2015 Cab Bottling

We’ve heard of Spring cleaning as a customary ritual to de-clutter the home and garage, but what about the cellar? This time of year, the pressed wine from the previous harvest has probably been racked once and it’s time for a second racking before Summer begins. The wine from two harvests ago has been aging for almost 18 months, has been racked anywhere from 3-5 times, and readings and adjustments have been made along the way. Which means it’s time to bottle and free up a barrel for the upcoming harvest.

Yesterday (May 24) marked the bottling of our 2013 Cab, a blend of 90% Cab and 10% Merlot from the Coombs Vineyard in Yountville. This wine went through a co-fermentation, about 16 days of actual fermentation, and aged in 5-year old 30-gallon French oak barrel. The wine has good fruit characteristics on the nose, a round, full-body mouth feel, slight oak with an earthy, balanced finish. Still young, the wine should age well and be in its prime in a few years.

Helping me bottle was Rodney Orosco and his lovely daughters, Olivia and Amelia. Rodney and I filled the bottles, Olivia strong-armed the bottling machine and Amelia boxed and kept the operation flowing smoothly. Total output was 11 1/2 cases.

all bottling

The crew at work


Rodney slowly filling bottles










Olivia bottling


Rodney and girls

Happy Orosco’s!





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Last Bottling of 2013 OD

The last of the 2013 Olio De Nardi was just bottled and is available for sale.  True to its Tuscan roots, the oil has that characteristic green-grass freshness, fruity aroma and lasting peppery finish.  Bottles come in 375ml with an integrated pouring spout.  Price $20.

Due to limited quantity, there’s a 2 bottle limit.  Let me know by text  or email.  I’ll setup delivery at your convenience.



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December’s New Oil

oliodenardi2013I’m pleased to announce the arrival of the 2013 Olio De Nardi!

The 2013 olive harvest began on a warm Sunday in late October, about two weeks earlier than the previous year. The crop size was bigger than last year, as more trees came into fruit production. The olives were meticulously hand-picked by an amazing group of friends and family, then pressed in a state-of-the-art Alfa Laval mill and put into 25 liter stainless steel fusti containers. The oil immediately went into cold storage, allowing for tiny suspended particles to fall, and then racked to achieve a clear, particle-free oil.

I’m extremely pleased with the flavor profile of the 2013 OD: fresh, grassy, herbaceous, with a silky and velvety full-mouth feel and a back-of-the-throat “kick”.  This is a 100% organic, estate-grown  extra-virgin olive oil, representing a classic “Tuscan” blend of frantoio, leccino, pendolino and maurino varietals.  If you’re interested in picking up some oil for the holidays, bottles come in 375ml (with an integrated pouring spout) for $20.

*Special thanks to Rick Pepper of Aha!Visual for an awesome label design!

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Let the frenzy of Fall begin

When does Summer officially end?  I say it’s when the kids actually start reading the books required for the first day of school!  Perhaps a more apropos marker for summers’ end is the amount of traffic on the morning commute – July was a glorious time to drive on the usually clogged roads of Sacramento but just this morning, a glow of red tail lights ahead of me for at least a mile. Hey, at least I have time to catch up with the news on NPR.

Thinking ahead to the 2013 olive harvest,  I drove out to the Capay Valley, specifically to Seka Hills, home of a gargantuan Alfa Laval olive press that’s housed in what looks like a small airplane hangar.  Comparing an Alfa Laval to “other” olive mills is like having Walgreens process your B&W negatives instead of Edward Weston.  While you’ll have an image you can recognize, it may not be worthy of hanging on the wall.   And with all the work I put into the orchard to ensure my trees are healthy, organic and pest-free, I want my oil to be processed by the finest mill available.

The 2012 harvest took place on Nov. 4.  In my opinion, it was probably several weeks late, as I noticed the color of the fruit quite dark and some of the fruit began to drop from the stems.  This year, the anticipated harvest date will be Oct. 27 – assuming no wild temperature swings >100F for the rest of the year.  So for those of you who are local, keep that Sunday free 😉

To make the harvest a little easier, I found these terrific picking baskets and picking bag.  In addition to large canvas painters tarp, which will get placed at the bottom of the trees like a tree skirt, we’ll use several of the bags and pails to speed up the harvest.  I love using the tarps – it’s easy to strip the fruit and just let them fall on the tarp for easy accumulation later. The downside – crushed olives under the shoes and there’s no way to avoid it.  Hopefully the pails and bag will reduce damaged fruit…

Over shoulder picking bag

Just in the past week the color from the olives have gone from solid green to light purple, a sign that they’re maturing.

Frantoio maturing

Frantoio maturing

More updates soon!


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Canto for Cantucci

For those who know me, I love cookies!  Sometimes my coffee needs a companion and nothing pairs quite so nicely as a crisp cookie.  Italians aren’t really the cookie type, but they are the biscotti type.   Now, my mother only makes one type of biscotti – anise.  Not super crunchy, a little soft and perfect with that morning coffee.  But over the years, I’ve lost my love for the anise flavor (along with tripe, liver, raw garlic, and cooked peppers) and now I prefer the smaller, thicker, crunchier almond cantucci.  For the past 4-5 years, I’ve had a standing Biscotti Bake-Off with my work colleague, Marc. It’s hard to find a clear winner when we’re the only two judges, but that’s just how we roll (Marc’s are excellent, but mine…)

So this is my standby almond biscotti recipe.  Simple, easy, tasty.

2 c flour

2/3 c sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1 c almonds (or more) + sprinkle of pine nuts

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp almond extract

3 eggs + 1 for egg wash

lightly kneaded dough

raw almonds and some pine nuts

shape logs

stretch and flatten; brush with egg white

Bake @ 350 for 30 minutes

slice diagonally with bread knife

Reduce oven to 300F, back another 20min, turning them over after 10min.

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Time to act your age

This past Sunday I found myself high on an orchard ladder, picking olives for my neighbor jean-marc.  My picking companion was my wine mentor (another neighbor in fact), Nick.  Over the morning hours, we talked mostly about wine, and complained loudly as to why there wasn’t any wine for us pickers during our 10am snack break!  “Where’s the wine?!”, we groaned, as our arms grew more tired and our energy waned as we approached the lunch hour.

One of the questions I asked Nick was when to do the first racking.  “Should I wait until ML is done?”.  “Oh, and how do I test if it’s done”?  Nick sort of hmm’d and haa’d and finally said “ahh, just rack it – you’ll be fine”.  It’s what I love about Nick’s approach to wine – don’t get too analytical, things will work out.

So on a slow work day today, I found myself in the garage, elevating my kegs so I could start siphoning for the first racking.   The wine spent 3 weeks going through ML. Things were going slowly at first until I placed a floor heater near the wine to warm up the garage.  I started with ~34 gallons:  2 x 12.2 gallon kegs, a 7 gal carboy and a partially full 5 gal carboy.   After the racking was complete, I came out with 32.4 gallons of wine.  The pH had risen, as expected, due to the ML bacteria converting malic acid to lactic acid, thereby lowering the total acidity and raising the pH.   I added air locks and moved the containers to the cold storage room (58F) so the young cab can start to age graciously.

racking from one keg to another

racking from carboy to carboy

calculating the SO2 addition for each container

Final additions of SO2

A taste of the young cab: good fruit and acidity

Ready for the winter

The Man Cave

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2012 Olive Harvest

Nature, it’s a funny thing.

Fairly predictable, but not really, actually.

It’s like the small print on an investor’s prospectus: “Remember that past performance is no guarantee of future results.”  Basically, you control some aspects of the harvest, like watering, pruning, fertilizing, but Mother Nature really has the upper hand.

After last year’s disaster where a windy and wet late Spring ruined the olive crop, this growing season, all looked textbook.  Good growth on the trees, solid fruit set, plenty of warm days in the summer and no rain at harvest.  In fact, harvest day had temps reach 27C (81F for my local peeps), making for a tough day on the south-facing, 20% hillside.  We picked a total of 14 crates, which came to 598 lbs.

I had great help with family and close friends.  Many had never picked olives before, but after an hour, everyone had figured out the most efficient way to gently “milk” the fruit off the branches.  “Picking”olives is a misnomer – olive harvest is not about beauty, grace and style: it’s about speed and efficiency, and based on the broken branches, squished fruit underneath the boots and cuts on the hands, the crew was moving fast!

The following morning, I brought the fruit to Mike Madison @ Yolo Press, who processed the olives on his Italian made Enorossi press. Mike met me at the door of his workshop,  a concerned look on his face, clothes filthy, work gloves tattered: “We have a problem, the pump’s broken.  Not sure how long it will take me to fix it, so you might want to call a few other places”.  My stomach sank.  I had work meetings in a few hours and the thought of trying to secure a pressing time with no advance notice didn’t seem plausible. I stalled for an hour and sure enough, Mike got the pump working.   I came back at the end of the day to pick up my stainless steel Fusti cans.  At 25 liters capacity each, they were both nearly full, for an approximate yield of 45 liters.  The oil will sit for 2 weeks to allow the suspended particles to fall to the bottom, before racking the oil into clean Fusti cans.  This will keep the oil fresher, as the particles can go aerobic over time and impart off-flavors to the oil.

Lessons learned from the 2012 harvest:

– The fruit was plenty ripe.  Mid-Oct. would have been the peak harvest time.

– Plastic tarps work better than soft netting for catching the olives.  The tarps have the very satisfying “plop” sound when the olives hit, and they’re easier to move around.

– Thin, soft gardening gloves are better than bare hands.

– Trees taller than 7′ are a pain in the ass.  The slope of the hillside is not orchard-ladder friendly so keeping the trees within arms reach is key.

– It took 12lbs of fruit to get 1 liter of oil. A very high oil ratio, as the “norm” is closer to 15 lbs/liter.

A big thanks to the entire harvest crew – I definitely could not have done it without you!

Sofie, Papa, Cynthia, Patricia, Edith, Bonnie, Rodney, Brian, Robyn, Iris, Mika, Maria, Mia and Eva.

Grazie tutti!

Fruit ripening – about a month from harvest

Getting close to harvest

Harvest Day sunrise


My Dad, working hard

Edith picking frantoio

Rodney working the ladder

Big sis Cynthia

Señora Farr enjoying the morning

Iris working hard!

Dynamic duo: Rodney and Bonnie

Robyn, Mika and Iris – lunch time

Me and Brian

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