I am feeling zen-like relaxation. And yet, I’m alertly observing a major operation, filled with skilled tireless professionals, conducting research, innovations, progress. How’s this possible? Lynmar Estate makes it so.
Leading up to my Washington-Oregon-California tasting trip, everybody who seemed to be in the know uttered the name Lynmar. Expectations were high as we drove though the gate onto the Russian River Valley property. An oasis unfolded. Sloped vineyards, overflowing edible gardens, a stunningly stylish tasting room…. relaxation commenced. We were greeted by Michael Cima, Lynmar’s Hospitality Manager, who as a sommelier has worked many of San Francisco’s Michelin starred restaurants. He whisked us to our ride for the day, a vineyard climbing ATV, and began to reveal to us the complex and dynamic operation that is Lynmar Estate.
As we set out, Michael shared Lynmar’s history. Businessman Lynn Fritz first purchased the property in 1980, renaming it Lynmar, a nod to the maritime climate of the region. Over the next several decades Lynn and wife Anisya added several properties, forming one single world class estate. The estate borders the Laguna de Santa Rosa, Sonoma County’s richest wildlife preserve and a sanctuary for a vast range of wildlife like otters, Steelhead trout and mountain lions. We spotted a bald eagle’s next perched over the southern edge of the estate’s foundational vineyard, Quail Hill Vineyard.
Quail Hill Vineyard has some of Russian River Valley’s oldest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines. Michael told us a story of Lynn Fritz walking amongst his vines one morning shortly after purchasing the property. He found a strange woman walking too, and upon engaging her, met the one and only Merry Edwards. Merry told Lynn he had some of the finest fruit in the county! (My visit to Merry Edwards is covered in a blog coming soon.)
Lynn and Anisya’s house lie just above the state of the art winery. As we headed into the winery, I found good cause for Michael and I to get geeky, confounding my travel companions. Lynmar has built a gravity flow winery, a process well regarded by winemakers and ecologically mindful producers. A gravity flow winery is compromised of multiple levels that follow regular winemaking steps. Each step is separated onto different floor levels, allowing gravity to move the wine from crushing to cellaring. Lynmar’s gravity flow winery enjoys two benefits. First, unlike traditional one-level facilities there is no need for high energy consuming pumps or mechanical force. And more importantly, this gentle way of handling wine enables quality wine to slowly extract color, flavor and tannin. I was impressed.
Heading back to the ATV for a climb through Quail Hill Vineyard, I began to notice signs of sustainable and innovative property management. California-native cover crops, owl boxes, and an organic edible gardens. As we popped ripe tomatoes in our mouths we learned the gardens not only supply a full time garden and culinary team for Lynmar’s food and wine experiences, but also attract beneficial insects and birds, necessary to healthy wholistic viticulture.
Rounding the vineyard, Michael shared that the year-round vineyard crew, alone a rarity in modern winemaking, does block by block tending. Managing 70 individual vineyard blocks, the team tediously prunes, trains, irrigates, harvests… passing through each block countless times per vintage! Picture the wine-making equivalent of helicopter parenting.
If my zen-like relaxed state dulled me from realizing how meticulous, how innovative this was, the point fully hit me in Lynmar’s cave. The 9000-square-foot subterranean cave houses barrels and barrels of separate lots. The final portfolio of 21 wines by Lynmar begins with an overwhelming 90 lots, delineated with intention. I was confused by the notation ‘sun’ and ‘shade’ I spotted on two barrels. Michael explained that the sun facing side of the vine and the shade side of the vine were harvesting separately, barreled separately, and would eventually be tasted and blended for their individual qualities. Unheard of!
With a mind spinning from all these details, it was time to taste. Back in Lynmar’s gorgeously designed indoor-outdoor tasting facility, we were manned with vineyard maps and Burgundy glasses. We enjoyed the Quail Hill Vineyard Estate Pinot Noir, and the Russian River Valley Chardonnay. How lucky we were to taste the Five Sisters Pinot Noir, a blend crafted from the five best barrels, produced only in exceptional vintages. It was a tasting pinnacle.
The pinnacle moment? The summit of Lynmar estate, where we took in views of Quail Hill Vineyard’s tended rows, the wilds of the Laguna de Santa Rosa preserve, and a old fashioned swing hanging from an old tree. Here I saw Lynmar’s dual nature: an innovative tireless operation, and simultaneously an oasis offering beauty, food and wine to all who come.
A big thank you to Michael Cima, Lynn and Anisya Fritz, and Lynmar Estate for an unforgettable experience!
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*Reposted with permission from Girl Meets Vine. http://elizabethmillerwine.com/girlmeetsvine