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The Society BLOG

Together, wine, food, and travel make up three of life's greatest offerings. The Society Blog will feature expert experiences and opinions relating to these delicious topics. Here, we will freely discuss the diverse flavors of food, the inviting culture of wine, the vast nature of travel, and the ultimate experience you get when you combine the three!

The Society
May 31, 2014 | The Society

Meet our Garden Guru – Brad Agerter

Though he did not originally consider a career in farming, Brad developed a keen interest in the environment at an early age, which led him to study Environmental Sciences at University of Oregon. After college, Brad was experimenting with a vegetarian lifestyle when he discovered that the majority of store-bought produce was lacking in flavor, which effectively made vegetarianism more difficult. By a happy accident, he was introduced to Shone Farm, an organic farm run by the Santa Rosa Junior College where he learned the secret to growing flavorful produce was organic practices. Brad spent four years at Shone Farm, building on his educational foundation, gaining valuable experience, and developing a passion for sustainable farming before a position opened up at Chalk Hill Estate. Eight years later, Brad can be found in the upper or lower gardens, eager to share his newest produce with us."

FFWS – What is in season right now?
Right now we have been harvesting beets carrots, broccoli, fennel, leaks, and spinach amongst other leafy greens. We have also been exclusively harvesting young Fava beans for Chalkboard. These beans are unique because they grow two shells which means they need to be double peeled when they reach maturity. Generally Fava beans are harvested in the fall, but we picked them early for Chef Shane because the beans have a unique flavor profile at this stage that compliments a few of the new dishes at Chalkboard.  

FFWS – What kinds of projects are you currently working on?
Currently, we are in the middle of planting new seeds and transplanting herbs. The new vegetables we have been seeding include eggplant, cucumbers, beets, carrots, turnips lettuces, beans and peas. We’ve been transplanting a few types of herbs into smaller containers that get sent over to Chalkboard. This is farm to table in the most basic form – Chef and his team are able to pick the herbs directly from the plant and include them in the dishes. This way, they are able to use the freshest ingredients and the without sacrificing flavors in transit from the garden to the plate.

FFWS – Are you growing anything new and exciting for 2014?
One of our most exciting projects for 2014 are the beehives we have introduced into the upper and lower gardens. We are in the experimental stages right now, but we are hoping that within a year, the hives will provide us with honey for Chef Didier as well as Chef Shane. If this project goes well, we will bring more hives in and hopefully start producing enough honey to sell in the tasting room.

FFWS – How has supplying produce to Chalkboard Restaurant affected the Culinary Gardens?
Our output volumes have increased quite a bit over the last year and we harvest more frequently, but the restaurant is still small enough that the change of pace is not overwhelming. I have really enjoyed working with Chef Shane and providing for Chalkboard Restaurant – he has a great team and they do an amazing job of using all of the produce we supply to them. The mentality at Chalkboard is very experimental and less traditional, so it’s fun to see how their innovation translates to new and fresh recipes. On the flipside at the gardens, we have gotten to seed new plants that we wouldn’t have otherwise worked with, and so it’s fun for me because I get to experiment as well.

FFWS – What do you like best about the Culinary Garden?
My favorite part about working with in gardens is entertaining our tour guests. I like being able to share the newest produce and plants from the garden in addition to showing guests how much we have grown over the past three years. It’s exciting to educate guests on key sustainable practices and inspire them to grow and care for gardens of their own. 

I have also really enjoyed working with Chef Didier and Chef Shane because we customize the garden based on the dishes they create in kitchen. It’s interesting to experience the produce that we have grown and see the chefs translate it into a culinary masterpiece that showcases the flavors to the fullest extent. The beauty about working here is that the pressure of a conventional farm doesn’t exist – the focus isn’t on turning yields into sales and so that gives us more freedom to experiment with different kinds of plants, sustainable practices and learn what works and what doesn’t.

Time Posted: May 31, 2014 at 2:33 PM
The Society
May 19, 2014 | The Society

The Chardonnay Obsession

Chardonnay— this grape is grown in almost every well-known growing appellation in the world. In California alone, the state crushed 735,777 tons of fruit and produced of 53 million cases for the 2012 vintage according to the Wine Institute. With consumer popularity at over 13%, it has dominated the market and holds ranking as the most popular white wine variety in the United States.

Why are we so passionate about this grape? What makes our mouths water we when see the name? Chardonnay was not always this famous in the US; the grape gained market traction after the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976. Referred to as the Judgment of Paris, a Napa Valley Chardonnay producer outscored the French, thus upsetting years of tradition and the view that only quality Chardonnays were produced in the Burgundy region.

As interest for Chardonnay grew, winemakers started experimenting with various styles. One in particular, became the poster child for the American market. Wineries began to implement an optional fermentation process called malo-lactic fermentation for white wines. This secondary fermentation is known to give wine a rich flavor especially when paired along with new barrel aging and heavy toasting.  Before long, California Chardonnays became notorious for their vanilla and buttery notes and as more drinkers relished in this distinct style, wineries started to scramble in order to produce enough to meet demand.

Some American winemakers prefer to take a more traditional approach and focus more on Chardonnay’s heritage when producing the wine. In contrast to the buttery, oaky style, the French tradition prohibits malo-lactic from occurring during the fermentation process.  While utilizing the natural acidity found in the grape to help build structure, the winemaker balances the acidity by aging the wine in oak barrels to enhance the creamy mouth feel. This timeless practice was applied when American producers found their Chardonnays could be incredibly complex without overwhelming the palette.

As people continued to thirst for more Chardonnay, a new style was introduced and adapted by producers around the world— the use of stainless steel tanks in lieu of oak barrels. These wines do not spend time in barrel at all and rarely go through malo-lactic fermentation. Rather than focus on a creamy, rich palette, these wines are bright, acidic and crisp. They make for a wondering food pairing option, for simply relaxing by the pool, and have become a style of Chardonnay for any occasion. As a result of its popularity, many winemakers have adopted the stainless steel technique as an option for their consumers.

To answer the question from above— why are we so crazy for Chardonnay? 

Maybe we’ll find the answer in the many stylistic differences that have led to the profound appreciation for this grape. With so many options, consumers can pick a Chardonnay based on their unique palette. Here at Foley Family, we pride ourselves on having one of the best portfolios for the Chardonnay advocate. Whether you love the big and buttery flavors of the Chalk Hill Russian River Chardonnay, the silky and creamy palette of the Kuleto Estate Napa Valley or the bright and citrusy style of Lincourt’s Steel Chardonnay from Santa Rita Hills, there’s Chardonnay just for you. 

Time Posted: May 19, 2014 at 12:10 PM