Our vineyard property is 15 acres, of which 10 acres are suitable
for planting. It is located at 2,600 ft altitude and has a wonderful view of some of the higher Sierra
summits and is surrounded
by a striking collection of tall pines and cedars as well as some
The first phase of our vineyard, planted in 2002 and replacing existing
own-rooted Chardonnay vines (i.e., phylloxera vulnerable), is a 3
acre experimental vineyard intended to determine which grape varieties/clones
grow best in our micro-climate and soil (also called "terroir" by
educated people) and which ones produce the best wines. The
original planting involved 20 different grape varieties (and multiple
clones within each variety). The second phase will involve grafting
over the less successful varieties/clones to the more successful
ones and will take place in 2006 and 2007. The third Phase will involve
planting the remaining 7 acres with larger quantities of the most
successful varieties/clones and will begin in 2007. We expect
to harvest 30-40 tons of grapes when the vineyard is fully planted
and mature, making up roughly half of what we plan to crush eventually, with the other half coming from top growers in surrounding areas.
white wine varieties we planted were: Gewurztraminer,
Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Pinot Gris, Muscat Blanc, Orange Muscat and Viognier. Emerging
white varieties are the two Muscats, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.
blend (i.e., harvested and fermented together) of our Muscats and Gewurztraminer
produces a remarkably aromatic wine we called Fleur de
Lune, to evoke an equally
remarkable and fragrant flower called moonflower. Click
here and here
for more info on this intriguing flower which only opens at night. We
will expand plantings of these varieties, using purchased grapes until our
vines start producing fully. Ripe
Muscat grapes in particular taste so good that the challenge is not to eat
too much of it either before ("...honey, I need to go and check the
sugar level of the Muscat again, I haven't checked it for at
least 6 hrs!") or during harvest.
of the Sauvignon Blanc clones we planted and which is doing very
well is called Musqué and has some Muscat in its lineage,
producing a very fruity expression of this often grassy variety. It
is no accident that this variety is being re-discovered in this country
because it has so much more personality than some of its often blander
competitors, such as Chardonnay, Viognier and Pinot Gris. Eventually,
we plan to offer three types of Sauvignon Blanc (grassy, fruity and
a balance of the two), with the ratio of the more fruity Musqué clone
to the more conventional grassy clones determining the grassiness/fruitiness
balancing act. Much more appealing than just how buttery a
Chardonnay can be made!
red wine varieties were: Bordeaux varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet
Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec), Rhone varieties (Grenache, Mourvèdre,
Syrah, and Petite Sirah), Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Barbera, and Zinfandel. Our Bordeaux varieties are already producing a powerful field blend we call Cinq Etoiles, exhibiting a level of complexity only attainable when all five
components are present.
Tempranillo, the principal variety used for premium Spanish wines, grows very well in our
vineyard and provides top quality grapes and we are expanding plantings of
this variety. This outcome is not surprising because the best growing
regions where this grape thrives in Spain are located at about 800-900 meters
altitude which is roughly the altitude of our vineyard (2600 ft), and clay also dominates
their soil (they even face the same late spring frosts challenges we face).
Sirah is also doing very well and will be developed further, providing
deeply colored grapes which can be used either to add color, body,
depth and tannin to any blend, even when used in small quantities,
or can produce a top quality wine on its own, albeit not for the
faint of heart! Along the same lines we are making two new
additions to our vineyard, namely Tannat and Graciano, which can
play a similar role as Petite Sirah. The former can also be
vinified as a single variety wine with the challenge being to tame
its powerful tannins, a challenge being met admirably in Uruguay
in recent years, while a small amount of the latter is the hidden
component of the more successful Tempranillo wines produced in Spain.
Late ripening red varieties, such as Barbera, Mourvèdre and Zinfandel did not ripen as fully as required and will be grafted over to the more succesful varieties. However, we have secured an exceptional grape source for Barbera (Cooper Vineyard in Amador county) and will continue making premium wine with those superb grapes.
> For more detail see our "Terroir" and
our Grape Growing sections.