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HAMERCIER Vineyard

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 black oak. 

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.

The original 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.            

Muscat Grapes
Muscat Grapes

A field 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.

One 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!

The original 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).

 

Petite 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.