Thursday, June 27, 2013

Where the Magic Happens: The Caves at Holman Ranch {Edible Monterey Bay}

This is on the Edible Monterey Bay blog: here. Or read it below.


Stepping into a vineyard’s wine cave feels slightly illicit. Maybe it’s the sense that you’re getting a peek into where the wine making magic happens. It’s where the wine ferments and ages, developing the flavor profile that the winemaker desires. Or perhaps it’s just that being underground lends a certain air of mystery.

The Caves at Holman Ranch are completely underground, carved into the hillside, to take advantage of the natural cooling and humidity. The 3000-square-foot area maintains a constant temperature, fluctuating only a degree or two from 58˚F to 60 ˚F, and houses four 750-gallon tanks, four 1200-gallon tanks, four open top tanks that can house two tons each, and one hundred François Frères oak barrels. All of the winery operations—from destemming and pressing to fermenting and aging—take place within the cool environment of the caves, while bottling is done directly outside using a mobile bottling line.

On the day that I visited, Guest Services Manager Nick Elliott greeted me, swung open the heavy wooden doors to the underground workspace, and invited me inside. We strolled towards a barrel topped with an army of wine goblets and a variety of Holman Ranch wines, including their estate Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé of Pinot Noir. It was the unreleased Chardonnay that intrigued me the most.

Over a picnic lunch just outside the caves, Nick poured both the 2010 Chardonnay and the not-yet-released 2012 Virgin Chardonnay. I chuckled when I finally saw the label. I had heard him mention ‘virgin’ when we talked about the wine, but I didn’t realize that that was its actual name – on the bottle.

While the 2010 is cold-fermented for three months in new François Frères oak barrels, the 2012 has never seen any wood. Nick and I discussed how the oak contributes to the character of the wine. Aging wine in oak barrels produces a smoother, fuller, and sweeter wine. Used judiciously, like Holman’s three months stint, the wine grows complex without getting too buttery and heavy.

New oak barrels impart flavor to the wine. With each use, the wine extracts progressively less and less oak flavor. After a few seasons of use—Holman Ranch considers their barrels ‘new’ for three rounds—the barrel is largely depleted of its oaky flavor. The barrels are still used after that; but they are simply labeled as ‘neutral’ barrels.
Though Holman Ranch’s 2010 Chardonnay is only oaked for three months, it still has that supple, round feel, woodsy smell, and toasty character that is fairly common in Chardonnay wines.

The 2012 Virgin Chard is altogether a different creature. The first word that came to mind after inhaling the bouquet was ‘grassy.’ The aroma reminded me of a freshly mown field—not golden straw or hay but lush, verdant grass. There is the faintest green tint to the wine as well. Even the foil capsule covering over the cork is a unique, almost iridescent shade of green. The wine was bright and crisp and after a few minutes in the glass it grew almost tropical. What a fun summer wine!

And the 2012 Virgin Chardonnay is only one of the up-and-coming wines to emerge from Holman Ranch. Nick, knowing my fondness for Pinot Noir, shared that they will have ten Pinots with a 2012 vintage. Ten. That is not a typo. While most are small production—with only about 50 cases bottled of each—Holman is debuting one larger production wine that will bear the name of the third Lowder daughter, Kelly.

Kelly’s Press is a pressed, versus free-run, wine which means that it’s made using the leftover must, the unfermented grape juice and contains the seeds, stems, and skins. It will join the 2010 Hunter’s Cuvée, a bold Pinot Noir with intense jam notes; the 2011 Heather’s Hill that makes me think of rose petals and peppercorns; the 2010 Estate-Grown Pinot that is aged for 12 months in French oak, resulting in an earthy wine with hints of tobacco; and six clonal varieties, including Clone 667, Clone 777, Clone 828, Pommard 4, Swan, and Calera.

Holman Ranch Vineyards consists of 19 acres that lie between 950 and 1150 feet in elevation. The topography of the surrounding area allows for morning fog that rapidly moves out as the air warms while sedimentary soils and Carmel stone play a major role in providing excellent soil drainage. The vines are planted 15 degrees off due north which allows for all-day sunlight on the fruit zone and good protection from winds. Holman Ranch’s inland valley is an ideal microclimate for the production of Pinot Noir grapes.

Currently in the process of attaining sustainable and organic certification, they do not use any chemical herbicides or pesticides on their fruit. Holman Ranch’s wines are refined and crafted to deliver the true varietal of the grape from harvest to table. And if purity and passion are key ingredients in the wine-making process, Holman Ranch truly excels in that arena.

You can take a trip to the Holman Ranch Tasting Room in the Carmel Valley Village to taste their wines. And if you ask really nicely, they might even let you into The Caves to see where all the magic happens. Or you can attend a special dinner in July at the vineyard that will showcase their wines.

Holman Ranch Vineyard and Edible Monterey Bay host a Farm (and Vineyard) to Table Pop-Up Supper Club on Sunday, July 28th to benefit the Food Bank for Monterey County. Click here to buy tickets.

 Holman Ranch Tasting Room
19 E. Carmel Valley Rd., Suite C
Carmel Valley, CA 93924
(831) 659-2640

Summer Hours
Mon–Thu – 11am–6pm
Fri–Sun – 12pm–7pm
Private Tasting – Call for information

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Summer 2013 Table of Contents {Edible Monterey Bay}

And my shot of busy bees heads the Edible Monterey Bay's Summer 2013 table of contents page...

Honey-Infused Dark Chocolate Truffles {Recipe}

Accompanying my Bee Yourself story, Edible Monterey Bay published one of my recipes in their Summer 2013 issue.

Honey-Infused Dark Chocolate Truffles
Courtesy Camilla M. Mann

Admittedly, after observing worker bees flying in and out of a hive with the pollen baskets on their knees stuffed with pollen, I felt a twinge of guilt using bee pollen in my kitchen. Am I still a thief, I pondered, if I am not the one harvesting the pollen? Probably. Still, one bite of these will make you abandon any remorse…for a moment.

12 ounces high-quality, semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup organic heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon bee pollen
1 tablespoon honey
Additional semisweet chocolate for dipping granulated honey, bee pollen and unsweetened cocoa powder for garnish

In a small, heavy saucepan, bring the whipping cream and honey to a simmer. Place the chocolate in a separate bowl with the bee pollen. Pour the cream over the chocolate. Let stand for 3 minutes and then whisk until smooth. Allow to cool and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Roll teaspoon-sized balls in your hands as quickly as you can. Place truffles in the fridge for at least 20 minutes. In the meantime, melt the additional chocolate over a double-boiler.

Remove truffles from the fridge. Using a skewer or fork, dip them in chocolate. Gently nudge the truffles from the skewer and cover any imperfections with more chocolate. Sprinkle with granulated honey or bee pollen. Let chocolate set completely before serving.

Alternatively, rather than dip truffles in chocolate, roll them in unsweetened cocoa powder.

DIY: Bee Yourself {Edible Monterey Bay Feature}

I shared my glee at getting my first cover earlier, but here's the accompanying Edible Monterey Bay's Summer 2013 issue.

Bee Yourself
Honey, anarchy, and saving the world, one hive at a time
Story and Photos by Camilla M. Mann 

The do-it-yourself culture is booming, and I don’t just mean making your own invitations or holiday wreaths. I mean DIY in the sense of reskilling. The trend is a revival of skills that were once commonplace, like raising chickens, making clothes and foraging for edible plants. It’s a throwback to a more self-sufficient time by planting gardens, canning vegetables, making jam, brewing beer and keeping bees. While some people are doing these things as a way to combat tough economic times, others are acquiring knowledge to improve their quality of life, preserve the environment—and have fun!

Take backyard beekeeping. It may seem a recent phenomenon but its history began centuries ago. There are rock paintings in both Spain and India from the Mesolithic era (10,000–5,000 BC) that depict hunters who collected honey made by wild bees. Honey is mentioned in both Sumerian and Babylonian cuneiform texts.
Eventually, people began to domesticate bees, transferring the wild hives into hollowed out logs, wooden boxes and pottery vessels, and the honey produced by these early beekeepers became a highly prized form of currency or tribute. Sealed pots of honey have been recovered from pharaohs’ tombs, including Tutankhamun’s, for example, and during the 11th century, German peasants paid their feudal lords in honey and beeswax.

The records of ancient Rome and Greece give us a glimpse into the lives of bees and beekeeping. Virgil kept bees. Pliny the Elder extensively documented how Romans crafted hives from cork, oak bark or fennel stems in his Natural History: The Selection. Pliny wrote of ancient observation hives built by the Romans with transparent sides made of thinly sliced, highly polished horn. (Today observation hives have walls made of glass.)

Thanks to a tip from Betty Kasson, a hobbyist beekeeper in Carmel Valley, I attended a gathering of the Anarchist Bee Collective, a beekeepers’ group that meets monthly to share information, opportunities and experiences over breakfast. They aren’t “anarchist” in the militant, politically activist way. Instead, they use the term literally. In Latin, anarchia means “without a ruler,” and that is what they are—beekeepers who get together without bothering with rules or any real structure. One secondary definition of anarchy is to act without instructions or permission, possessing the impulse to do it oneself. In that sense, anarchists are the ultimate DIYers.

At the Saturday morning breakfast gathering I attended, the ABC beekeepers hailed from Prunedale to Pebble Beach. As forks clinked against plates, people chatted about bees. I sat with Denise Gluhan, from Aromas, who characterizes herself as a novice. She maintains three hives and has been keeping bees for about a year. Denise is allergic to bees. “Why would you put yourself in the position of being stung if you could go into anaphylactic shock?!” I asked, incredulous. She assured me that she carries an epinephrine pen, but that she has never had to use it. While she can’t get any of the wax on her or she’ll react adversely, she can—and does— enjoy the honey that her bees produce.

At the other end of the beekeeping spectrum was Peter Eichorn, from Country Flat Farm in Palo Colorado, who has been keeping bees and selling honey since 1965. Peter refers to himself as “The Honey Guy,” stating that he’s in it for the honey, not bee conservation. “He says that,” said a woman who has taken one of Peter’s workshops, “but I’ve seen him cry over losing a queen.” Peter instructed the ABC on how to use yarrow fronds dipped in mineral oil as natural mite abatement.

No matter the experience of the bee-keeper, I found that each one I met was motivated at least in part by a desire to help support the bee population. The idea of bee- keepers saving the world might sound hyperbolic, but our food supply relies on bees and their ability to pollinate plants. Their decimation in numbers by colony collapse disorder (CCD)—which causes adult bees to abruptly abandon their hives, leaving the young to die—is alarming. In recent years many beekeepers around the country have lost about of third of their bees each winter to CCD; this past winter, it was widely reported that losses spiked to as much as 50%. 

This is a far reaching problem, because as much as a third of the food we eat can’t be produced without pollination by bees. A report issued jointly by the United States Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in May noted that revenue from crops that rely on bees for pollination totals $20 to $30 billion annually, making it “imperative” that honey bee survival rates be increased in order “to meet the demands of U.S. agriculture for pollination and thus ensure…food security.”

Here’s one statistic I heard at a workshop led by Ed, a beekeeper from Livermore, who rents his bees to farmers for pollination: Without bees, an acre of almond trees would produce 50 to 60 pounds of almonds. With two bee hives in place in that same orchard, production soars to about 3,000 pounds! At the time of the workshop, Ed’s bees were in the Central Valley—in an almond orchard.

Bees pollinate plants accidentally. While scooping up nectar at the base of flower petals, bees inadvertently rub against flower stamens and pollen sticks to them. As the bees move between blossoms, pollen transfers from one flower to the next. Some pollen returns with the bee to the colony.

A bee colony is considered a superorganism. All of the bees in a hive are part of a highly specialized division of labor, working toward the singular goal of maintaining their hive. To that end, there is one queen whose sole purpose is to lay eggs—up to 3,000 daily. Drones are the only males in the hive and their role is also remarkably simple—to mate with the queen. Worker bees are nonreproducing females who, throughout their brief lifetimes, perform all of the rest of the work required to keep the hive functioning and producing honey.

Ed owns and operates Gerard’Z Honeybees, named for his grandfather, who introduced him to beekeeping when he was 9 years old. At the time, tending the bees was a dreaded chore. Ed admits, “I grudgingly helped my grandfather, but I would rather have been playing baseball.”

Today, Ed not only tends bees, but he also is working to save them. “Bees are in real trouble now, with diseases and colony collapse disorder.” 

The USDA and EPA report issued in May blamed CCD on an interrelated series of factors including parasites, pesticides, disease, loss of genetic diversity and decline a in nutritious, diverse bee forage.

After years of mystery (CCD was first noticed in 2006), so much evidence now points in particular to a relatively new class of pesticides called neonicotinoids—a systemic pesticide that is used to treat seed prior to planting and is absorbed into plants’ vascular systems—that in March, a group of beekeepers and environmental organizations together filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court against the EPA, accusing it of failure to protect pollinators from dangerous pesticides like neonicotinoids. And on April 29, the European Union imposed an emergency two-year ban on the use of neonicotinoids across all of Europe.

The USDA/EPA report stated that pesticides are a “primary” concern but it called for further research and recommended no such immediate bans to protect the bee population in the meantime.

For ordinary citizens like us, Ed says the four basic pillars for saving bees are to grow nectar-rich and pollen-rich flowers for bees, provide them with homes like beehives, avoid using pesticides and spread the word. (See more about what you can do in related story, p. 37.) Ed spreads the word by leading work- shops and encouraging people to keep bees wherever they live. “You don’t have to live out in the country to have a beehive,” he asserts. “An urban environment is perfect. There’s a diversity of plants to forage around in the city. Just look in your yard and your neighbor’s yard.”

And aside from saving the bees, bee-keeping of course also rewards with honey—that delicious “food of the Gods,” as the Greek philosopher Porphyry called it, which is also highly nutritious and medicinal, and adds extended shelf-life and moistness to the foods to which it is added.

Honey starts as the flower nectar that worker bees slurp up and store in their honey stomachs until they return to the hive. A bee will forage between three to four miles from the hive in search of food and might visit 100–1,000 flowers to get her fill.

Once foraging bees return to the hive, they pass the nectar to other worker bees whose digestive enzymes change the com- position of the nectar, breaking down the complex sugars into simple sugars. These bees in turn regurgitate the digested nectar into the honeycombs. At this point the nectar still has fairly high water content, so other worker bees fan the nectar with their wings, producing a draft that evaporates the excess liquid. As the water evaporates, the nectar transforms into the thick, sweet liquid we recognize as honey. Once the honey reaches proper viscosity, the bees cap the cells with wax to store it until needed.
Beekeepers can encourage overproduction of honey within their hives and then harvest the excess without endangering the bees. In the first year, a beekeeper shouldn’t expect any honey from the hive, but in later years, hives can generate from 1⁄2 gallon to 10 gallons.

The color and flavor of honey varies from hive to hive, based on the type of flower nectar collected by the bees. When I visited Betty, she pulled out a collection of honeys to taste. As she travels she chats with beekeepers, frequents local markets and carries her favorite honeys home. We tasted a mahogany-hued honey from Kauai that tasted like coffee, honey reminiscent of molasses from the Fijian mountains and one from the herb garden at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa that looked amber and had a hint of rosemary. We ended with Betty’s own honey, a delicate and delicious variety that reflects the mix of wild and cultivated flowers on which the bees feast.

I never got to the monthly Wednesday night meeting of our region’s other bee- keeping group, the Santa Cruz Beekeepers Guild. But when I called Mountain Feed and Farm Supply in Ben Lomond (our area’s only local source for beekeeping equipment) to inquire about beekeeping gear, Karla DeLong, the guild’s generous and enthusiastic leader, answered the phone—and all of my questions. The guild, like the ABC, is an informal one that revolves around its monthly meetings, but also provides other member services, such as matching veteran beekeeping mentors with newbies like me.

In the realm of do-it-yourself, beekeeping can seem daunting—whether or not you’re allergic to bees. But knowing about local groups like the ABC and the Santa Cruz Beekeepers Guild, as well as the many classes that are taught locally, it’s not hard to see why so many people are embracing it. And that’s good news for our bees.

Camilla M. Mann is a food writer, photographer, adventurer and passionate cook. She blogs at and lives in Monterey. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Edible Notable - Summer 2013 {Edible Monterey Bay}

This piece - story and photos - was printed in the Summer 2013 Edible Monterey Bay. It's a re-worked piece from the one that posted on the EMB blog in April.

A burger that's about as good for you as it can be - and you can get it with kimchee, too!
Story and Photos by Camilla M. Mann

By now most of the food- and health-obsessed among us know that eating your average fast-food burger is about the worst thing you could do for your body, what with the high fat, potential pathogens and mystery ingredients—and that’s not to mention supporting pollution-creating, inhumane and unsanitary feedlot conditions for the cows and the poor working conditions at the big meat processing plants and fast food franchisors.

But happily for those addicted, some local burger joints, old and new, have been working to change that. For example, there is Burger., the Santa Cruz and Aptos institution that uses grassfed beef from Humboldt County. Monterey County has 400°, which doesn’t serve grassfed beef, but at least uses local and, when possible, organic veggies on its burgers, and grinds its meat in house.

And then there’s Santa Cruz chef and food system educator Kevin Koebel, who with his new restaurant, Ground Up, has taken the sustainable burger to yet another level, using grassfed beef raised just up the road in Pescadero by Leftcoast Grassfed and in San Gregorio, by Markegard Family Grass-Fed for house-ground burgers. He even uses flour made from wheat grown by such local farms as Pie Ranch to bake homemade buns daily and cooks his own mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise from scratch. Oh, and he uses veggies from Central Coast organic farms.

The bad news for us in the Monterey Bay area is that Koebel opened Ground Up in Half Moon Bay, a somewhat high-carbon hike up the freeway when sustainability is part of the point. But there’s a lot to recommend it on flavor and educational value alone, so we’ll tell you while it’s worth the trip—especially if you’re passing through town anyway—and while you’re there, you can encourage him to open an outpost down here.

The burgers are as delectable as they are innovative. There’s the Bullwinkle, a patty topped with caramelized onions, a dollop of mousse made with Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. blue cheese and a drizzle of balsamic syrup; the Green Thumb is brightened with avocado, lime butter and dandelion greens; and the Wilbur is layered with house-cured bacon and melted Cheddar cheese.

I loved the Zesty Goat, a chèvre-topped burger with a candied Meyer lemon and wilted arugula, while my 10-year-old devoured more than one of the Gangnam Styles, a burger dressed up with housemade kimchee and smeared with spicy aioli.

And the burgers aren’t the only items on the menu. Starters include salads with greens from Route 1 Farms in Santa Cruz and chèvre from Harley Farms Goat Dairy in Pescadero. Piles of fries, some tossed with garlic and others with an Argentine-style chimichurri sauce, and Brussels sprout chips are offered as sides. Non-burger entrées include el Salchichero hot dogs as well as veggie burgers, chicken and fish.

Ground Up is the latest project of Koebel’s Local FATT, a mission more than an organization that Koebel, a CAA-trained chef and son of a pig farmer, has run for several years out of the Half Moon Bay building where Ground Up is located. FATT stands for “food awareness through teaching,” and Koebel’s goal is to educate the public about where its food comes from, to support farmers to create more healthy local food systems.

Ground Up promises to be a delicious addition to the broader region’s culinary community, and being centered on the eminently approachable burger, it could be one of Koebel’s most successful food education projects to date.

Ground Up

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

My First Cover

Imagine my surprise when I saw a thumbnail of the latest version of Edible Monterey Bay and I recognized the photo. I knew my story about beekeeping was going to be in it, but to land the heart, literally, skipped a beat.

The editor sent me an email, almost as soon as it hit facebook: "I didn't tell you because I wanted it to be a SURPRISE!"

Boy, was it! I think I'm still on Cloud 9. I'll share the article once I get my hands on it. But I had to share this bit of sunshine.