Jack Rabbit Hill Vineyards and Farm is an innovative 70-acre farm located in western Colorado’s North Fork Valley. Here they make organic and Biodynamic wines that naturally celebrate the Earth. Lance and Anna Hanson are the proprietors as well as wonderful people. I spent almost two days on this farm with Lance and Anna, who
made my visit here well worth this specific blog post praising their passions.
Our first day on the farm we spent picking chardonnay grapes. I got to pick with Anna all day as two workers always split a row together in order to harvest efficiently.
I had the most amazing day looking out over the mountains while working and getting to know Anna better. I found her to be such a wonderful person and for that experience I am truly grateful. At times during this trip not getting to know our farmers on that personal level at times made me feel like free labor. That was not the case here as they went out of their way to answer any questions and make us all feel welcome.
Lance loves to talk about the practices they use here on the farm. I do hope that I convey all of this information correctly as it can be quite overwhelming. I am anticipating my abridged version of biodynamic wines and farming tells the story accurately. Biodynamic farming develops healthier, balanced soils with fewer off-farm
inputs, using a set of nine herb and compost teas known as the biodynamic preparations. Lance gave several of my fellow cohorts and me an extensive tour of the grounds our second day. We visited a lone dark freestanding building on the property where these compost teas sit in an underground hole. At some point these teas are used in many different areas of producing pesticide free/richer grapes and stronger more fruitful vines as well as richer soil. Part of this biodynamic practice was adding livestock as well as a wildlife habitat to their farm. Observing and implementing this standard cut their composting needs to a third of what is was seven years ago.
From there we saw the distillery as well as another building where vodka was aged. Being part of the wine pressing was also a highlight. Getting strung by a bee right under my eyeball was definitely not. It looked a lot worse than it felt. Look close, you can see my one eye is a little swollen. I spent the latter part of the day telling everyone to stop looking at me. Lance informed me that the bees are ornery at this time of year as they know they are dying off. Thanks for the Benadryl Anna!
Another interesting fact about the farm is that the Lance and Anna have started to get into growing hops for beer. We saw the field where the last of the hops had just been harvested. From there we got to take a look/feel/smell at hops getting ready to be transported to Denver.
Since I have taken an interest in bread making at school along with making my own starter from figs, I saw this as an opportunity to try out a new starter. Since hops are quite yeasty, I figured I give a hop starter a try. Lance was more than happy to give me a big bag of hops to experiment with. The usual procedure with bread starters is to soak your yeast of choice overnight. From there you strain the product and keep the liquid in a cool dark place for several days. The fermentation process will kick in and after a couple of days you start feeding it with certain ratios of flour and water. There is so much information, suggestions, tips, must-do’s etc. when it comes to starters and what they have the capability to produce. Honestly my brain cannot handle and comprehend the science of it in too much detail. All I understand is that it replaces the typical store brought yeasts and enhances homemade breads with flavors packaged yeast cannot duplicate. There are bakers out there with starters they have been feeding for thirty years!
Lately, this all fascinates me so I jumped right in. I have two starters under my wing at the moment and have been fortunate enough to take from them some yummy bread. Last night I made a cranberry-almond whole wheat bread. I toast this in the morning, add some peanut butter and savor every bite. Good thing about bread is that you can freeze it. I have pre-sliced pieces in the freezer along with a bag full of rosemary-garlic croutons from another experiment several days ago. Talk about
I am terrible with measuring and being precise. In the baking world this is a no-no. I like to eyeball my ingredients and I know for the most part how the end result should feel in my hands. That’s my religion when it comes to making bread. If I even started to get into the bench rise, the pounding, shaping and scaling, we’d all be confused and making lead balls instead of bread. I know most of you have bread makers so pop them out and whip up so nice hearty whole-wheat homemade bread for a treat. It’s flour, water, salt and yeast, a starter if you are so inclined with an end result of pure gluten indulgence. So simple and satisfying, I say go for it.
Thanks again Lance and Anna for the hops and all that wonderful information you shared.
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