Dear Friends of Belden Barns,

Hello there!  Spring has most definitely sprung, and here’s what we’ve been up to in Sonoma and beyond…..

 

THANK YOU

It’s hard to believe that seven months have passed since the fires spread through California wine country. While we are beyond grateful that our family business managed to survive amidst such mass devastation, memories of that terrifying time still come back to hit us in subtle ways.  The current shade of green carpeting Bennett Mountain in our little valley is a brighter hue than any we’ve ever witnessed resulting from fertilization provided by burnt foliage.  The fact that our answer to “How much of this scrumptious new Rosé can I get?” is “Very, very little,” as we were only able to make 55 cases this year after losing so much Grenache and Syrah to smoke taint... These, however, are minor reminders compared to those whose entire lives have been turned upside down by the fires.  We want to thank all of you who supported our Belden Barns Raffle for Fire Relief.  As a result of your contributions and a very generous anonymous matching donor, we were able to contribute $104,000 to the Redwood Credit Union Fire Relief Effort.  This is only a small piece of the recovery puzzle, but we are so grateful to be part of such a generous community that supported this cause in such a big way.

 

KEEPING SCORE

For those of you who like to stay in the loop about of our latest and greatest reviews, The American Fine Wine Competition announced its judging results in March, and here’s how we did:

2014 Estate Syrah                              Double Gold

2015 Estate Chardonnay                   Double Gold

2015 Estate Grüner Veltliner             Gold

2015 Estate Pinot Noir                       Gold

2016 Estate Sauvignon Blanc           Gold

Not too shabby, especially considering that these five wines were the only ones that we submitted…

 

SERENDIPITY STRIKES AGAIN

In other exciting news, we entered a special barrel selection of our 2016 Serendipity Block Pinot Noir in the Sonoma County Barrel Auction, and were absolutely thrilled when the 5-case lot sold for $4,800 - the equivalent of $80 a bottle. 

Presented by the Sonoma County Vintners, the annual Sonoma County Barrel Auction is a live auction of wine futures from the county’s top growers and winemakers.  The event is invitation-only and this year’s proceeds support Sonoma County Vintners and NorCal fire relief.

 

CALLING ALL CORK LOVERS

This past Saturday marked our annual Spring Cork Hunt, complete with kegs of Rosé, tastings of all of our newly-released wines and crazy children running wild in search of the THOUSAND corks we'd dyed and drilled (for necklace making).  While we loved seeing so many old friends, and welcoming so many new ones to Belden Barns, the most touching parts of our day were the moments when people would come up to us, often with tears in their eyes, to report that the wishes they'd made months or years ago on The Wishing Tree had come true.  Within the first hours of the event, we were introduced to two healthy, beautiful babies and three adorable significant others who came into wishers' lives shortly after heartfelt tags were hung on the tree.

Oh, and did we mention that we hid five golden corks so that the grown-ups could have a little scavenger hunt of their own? Not only were all five corks found and redeemed for wine prizes, but we had a Belden Barns first: just as we were closing up shop and wondering when the last cork would be tracked down, we found it....in an adorable dog named Sundance's mouth!  Let's hear it for canine power!

 

IT’S BACK…BUT NOT FOR LONG

Great news for all of you dessert-wine lovers! For the first time since our initial vintage, we are releasing a Late Harvest Viognier.  As are many things in wine, our 2012 Late Harvest Viognier was a happy accident of sorts.  Like most dessert wines, we harvested it super late (mid-November), but we ended up with a relatively low sugar content for grapes hanging that long.  The raisined fruit provided amazing flavor and the end result was a magical dessert wine with an extremely clean finish.  We loved it, you loved it, and restaurants couldn’t get enough of it.  While we were determined to offer this “Nectar of the Gods” for years to come, the gods weren’t necessarily on the same page.  “Not. So. Fast.,” they proclaimed.  The 2013 vintage Viognier had already been committed to a different winery (we still sell a good portion of our fruit to other wine labels, and hadn’t realized just how good this bottling would turn out prior to tasting it).  The next year (2014), we harvested Viognier, but ended up letting it hang on the vines too long, making for a yummy, but pretty sticky dessert wine that we decided not to release.  Oh, and did we mention that we lost lost the entire 2015 Viognier crop to cold rains, and this fall’s 2017 vintage to smoke damage?  In other words, this 2016 bottling is precious stuff folks, so please enjoy it while you can.

 

FROM THE FARM

As we write this newsletter at the beginning of May, it is the first week that Jenny and Vince have been able to get the tractor into the field to begin the process of preparing and planting vegetable blocks.  Substantial late rains were certainly welcome, but also hampered our ability to get farming started.  Thankfully, the Trotters provide us with scrumptious farmstead goods with a long shelf life.  We have quite a selection, complete with delicious Polenta, cornmeal, popping corn, and a broad assortment of beans.  New to the mix this year are Tiger’s Eye Beans, Fast Lady Peas, and Blue Goose Peas.  The latter two (also known as Cowpeas) are particularly welcome to those of you who want to get your “Southern” on.  You can purchase these items for pickup only HERE.

 

LEMONS TO LEMONAIDE

On the sustainability front, we have a new project related to our rain catchment reservoir.  As many of you know, we irrigate the entirety of our current grape, vegetable, and orchard crops with water collected during the winter rains.  About five years ago, ducks brought in a tiny water floating fern called Azolla, which can double in surface coverage every 2-3 days.  This has led to our pond periodically being covered by a thick carpet of plants, wreaking havoc on our irrigation system and making the reservoir less than picturesque.  To avoid spraying with herbicide, we’ve tried many techniques to rid ourselves of Azolla:  small boats with gathering wings affixed on each side, nets with buoys to surround the mess, hauling it in by hand to manually shovel onto shore.  About to give up, we dug a little deeper and have found a winning solution.  As it turns out, Azolla happens to both fix nitrogen and be very high in protein, making it a good soil enhancer and animal feed supplement.  Realizing we can use Azolla as an elegant resource in aiding our site’s cycle of sustainability, we are now investing in a permanent conveyor system to efficiently harvest Azolla on a continuous basis.  We will certainly have fits and starts as we perfect our harvesting techniques, but are very excited at the prospect of sustainably adding health to our soils (and reducing our feed costs!). 

 

ONWARD AND UPWARD

Turning the page on a tough fall, the late winter and early spring rains have refreshed us and pointed our focus forward – and there is quite a bit to look forward to.  One small nugget is a ton of Syrah that we picked earlier this past vintage for a “Serendipity-like” experiment.  Inspired by our approach to our Serendipity Block Pinot Noir and a trip to the Rhone Valley last year where whole-cluster fermentation and neutral oak barrels have many devotees, we expect this bottling to have loads of savory, spicy, animalistic character.  The two special barrels that we yielded will certainly be receiving a good portion of our curious attention as we visit the cellar to taste the progress of all of our wines.  On a much larger note, this week will mark the official submission of our plans to the county for our hospitality, farmstead, and cheese-making barns and buildings.  The plans are taking shape in the most exciting way, and we are already dreaming of day we can provide an amazing spot for you to relax, immerse yourself in nature and agriculture, and enjoy some of the best wine, cheese and farmstead goods that Sonoma has to offer.

 

NEW SEASON, NEW SPOTS TO FIND US

Farmshop, Larkspur

Fabrocini’s, Los Angeles

Good Eggs, Bay Area

Jayde’s Market, Los Angeles

The Riddler, San Francisco

 

IN CLOSING….

As we mentioned before, seven months have passed since the devastating fires, and during that time we have had countless conversations with friends, customers and family about how it felt to come so close to losing everything that we’ve worked so hard to create.  And the answer is as simple as it is complex: above all, we feel lucky.  While October was one of the most surreal, exhausting, shocking, and heart-breaking months of our lives, it was also one of the most bonding – both within our family and within our community at large.  We feel lucky to be building the business of our dreams together, and lucky to know that this massive dream has the loving support of so many friends from all over the world.  Thank you to each and every one of you who reached out to us during that scary time in the fall to see how we were holding up or to let us know that you were sending prayers and positive energy our way.  Thank you again to all of you who donated costumes to the Halloween costume drive or bought tickets for the Fire Relief Fundraiser.  And most importantly, thank you for supporting our business in whatever way that you do, whether it’s as an enthusiastic wine club member, a restaurant or shop who’s believed in us since day one, or simply as someone who reads this newsletter and hopes to come visit Belden Barns one day soon, drink some delicious wine and hang a tag on the Wishing Tree. 

With Love and Gratitude,

Lauren and Nate

 
Belden Barns
5561 Sonoma Mountain Road
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
415-577-8552

 

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