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For the remainder of summer and into fall, J. Lohr Viticulturist Anji Perry will be with us on Wine Lohr, documenting the progress of our Paso Robles vines as we prepare for harvest.Image

Anji in Snowden Vineyard, Paso Robles AVA

It’s the height of summer, and right now we’re focusing on our irrigation regime in our Paso Robles vineyards. 2010 was the coolest vintage in a decade here, and so far in 2011 it’s been even cooler. This is excellent news for color development and vine health, but can bring unwanted green and herbal notes to Bordeaux varieties if irrigation is not restricted to the necessary minimum. In controlling irrigation, our goals are to stop vine growth, to manage our watering to control berry size, and to burn off some basal leaves (the lowest leaves on the shoot) to get just the right amount of sunlight on the clusters.

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To “burn off” basal leaves, we impose a level of water stress that causes
the leaves to turn yellow and fall off.

For the most part, we’re still awaiting the onset of ripening, which is a few weeks later this year. But this week, in our Snowden Vineyard, Red Winemaker Steve Peck noticed the very first signs of veraison on our Cabernet Sauvignon vines. He snapped a photo so we could give you a close up view.

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The first signs of ripening (veraison) in Paso

Stay tuned through the rest of summer for weekly J. Lohr vineyard snapshots!

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J. Lohr employee Megan Carder shares her food and wine adventures while camping on the Northern Coast of California last weekend.It’s officially the middle of summer, and all this mild weather we’ve been having in California is beckoning us to the great outdoors. Without the normal amenities of a kitchen, camping is a great opportunity to get creative. Long gone are the days when camping meant drinking filtered creek water and eating freeze-dried beans. With the right tools and a flexible attitude, even the most particular gourmets can now get their food on at the beach or in the middle of the woods. And don’t forget that wine! This weekend, we brought some J. Lohr Estates South Ridge Syrah to pair with our dinner.Red wine – for camping? Absolutely. For starters, it doesn’t have to be chilled, and therefore will not take up valuable space in your cooler. This is a definite plus, especially if you’ll be camping for more than a couple days. And while most people recommend screw caps for camping convenience, natural cork closures protect the wine from raccoons, who have not yet (to our knowledge) learned how to use corkscrews. But perhaps most importantly, red wine goes great with barbecued meats, grilled veggies, and other standby camping favorites like hamburgers and hotdogs.

For this camp dinner, we prepared a Greek salad with yellow and orange bell pepper, red heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, onion and feta, and tossed it with salt and pepper, fresh garlic, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Then we grilled some gourmet sausage from a local meat company over the fire, and paired it with J. Lohr Estates South Ridge Syrah. (Yum.)

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This was easy and quick camping meal! If you decide to try it, keep in mind that the salad can be prepped after breakfast before you head out on a hike or other adventure. This will give the flavors enough time to meld together. Just make sure you have a cool place, away from any critters, to store it for the day.

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If you do prefer white wine (we recommend J. Lohr Estates Riverstone Chardonnay), pair it with chicken or fresh-caught trout, which you can easily cook in foil packets right on your campfire. Just throw in some seasonings, veggies and whatever else you choose.

Happy Trails!

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This week, in celebration of Independence Day, Sarah Shotwell (J. Lohr Marketing Communications Specialist and History Grad) recounts a tale of wine during the first days of the U.S.A. All images Public Domain. Recently, I read in journalist and wine critic John Hailman’s fascinating book, Thomas Jefferson on Wine, that Americans have been enjoying wine at summer barbecues and fish-fries practically since the Mayflower landed. So as my friends and I prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July this weekend with a barbecue on the coast – planning menus, plotting the wine list— I’ve been contemplating wine’s significance to the holiday. We’ve all heard about the Boston Tea Party and the Sugar Act and the Stamp Act and all the other perilous steps leading up to our independence from Britain, but not many remember the role that wine played in the founding of our nation, or the role our founding fathers played in the making of the modern wine industry. While we didn’t see our major Renaissance until the 1970s with the Judgment of Paris, Americans have been striving to set up a successful wine industry here since before the Revolution.

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Portrait of Jefferson by Rembrandt, c. 1805

Thomas Jefferson, who penned the U.S. Declaration of Independence and lived one of the most fascinating biographies in American history, is considered by many to be the nation’s first prominent wine enthusiast and viticulturist. Starting as a young college student, he began collecting wines from Europe, and devoted much of his leisure time to studying the potential for winemaking in the New World — even believing that making wine at home could be a way for colonialists to bite their thumbs at the Crown and claim their independence against the steep taxes being levied on luxury goods. Wine was also being used as a means of personal protest in other ways. In Richard Hooker’s article The American Revolution Seen Through a Wine Glass, we get a picture of colonialists using wine toasts at public taverns as a means of aligning themselves politically. (You knew who was who, based on whether they were toasting to the health of the King, or to the health of revolutionary figures like Thomas Paine or George Washington).

Around 1773, a Tuscan-born viticulturist and physician named Filippo Mazzei was working in England as a wine broker when he bumped into Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Adams, and the three tumbled into a conversation about wine and winegrowing and colonial politics. Mazzei admitted he had a premonition that America had the chops to become one of the world’s great wine producers – a belief then considered absurd by Europeans. Franklin and Adams convinced Mazzei to travel to Virginia to experiment, likely mentioning that their friend Thomas Jefferson had similar interests. So, with revolutionary activity brewing ever more intensely in the colonies, Mazzei went to pay Jefferson a visit, bringing with him ten skilled Italian vineyard workers, his girlfriend, a tailor, silkworms, and thousands of vine cuttings from a myriad of European varieties. His goal? To form and run a domestic luxury goods supply company specializing in silk, oil and wine. Mazzei hit it off with Jefferson, and the two went on a walk around the grounds of Jefferson’s home at Monticello. Lo and behold, Mazzei fell in love with Jefferson’s yard, announcing it nearly identical to the conditions of Burgundy. (Doubtful, but we still smile at his enthusiasm.) So Jefferson gifted him almost 200 acres, and the site became the first commercial vineyard experiment in America. They called it Colle.

thomas-jefferson-2.jpg Thomas Jefferson Surveying his land at Monticello

At first, there seemed to be immense potential for Virginia winegrape growing, but that first year, the vines were destroyed by a severe frost, and during subsequent years crops were ruined by pests, weather and disease. When Mazzei, a naturalized U.S. citizen, left Virginia to work as a secret agent in Italy, gathering intel and sending arms to the patriot forces back in the states (I like to imagine that he shipped wine barrels full of gunpowder, though I don’t think it happened that way), Mazzei’s vineyards were neglected, then trampled and eaten by horses. But the two grew in their friendship, writing to each other of wine and war. As they passionately pursued the cause of independence in their public lives, in their private lives, they pursued the cause of New World wine. In spite of their experimental failures, it had become a source of national pride for them. They never gave up hope that wine could be made on American soil.

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Could the Declaration of Independence have been inspired by an Italian winegrower?It is widely believed that Jefferson and Mazzei were so close, that the most famous line of the Declaration was even borrowed by Jefferson from one of Mazzei’s original pamphlets, which read in Italian “Tutti gli uomini sono per natura egualmente liberi e indipendenti.”

Jefferson sought up until the last moments of his life to try to grow Vitis vinifera at Monticello, and to make wine from its yields, but history tells us he never saw a drop. Even so, he learned enough in his lifetime to make some significant contributions to the modern wine industry – and to farming in general – and his research laid the groundwork for others to succeed later. As he penned the Declaration of Independence, perhaps with Mazzei’s help, he had a private dream to see America emerge as one of the world’s great winemaking nations. And exactly two hundred summers later, at a blind tasting in Paris, it happened. So this weekend, as I raise my glass of California wine, I’ll be drinking not to the health of the King or to that of George Washington, but rather to the health of America’s now thriving wine industry, 235 years in the making. Viva il vino, and happy Independence Day.

Sources:
– Hailman, John, Thomas Jefferson on Wine. University Press of Mississippi : Jackson, 2008.
– Hooker, Richard. “The American Revolution Seen Through a Wine Glass” The William and Mary Quarterly, Jan.1954.Third Series,
Vol. 11, No. 1

– “Philip Mazzei,” wikipedia.org. Accessed 6/30/2011.
– “The Vineyards” Jefferson’s Monticello. www.monticello.org Accessed 6/30/2011.

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