If you've visited the winery in the past couple of months (or if you've been reading the Lompoc Record), you will have seen the newest member of our family:
Isn't she a beauty? She moved in behind our tasting room at the end of January. Built by Vermont's own Turtlerock Masonry Heat, this wood-burning brick oven is our latest pride and joy, and the centerpiece of our newest venture: New Vineland Bread.
Why bread? Because baking bread is fundamentally analogous to making wine: both are dependent on the quality of the raw material and the very basic, elemental functions of fermentation: yeast, temperature, timing. Also: because Peter is an amazing baker who has been making his own bread at his DC restaurants for 25 years. In short, because we feel at home in this language and process, and realized it would be a wonderful thing to share it.
Those of you who have visited us during harvest may have seen something like this loaf (pictured) around the winery:
I think it was Peter who made this loaf in our oven at home. Might have been Sashi. This is a pretty good approximation of what our breads are like: handmade, traditional, crusty, chewy, delicious, flavorful. They are both utterly familiar and incredibly special.
For the past couple of months we've been honing our technique and giving away samples at the tasting room and to our friends. In the current lineup are a 100% durum wheat loaf, a fifty-fifty fresh milled loaf (combo of wheat and spelt flour), and a vin santo-walnut loaf (using local walnuts and our own Piedrasassi vin santo).
With the funny way food licensing and city zoning work, we are not yet able to sell bread out of the tasting room. Instead, we've partnered with a CSA here in Lompoc (Santa Rosa Hills CSA), are developing our own bread share program (a kind of bread club, just like a wine club), and are beginning to roll out our presence at Central Coast farmers' markets, one market at a time.
First stop: The Ojai Certified Farmers' Market, Sundays, 9 am - 1 pm. We'll be there for the first time this Sunday, May 13.
It's a very sweet thing to have our little bread coming-out party in Ojai, since it was here that Sashi got his start at the Ojai Vineyard more than 15 years ago. We used to shop that market on Sundays when we lived there, snatching up Friends Ranch pixie tangerines, araucanas from the Lily's Eggs guy, orange blossom honey from the Ojai Bee Man, and that beautiful Treviso radicchio from BD. We'd load our haul into our market bags and then try to get a seat at the counter at Bonnie Lu's, the brunch place in the Arcade.
Ojai was my first real taste of California living, of the twelve-month growing season, of waking up every morning and knowing that a sunny day was ten times more likely than a cloudy one. The year-round bounty and variety at the farmers' markets (even a fairly small one like the Ojai market of the late 90s) was just incredible to me. Wonderful, too, was plucking Meyer and Eureka lemons for lemonade off the tree in the front yard as we came home from work, or having a neighbor beg us to take some avocados off his hands--he just couldn't keep up with his tree's output. There was guacamole to be made, with fresh cilantro and lime and jalapeño and garlic, all from the farmers' market or the garden. The abundance of delicious fresh produce was staggering. We reveled in cooking at home, when cooking really meant getting out of the way and letting the flavor and freshness shine through. In Ojai, we gradually developed the cooking style that has formed the basis of our family's meals: mostly grilling and mixing and assembling, using the highest quality ingredients we can afford.
We feel pretty sentimental about that time in our lives, when we had all the time in the world, it seemed, to sit around the courtyard fountain waiting for Bonnie Lu's pancakes, sipping coffee from the Ojai Coffee Roasting Company. Inevitably either Sashi or I would be in the mood to run over to the Local Hero bookstore (remember that place?) to see what they had on their lovingly curated shelves. We'd while away the mid-day and then wander back home, ready to put on some music and begin the leisurely process of cooking Sunday dinner.
It'll be nice taking a trip down memory lane this Sunday and being, for the first time, on the other side of the table at the farmers' market. Our whole family will be there. Come say hi if you can.
Next post: The Germination of an Idea, or How Sashi Convinced Us to Become Wheat Farmers