauce

2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
½ cup molasses
½ cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon hot pepper flakes
3 tablespoons rub
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

While the meat is resting, warm the BBQ sauce and slice the warmed buns and get the coleslaw ready to put together with the pulled pork sandwiches. Pull the pork with two forks to create shreds of the hot meat – you can add warmed BBQ sauce now, or put some BBQ sauce and coleslaw on each bun, and add pulled pork to each sandwich, slathering on some more sauce…

Foolproof, every time…

From our porch to yours, happy summer barbecuing! 

Photographs c/o Emma K. Morris.

2017 Growing Season Update

Greetings, friends! It’s been a busy growing season so far, so it must be time for an update on our vineyard progress. The generous rains that we experienced at the end of 2016 and throughout the winter and spring of 2017 have been a boon to our little hillside vineyard.

Though twice the average rainfall is a lot to absorb, the vines are growing at a tremendous pace and will be accessing all the stored moisture in the soils for many months to come!

Bud break came after the pruned vines at the end of March, a few weeks later than it has in the past few “drought” years.

But the vine growth has picked up considerably with many warm days in the ‘90s and above, and bloom and set of the individual grapes has just finished, forming large healthy bunches with an amazingly abundant canopy of leaves to shade them from the mid-day sun.

Bloom. Bloom.

Berry set. Berry set.

Looking at potential growing degree days necessary to fully ripen the Cabernet Sauvignon in a north-east facing hillside, this puts harvest somewhere near the middle of October if the right weather conditions prevail. That said, as I write this, we’re experiencing a heat snap — a few back-to-back days of 100+ degree weather here in the Valley. Fingers crossed, and welcome to my world of farming! Always exciting and fearful at the same time.

One last update! Here at Herb Lamb Vineyards, we’re proud to officially be Napa Green Certified Land. Sustainable with minimum intervention, our vineyard is farmed with respect for the land and animals who inhabit it. Napa Green is a comprehensive environmental certification program for vineyards and wineries in the Napa Valley. The program represents a soil-to-bottle approach to environmental stewardship and winemaking, integrating holistic management practices at every step of the process. Independent, third-party certification of farms and winemaking facilities makes Napa Green one of the most comprehensive environmental accreditations the wine industry offers. Learn more at https://napagreen.org/.

For normal updates on the vineyard, our tasting room, and wine releases, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Images: Emma K. Morris

2016 Two Old Dogs Sauvignon Blanc Harvest

We’re off to the races! On Sept. 1, we harvested 5.5 tons of fruit from Mello Vineyard in Yountville — half Sauvignon Blanc, and half Sauvignon Musque.

This beautiful fruit was pressed off the next day after extended skin contact, then started fermentation in two stainless steel tanks with a few different yeasts. They’re now holding strong between 50-55 degrees, bubbling away slowly in the tanks to maintain their fruity, crisp acid balance. Stay tuned for the finished product, and to hold you over until then…get your fill of the 2015 Two Old Dogs Sauvignon Blanc while it lasts!

Visit Our St. Helena Tasting Room!

Haven’t made your way into our conveniently located and dog-friendly St. Helena tasting room yet? We’ve been receiving an unprecedented amount of private tasting requests this year — and for good reason…

Our tasting room is located in the heart of St. Helena within the ACME Fine Wines building which also houses local favorite “food for wine” specialist David Katz and his Panevino. We invite wine loving groups of eight or fewer to visit our cozy space and taste through the latest Herb Lamb Vineyards and Two Old Dogs offerings!

Guests will also enjoy an assortment of local cheeses created by members of the California Artisan Cheese Guild, fresh fruits, and other hand-picked snacks that perfectly pair with each wine selection served.

Please check out the newly redesigned VISIT tab to fill out your request today. We look forward to hosting you and your friends in Wine Country this summer — we’ll be sure that your experience is a memorable one!


Psssst! Speaking of memorable…our 2015 Two Old Dogs Sauvignon Blanc *aka your ticket to summer refreshment* is drinking beautifully and now available in our online store. Be sure to place your order soon as the heat is already kicking across the US. This happy juice is best enjoyed while rocking in a backyard hammock or dipping your toes into a pool.

Spring Vineyard Update

Although 2012 through 2016 have been deemed drought vintages, we continue to receive anywhere from 60% to 90% of our normal annual rainfall. But the reality is that rainfall amounts and weather patterns vary widely from year to year locally. While many other vineyards in the Napa Valley are claiming that this is the earliest bud-break that they have ever seen, bud-break on our Cabernet vineyard happened about two weeks earlier in 2015 (March 11) than in either 2014 (March 21) or 2016 (March 27). But the grapes always seem to catch up in the end, as we still have almost five months left of the growing season to determine the results of this vintage!

The consistent light rains that we are continuing to see have encouraged the crimson clover cover-crop in the vineyard to re-bloom after their first weed-eating just three weeks ago. Jim Barbour’s vineyard management crew has successfully added new rows of trellising in order to give more exposure to the vines in the cooler section. The entire vineyard has also been suckered leaving only the strongest shoots, nicely spaced at regular intervals on the arms and trunk.

The first blooms on our Cabernet arrived over Mother’s Day weekend! These tiny flowers will soon self-pollinate to form our 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon berries. We’ve been experiencing cooler, wet weather over the past few weeks which has significantly slowed down the bloom, but it’s still earlier than in years past. Now the question is: is this the new norm? Mother nature is a curious thing.

With the frequent spring showers, the vivid colors throughout Herb Lamb Vineyard pop from every angle! Wild poppies and nasturtiums are a few of our favorites to plant along the property.

And let’s not forget our friendly Vineyard watch dog, Camo. This weather has got her in tennis ball mode 24/7…

For frequent vineyard, winery, travel, and tasting updates, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Retrospective Tasting: HL Vineyards 2006-2014

2006-2014… these vintages all have their own story to tell, and, like children in the same family, each has an underlying similarity while still being very different. These wines show the effects of this north-east facing hillside vineyard planted on volcanic ash and rock, which gets more late afternoon shadow than sun during the long growing season forcing us to wait until mid-October (normally) to get fully ripened fruit. There is a hallmark character of red fruits, menthol, and blueberries throughout, yet an elegance and always great structure. According to our winemaker Michael Trujillo, “this fruit rolls with Mother Nature more than any vineyard I have ever worked with.”

From a production standpoint, we are so lucky to have had the same winemaking and viticulture team all of these vintages. It is their ability to know the rows of the vineyard that gives us the best fruit and control the outcome in the winery.

All set up... All set up… When the afternoon of wine tasting wraps, trust us — the first thing you'll want is TOOTHPASTE! When the afternoon of wine tasting wraps, trust us — the first thing you’ll want is TOOTHPASTE!

We all love to get together, more as professional friends than anything, to taste older verticals of our wine. What better place to gather than local staple Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen in downtown St. Helena.

In attendance: HL Owner + Proprietress Jennifer Lamb, HL Winemaker Michael Trujillo, HL General Manager AnnMarie Miller, Winemaker Bruce Regalia, HL Direct to Consumer Manager Peter Alig, HL Brand + Social Director Emma K. Morris, HL videographer Matt Morris, enologist Stacy Hornemann, Winemaker Molly Hill, and a cameo appearance from James Beard recognized chef Cindy Pawlcyn.

Longtime friends: Chef Cindy Pawlcyn with Jennifer Lamb. Longtime friends: Chef Cindy Pawlcyn with Jennifer Lamb.

2006: This was a cooler vintage from grapes that were picked a little later, giving us wines with a little higher acids. Leathery and cigar box notes with lingering fruit and spice are pushed to the back of the palate, but give way to the brightness and freshness of the fruit.  There is a great structure to this wine. The fruit is briny/savory/very French style but without the Brett. Licorice, soy, herbs and smoked weeds show in the palate. It is plush, sleek and sexy but still has the structure to go several more years. Should be great with a big ribeye with lots of fat – drink now through the next 2 years.

2007: Plusher than 2006 and with a bit more oak and fruit on the nose, the 2007 HL still shines and is perfectly balanced. It shows savory, fruity, soy, luscious cranberry and bright black cherry fruit. 2007 was a warmer season, which gave us fleshier wines with more body and great acid that should pair beautifully with a leg or rack of lamb. Enjoy now through the next few years.

2008: This was another cooler vintage, and longer hand time gave us higher pH and lower acids which make the 2008 vintage very approachable. We thought the vintage might implode because of the vintage conditions, but the wine has more structure than we all anticipated. It shows a nose of chocolate, cassis, dried cherry and herbs.  The lower acid makes it a little decadent and fatter in the mouth. There is a chalkiness and dried red fruit character from the extended ripeness of the vintage. Decant and enjoy now though 2019.

2009: Still a little closed in the nose, this wine is wound up a bit and sleeping. It has lots of red fruit, dried cherries, cranberries and fresh acidity in the palate. It is slow to open up with a dusty, woody element of pencil lead, mocha and allspice. It should follow in the footsteps of the 2006 and roll out as soon as it ages a bit more. The acid should hold up and it will become a wonderful accompaniment to rich food. This vintage should easily age until 2020.

2010: This wine has an interesting sweet herbal character in the nose, like rosemary and chocolate malt balls. From a cooler, less ripe vintage, it shows stickier tannins and a more muscular base. In the nose are cedar and woodsy notes like chaparral and earthy, pine forest floor. This vintage may never evolve as much as warmer vintages do, or get any sexier, but it is still a great food wine and should go another 4-5 years.

2011: There was a lot more hype about this being a horrible year than the reality of wines that were produced. This wine has a very feminine personality; it is lighter and prettier than complex, with floral and herbal characteristics and very Bordeaux-ish. In the mouth there are violets and bright, black currants, red cherry and spice. It has more Cabernet Franc components and flavors as opposed to rich Cabernet fruit. It is evolving and will be a great food wine with 4-5 more years in the bottle. Winemakers who knew what they were doing in leaner years were very successful in still making great wines that are reflective of the terroir and weather.

Our recently bottled Two Old Dogs 2015 Sauvignon to start... Our recently bottled Two Old Dogs 2015 Sauvignon to start…

2012: This was the first of a string of lovely, balanced, warm growing seasons, mostly due to earlier ripening and warmer growing seasons brought on by the drought. As with all vintages from this vineyard, there is a typical blueberry, menthol, and dried red fruit character with red fruits like cranberry and red plums in the mouth. Even with all the rich fruit in this wine, 2012 is not as plush as some later vintages but should age beautifully another 6-10 years.

2013: A very warm vintage, the 2013 gave us an old world, rustic character. On the nose there is a woody note of chestnut combined with sweet red fruits. In the mouth, you find cranberry, cherry, dried blueberry and spices of Mexican chocolate. The dense black cherry pie and dusty coca flavors are highlighted by a wealth of caramel, cinnamon and spice flavors, making it very rich in the mouth with an added depth and extraction, not seen in other vintages.

Cindy does Brussels sprouts like no other! The slightly spicy Asian flare paired wonderfully with our Sauvignon Blanc. Cindy does Brussels sprouts like no other! The slightly spicy Asian flare paired wonderfully with our Sauvignon Blanc.

2014: HL Vineyards Barrel sample. This wine is more floral and youthful with a lot of fresh, primary fruit characteristics. Flavors of blueberry, herbal notes, violets and dried red fruits shine in the palate. This should be an ideal wine for the cellar, focusing on fruit and balance. Will be bottle in the summer of 2016.

2014: HL Reserve Barrel sample. A first for us…2% of the 2015 barrel fermented HL Vineyards wine was added to a selection of our best barrels chosen from the 2014 vintage to create our first ever Reserve wine.  This wine shows a combination of toasty, graham cracker crust, floral, licorice, brioche, violet, red fruit and blueberry flavors. It is complex and has great structure and depth. Will be bottled in the summer of 2016.

Read more about our wines, past and present, on our WINES page.

2015 Sauvignon Blanc Bottling

The art of bottling takes an expert team to master. It’s a fast-moving process that combines a watchful eye and masterful hands to coordinate, so we’re thankful to work with one of the best mobile bottling operations at a state of the art facility in the Napa Valley. We’re thrilled to say that our 2015 Two Old Dogs Sauvignon Blanc juice from Yountville’s Mello Vineyard is in-bottle, and off to rest for a few months before hitting your lips!

Our controversial Buttercream Bakery doughnut pairing continues with a just-off-the-line bottle!

We look forward to sharing the 2015 fruit-forward and summer-essential wine with you in the coming months. For now, we invite you to enjoy our 2014 Two Old Dogs Sauvignon Blanc while it lasts — click here to log in and shop our current releases!

Spicy Dipping Oil

We recently picked the last of the hot peppers from the Herb Lamb garden, then hung them out to dry for a few weeks. These gems were destined to make the perfect spicy dipping oil!

Recipe:

  • 2 cups good olive oil (we like Napa Valley Olive Oil Co.)
  • 3 cloves crushed garlic
  • 2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2-3 dried red chilis

Add all ingredients into a Mason jar or similar vessel. Let sit for at least one week before using, as to allow the flavors a chance to intensify and meld together. Serve this alongside a nice crusty Italian Paesano or toasted French Bread loaf — pairs great with our HL Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon and Two Old Dogs Cabernet Sauvignon, too!

The oil keeps well, in a dark area, for up to four months. Enjoy!