Learn a bit about winter on the farm and how we believe its a natural way to bring things back into balance.
by Jeana and Chad Steiner
While visiting Stehekin this past summer we bumped into a good friends mom – both full time Stehekin residents. Her mom spent a career as the ultimate hostess in Stehekin. We asked her “how do you keep yourself at your best for guests?”. Her answer – #1 You have to like people and hosting (check for us) and #2 Winter. Like a perennial crop that puts everything it has into producing fruit during the warm months, it too takes the winter to bring energy back to its roots and store it up for the season ahead. Thank you Mother Nature for the metaphor. And we thank all of you for fueling our role as hosts with your presence. Its truly a blessing to serve each and every one of you. Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to refuel in winter. And yes, our winter hosting hours are shorter, but there are still many activities on the farm. We’d like to share a bit about winter on the farm.
How will Chad and Jeana take advantage of winter?
To be perfectly open, we need the winter to reconnect. Juggling our young family, farm, winery and marriage is hard to keep balanced. The wheel of life and its many components can sometimes become out of balance. Like a car tire – if its not balanced it makes for a rough ride. We’re planning to use this winter to reconnect and spend time with family. We bought our family season pass to Echo, we might camp in the snow, we’d love to go to Big White again – and Chad and Jeana will be investing in time together.
Caption: this picture serves as a metaphor… how do we keep everything in balance. We believe work life integration is a better descriptor than work life balance. For example: having the freedom and flexibility to take an afternoon to go to a kids track meet during the week.
Why are we open less in Winter?
Our working farm and winery business is connected to both our beautiful local community as well as visitors from outside our Valley. As much as we love ALL the seasons in the Lake Chelan Valley, we recognize the warmer months are more popular for visitors to vacation here. Being we are a working farm, winter allows a beautiful balance to happen as visitation slows down. More intimate and less frequent gathering of guests to the tasting room allows us to embrace time with our young family. It also allows us time to plan and prepare for the upcoming growing season. Although our winter hours are shorter, our wines are available on our website and we do accept reservations. Come experience the amazing blue skies and snow capped hills the Lake Chelan Valley offers during winter.
How to plan your wintertime visit to the farm?
Keep an eye on the weather. If its snowy, dress warm and if you’d like, bring snow shoes. If its cold, consider making a reservation for the inside space. Although our inside tasting room space is small, we find it to be a good fit for the amount of visitors most of the winter and also love how intimate the small groups can be. We love tasting wine and visiting with guests in the winter. Or, maybe you’d like stay in our guest house. With our Swedish gas fireplace and cozy space – it can serve as a great getaway.
Our Vines & Wines
Vines: Most the leaves have fallen from the vines and its really starting to reveal those powerful fruit producing shoots. The amazing part of winter in the vines is really seeing the structure of the 2023 crop. Vines produce fruit on the shoots the grow that season. And, the color of the shoots themselves is a beautiful light brown. Come see the vineyard before March to catch this view. Once we hit March pruning will begin.
Wines: All our wines are aging in the cellar. One of the first winemakers we worked for described the natural evolution of winter with the wines. How they can almost go into a deep slumber then slowly come back to life in the spring. We’re definitely able to taste and smell the evolution of wine as it ages. Maybe there’s also an element of the wines aligning themselves over winter in preparation to go to work as a vehicle to bring people together. Most our white wines are bottled in March, our Pinot Noir after 11 months is bottled in August/September and our bigger reds at the same time but after twice as long aging. On a practical note – winter is a time for topping wines in barrel, doing blending and bench trials, cold stabilizing (we use mother nature), prepping new labels and tasting these new creations.
Caption: a key activity ahead of winter is fall fertilization. This allows the fertilizer to work into the soil throughout the winter when we’re receiving moisture.
Sadly the glorious abundance and color of our flowers goes away in winter. The beauty is that seasonality of flowers builds our desire to see them each year as they begin to bloom on the farm. The Tulips are all tucked away into the soil and will be one of the first blooms of the next season. The Dahlias have all been dug and will be separated soon as we prepare to open sales at the beginning of September. But, winter is really a time to build plans for the coming flower season. As we line up all the seed and plan the garden map we start to plant trays in February. The amazing thing about all the planning is the beautiful colors that run through our mind. Flowers are such a bright and beautiful gift.
The Apple Slumber
Like the vines, the apples bring all their energy to their roots this time of year. And, for those of you we’ve shared pruning tips with – it’s a great time to see the trees structure and scenarioize pruning decisions. We’ve got bigger plans for the orchard this year. If you visited during apple season, you may have noticed we didn’t pick our Gala’s for a commercial crop. The price doesn’t support keeping them anymore, so we’ll be grafting some of them to new varieties and pulling some out. We feel like pulling some out will really help open the other trees up to more light and provide more room for the sheep to graze. Pruning the entire orchard will take place over many weeks. Ask us about a winter farm tour – we’re happy to give you a behind the scenes tour.
Farm Animal Update
The animals continue to be such a fun thing for the kiddos and adults visiting to see and learn about. One quick shout out is to our loyal egg customers – thank you! Chickens are amazing animals and those of you who support them by buying their eggs – you make it possible to have them be part of the farm. We’re hovering at right about 80 chickens. And once the sheep condo is done the chickens will get a housing upgrade, they’re excited lol. The sheep are doing well and eating lots of hay. It’s possible we’ll be adding a couple more… our High School Ag Teacher keeps them coming (let’s not forget the goats Mickey and Hank – they’re pretty fat and happy). The ducks are hanging right in there with the chickens and delightfully still laying eggs. The cats have now all been fixed and we’re letting them eat lots of mice. It’s amazing how many mice they find (and we have/had). The dogs are well, the dogs. Winter time seems to be the time we see many more coyotes so they are definitely very active and on patrol. As with wine, practically speaking – winter means keeping water ice free, lots more food for all the sheep, chickens and goats. We’re so fortunate to have a good friend that grows beautiful grass hay to feed our sheep. With the size of the flock we’ll be getting more from a grower in the Methow Valley soon.
Caption: We’ll be feedking lots of hay this winter to keep the sheep and goats happy. Mickey and Hank have thrived this year with all the grass they’ve been able to eat.
Almost forgot to talk about the bee’s
Well the bee’s have been the newest project for the Steiner Bro’s. And thanks to their bee mentor Craig, he’s helped make it all possible. Wintertime is when the bee’s rest. The honey the bee’s built up over the warm months is what they’ll live off of for winter. We moved our bee’s into an insulated frame to help keep them warm. Our job is to check on them throughout the winter to make sure they have enough food to continue to thrive. And the boys are strategizing how to expand their bee production this next season. Stay tuned for more Steiner Bro’s Honey in 2024.
Caption: the bee’s are all cozied in for the winter. It’ll be until spring before we suit up again. The boys had a blast with their flow hive this year.
This Thanksgiving week, we’re so grateful for all of you. We’re so incredibly grateful for the opportunity mother nature gives us with Winter. A beautiful metaphor for our lives as well. Have an amazing week!