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!

Cabernet Sauvignon Harvest

2015 was not only the earliest harvest on record in the Napa Valley, but the hottest as well! The fourth year of drought throughout California, coupled with a warm winter and spring, gave us early bud-break and bloom, but also resulted in less tonnage.

Heat spikes up to 107 degrees withered the vines and vineyard crews alike, but cool nights and fog returned to guarantee the quality of the grapes and send 2015 into the record books along with the previous three years as incredible collector vintages.

Amazingly, we harvested all three blocks of our vineyard’s Cabernet Sauvignon before we normally even start picking for the year! Despite the lighter crop, nicely extracted Cabernets — elegant, fruity, and beautifully structured — were produced in 2015.

We’ve even started to experiment in the winery with some barrel fermentation for finesse. Stay tuned for the impressive 2015 HL Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon!

Photos by Matt Morris & Emma K. Morris.

Behind the Scenes: Sauvignon Blanc

After nearly a month of fermentation, our Two Old Dogs Sauvignon Blanc is completely dry (meaning that we have fermented out all of the natural sugar in the sweet ripe grapes picked a month ago, and there is no residual sugar in the wine)! At this point in the process, we thought it would be fun to revisit how we got here with our Sauvignon Blanc this year. Enjoy the behind the scenes process!

Gorgeous, juicy berries — all ready to become WINE! Gorgeous, juicy berries — all ready to become WINE! Raking the fruit into the sorting machine. Raking the fruit into the sorting machine. Winemaker Mike Trujillo, monitoring the new Pellenc sorting machine. Winemaker Mike Trujillo, monitoring the new Pellenc sorting machine. After every last grape has been plucked off! The stems now go into a grinder to become compost for future vintages. After every last grape has been plucked off! The stems now go into a grinder to become compost for future vintages. Jennifer Lamb with winemaker Mike Trujillo, discussing their next moves for this year's fruit. Jennifer Lamb with winemaker Mike Trujillo, discussing their next moves for this year’s fruit. The Pellanc sorting all the green (immature) berries from the stemmer/crusher so that none of them end up in the fermenter! Mechanically is much more precise than manually attempting to sort the tiny berries! The Pellanc sorting all the green (immature) berries from the stemmer/crusher so that none of them end up in the fermenter! Mechanically is much more precise than manually attempting to sort the tiny berries! Feels like Chem lab, eh? The purpose of the dry ice addition is to delay the alcoholic fermentation by lowering the temperature where yeast cannot ferment. This allows certain chemical compounds to be extracted from the grape skins before alcohol is present. The release of carbon dioxide from the dry ice also keeps the juice from oxidizing and protects it from bacteria. Feels like Chem lab, eh? The purpose of the dry ice addition is to delay the alcoholic fermentation by lowering the temperature where yeast cannot ferment. This allows certain chemical compounds to be extracted from the grape skins before alcohol is present. The release of carbon dioxide from the dry ice also keeps the juice from oxidizing and protects it from bacteria. A stream of free-run Sauvignon Blanc juice, just pressed, flowing into dry ice. A stream of free-run Sauvignon Blanc juice, just pressed, flowing into dry ice. Almost there! Almost there!

This year, we’ll be using a few neutral french oak barrels for further aging. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook for year-round updates and more behind-the-scenes fun!

All photos by Emma K. Morris

Sauvignon Blanc Harvest

This year’s early-morning harvest at Mello Vineyard in Yountville started around 4:15 a.m. Tractor lights and headlamps lit the way on our journey to create our 2015 Two Old Dogs Sauvignon Blanc!

Beautiful bright green clusters shimmer in the tractor's lights. Beautiful bright green clusters shimmer in the tractor’s lights. All hands on deck for these early AM picks! All hands on deck for these early AM picks!

It was the earliest harvest on record for us for Sauvignon Blanc grapes from this vineyard, but only by a few days. This is primarily because of this season’s smaller berries and lower bunch weight. Basically, the quality this year was phenomenal — we just wish there had been more!

Proprietress and owner, Jennifer Lamb. Proprietress and owner, Jennifer Lamb. Filler'up! Filler’up!

It all points back to the warm winter, early bud break, and odd weather patterns during bloom, which caused some shatter throughout much of the valley. The smaller berries resulted in smaller tonnage across all grape varieties. Less tonnage to ripen results in earlier ripening and harvest.

Trying them out. Perfectly balanced. Trying them out. Perfectly balanced.

Despite having less tonnage than last year, the growing season has been ideal with continued cool evenings and warm days. We are excited by the exceptional quality and great flavors, color, and extraction!

4.5 tons — just weighed! 4.5 tons — just weighed! Vineyard manager, Mike Neal's dog Frisco begs for a snack! After all, he worked hard on this pick... Vineyard manager, Mike Neal’s dog Frisco begs for a snack! After all, he worked hard on this pick…

Next up: the “science” behind the wine…photos from bin to tank! Stay tuned.

All photos by Emma K. Morris

Bottling: 2013 Two Old Dogs Cabernet Sauvignon

Another year with very little rainfall but text-book growing conditions, 2013 gave us exceptionally bold wines. In the vineyard, we had early bud break, early flower set, early veraison, and an ideal balanced summer leading to an early harvest. We harvested about the same bountiful yields as the year prior, with excellent ripeness and great acid balance to boot! The typical Herb Lamb Vineyard characteristics of tobacco, mocha, menthol, cedar, and red and blue fruits are present in the 2013 Two Old Dogs Cabernet Sauvignon, and we think this structured wine is even more worthy of age than the previous vintage. We cannot wait to share this beautiful wine with you!

Hope you enjoy the footage and photos from last week’s bottling.

First bottle off the line — paired with Napa’s own Buttercream Bakery doughnuts! Hey, don’t judge us…it’s was 8 a.m., we promise.

What a team we have. With Jennifer Lamb below: Thomas Jordan of Peregrine Mobile Bottling and Herb Lamb Winemaker Michael Trujillo.


2013 Two Old Dogs Cabernet Sauvignon…coming spring of 2016: mark your calendars!

Late Spring in the Vineyards

With the sporadic rainfall (the warm “Pineapple Express” that came in from the Pacific and dumped inches at a time on us) coupled with the unusually warm winter and spring, the vines budded out about three weeks earlier than usual this year. Below (left) is a cluster that has yet to bloom in a shadier block of the vineyard, and below (right) is an example of an area that’s already started to bloom.

In April, we had days of unexpected heat up into the ’80s, followed by weeks of cool, foggy mornings that hardly cleared by mid-afternoon. The bushy growth on the vines came on fast and furious during the last week of April. We sent the crew in to thin the Cabernet Sauvignon by removing canes and suckers that were not in ideal growing position or didn’t have fruiting bunches present. There seems to still be enough moisture in the soil to keep the cover crop growing, so we’ll soon send in the crew once again to manually walk each row to weed-eat the knee-high weeds and clover. It really has been an ideal growing season, albeit very early!

The vines are big and healthy, and soon we’ll be going in to sample the petioles (aka the stalk attaching the leaf blade to the stem), to see what soil amendments or micro-nutrients we may be lacking. It looks to be a prosperous crop, but we are still a long way out. Predicting a growing year is comparable to looking at a kindergartener and saying he’s so smart and tall, and can already read…but then checking back when he graduates from high-school!

The vineyards aren’t the only thing in bloom! The Lamb garden is overflowing with goodies. This year we’ve bird-proofed the berries with netting to ensure they’re all ours (and yours, if you come visit)! And we’ve got snow peas and snap peas coming out of our ears, too.

Stay tuned for an early summer update soon! It really amazes us how quickly everything grows this time of year.

Exclusive Winemaker Dinner at Campton Place

We’re thrilled to announce a very special winemaker dinner at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 19 at Taj Campton Place in San Francisco. Jennifer Lamb, owner of Herb Lamb Vineyards, will host this extraordinary wine and food journey!

Chef Srijith Gopinathan of coveted Michelin-starred Campton Place Restaurant will prepare a delectable feast to match our wine offerings…

Menu

Spring Chaat with Young Peas, Mint, and Spiced Yogurt Broth
paired with Two Old Dogs Sauvignon Blanc, 2013

Slow Cooked Poussin with Morel Mushrooms, Fava Bean, and Coconut Chutney
paired with Two Old Dogs Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011

Roasted Angus Beef with Smoked Onion Soubise, Pickled Rhubarb, and Baby Tat-soi
paired with HL Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007

Artisanal Cheese Selection with Seasonal Accoutrements
paired with HL Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008

Café Filtre

Mignardises

Additional wines will include:
Pre-Release Sneak Peek: Two Old Dogs Sauvignon Blanc, 2014
Barrel Sample: HL Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013
Two Old Dogs Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012
HL Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012

The winemaker dinner costs just $155 per person, exclusive of tax and gratuity. There are a limited number of seats available — to reserve your spot, please email Richard Dean, Master Sommelier, or call 415.955.5574.

Small Town Spelling Bee

With a population of just 5,500, ours could be a small town anywhere . . . with orange-vested monitors in the school crosswalk knowing almost every child who sets off for school, with the gas-station attendant coming out to talk about the weather or the Turkey Shoot coming up next week as he clean your windshield, with the bartender at your favorite watering hole asking about your grand kids or the friend who is back from surgery and doing just fine (but can’t drink anymore . . .)
Of course, with an industry such as ours we have our share of “shop-talk”, meeting other vineyard managers or winemakers and talking about the vintage or bottling line woes at the Post Office (we have one, open 9-5 Monday through Friday with two windows open) or bank (we have 6 – for reasons unknown to us all!). But somehow we all meet up in our daily circle of life, waving to locals amidst a sea of tourists as we drive through the three blocks of Main Street doing our daily errands.

St. Helena Elementary SchoolSo it was with great honor that I strolled into the St. Helena Elementary School auditorium, with rows of 1940’s wooden seats low to the ground and an elevated stage with massive velvet curtains, to take my place as a Judge for the St. Helena Junior Women’s Club 39th Annual Vintage Spelling Bee. In the audience were friends from all walks of life, their children or grandchildren seated nervously on the stage. Sitting next to me on the judging panel was the St. Helena High School Librarian and a local dentist (who also moonlights as the High School baseball coach), while the St. Helena Women’s’ Club President (and our winery’s Wine Compliance officer) led the proceedings and introduced the announcer, the Children’s Librarian, (a good friend and neighbor who knew each child in the auditorium from birth) from the St. Helena Public Library – just chosen as one of the top small libraries in the nation!

The students were cautioned to look directly at the announcer (who was behind the podium off to the side) and not out into the audience filled with moms and dads and baby brothers and sisters, and the judges were warned not to mouth the spelling of the word along with the student or cringe or shake our heads and give away the answers (which we had graciously been given on a 5 page hand-out, in large type!) like the local veterinarian had done in a past Spelling Bee!

Fourteen 5th grade students sat nervously on stage, some in that day’s school clothes others dressed in their Sunday best, moving to the empty chairs at the back of the stage one by one as they miss-spelled a word – some out of nervousness, others because of the difficulty of the word. “Pierce” and “Stubble” got a couple, then “Prairie” got a few more, but “Lobbyist” caused them to drop like flies, even though one creative finalist searched deep into her Latin language skills and spelled it “Lawbiouyest”.

The finalist was awarded his plaque, which was immediately taken away so that they could engrave his name on the front with the 38 other winners, and we all agreed that as judges we were lucky not to have had to challenge any spelling errors or be the cause of any more nervousness or tears. A good night had been had by all, and our small town had once more come together for a successful evening of supporting our children. I was proud to have been a part of this moment in our community’s life . . . and thankful that we never got to the last page and “Mayonnaise”, which I know I would have missed! (two n’s – really?)

Where is Winter in the Napa Valley?

Last weekend, we participated in another family-style wine pairing and cooking class at one of our favorite restaurants, Rosso, in Santa Rosa. The theme was appropriate to the winter season; “Soups, Stocks and Stews”, imagining us all coming out on a wet and chilly Saturday morning into the kitchen to eat hearty winter fare. The home-made chicken noodle soup, warm beet soup and veal stock beef stew hit the mark with the selection of local Pinot Noir and Burgundies offered, and we all headed home ready to recreate the basics and warm our innards throughout the rest of the winter.
The only problem is that we haven’t had a winter! Sure, we have had below freezing cold spells, forcing us to cover our citrus and other delicate landscaping, temperatures in the teens and twenties which dropped all the leaves from the vines and convinced them to go dormant, but we have yet to receive over ½” of rain since October. The Napa Valley normal annual rainfall is somewhere around 36-40” (usually only occurring October through May), but last year we received only 5 inches making it the driest vintage on record. We appreciated the lack of rain last fall during harvest, allowing the 2013 vintage to ripen perfectly without the normal threat of showers and cool weather, but this has gone on far too long.

winter stream 2010The brittle, brown leaves from the vines and deciduous trees still line the roads and stream beds, waiting to be swept away by winter rains. (note the difference between the photos of our little stream bed last year and this!) Where there should be a stark clash of lush green clovers and yellow mustard between the vine rows against the dry, skeletal outline of the dormant vines, there is nothing but parched, gray soil . The cover crop seed, which was planted between the vine rows last fall to hold the soil during winter rains and rejuvenate the soil next spring, has sprouted and died off due to lack of rain. Irrigation ponds are all but dry, bringing fear to vineyard mangers who rely on full ponds for their irrigation during frost season in the spring, to protect the newly budding vines.

winter 2014We have even had warnings from the Forestry Department who put the Napa Valley on a high-fire alert – in January! Wells are drying up, unable to replenish their water supply without winter rains. The Sierra snow pack is less than 12% of normal; bring fears for municipal water supplies throughout the state that count on snow melt for their water needs each year. Lawns and landscaping are brown, as water rationing starts to go into effect.

No one is complaining about the high pressure system over the west coast, bringing us chilly mornings and lovely warm days into the high 60’s and low 70’s, especially in the wake of those negative temperatures and blizzards across the mid-west and east coast! We are able to BBQ and entertain out of doors and go about our days in shirt sleeves or a light jacket, as though it was almost spring. We dust off our shoes after walking the vineyards, instead of leaving our muddy boots out on the back porch. Even the chickens have started laying again, giving us half a dozen eggs a day.

But what we really need is rain, for all the farmers who depend on Mother Nature’s generosity to stock up this precious resource for the 2014 vintage and growing season. So, if anyone knows the steps to a traditional Rain Dance, please send them our way!