We believe strongly in wines of terroir -- the French term best translated as "somewhereness" -- and choose our vineyard and winemaking practices to maximize our chances of expressing our terroir in our wines.
Our goal is to produce wines with a true reflection of their varietal character, of the place where they were grown, and of the vintage that they came from.
To produce our wines, we use four core practices:
A Carefully Selected Site with Calcareous Soils
Our Adelaida District AVA location -- in the foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains west of Paso Robles, California -- was chosen after three years of intensive research. Our soils are composed of calcareous clay, similar to those which produce the great wines of the southern Rhone Valley. Our steep slopes offer a variety of microclimates, soil depths and exposures. Our altitude varies between 1400' and 1600', and our proximity to the ocean provides warm to hot summer days and cool to cold summer nights. The resulting long growing season produces gracefully ripened fruit in nearly every vintage.
We imported our vines from Beaucastel, shepherded them through a USDA-mandated 3-year quarantine, and propagated them in our on-site nursery. These clones were hand-selected for intensity of flavor and true varietal character. Some of these grape varieties -- including Grenache Blanc, Counoise, and Picpoul Blanc -- had never been brought into the United States before, and we brought in new, high-quality clones of the varieties that existed here previously.
Stressed grapevines produce less fruit, but fruit that is intensely flavorful. We stress our vines in two ways. Most of our older plantings are close-spaced (1600 to 1800 per acre) to create competition, and trellised low to the ground to take advantage of the radiant heat from the rocky soil. Each vine is limited to 8-12 bunches each year. These sections received limited irrigation in early years to get them established, but have been entirely dry-farmed most recent vintages.
The majority of our newer plantings are planted entirely without irrigation infrastructure. We plant these blocks more widely spaced (350-600 vines per acre) so that the vines can survive even the early years without any additional water. Dry-farming forces the vines' roots deep into the bedrock and makes sure that they pull the maximum character of place out of their environment.
Although each technique stresses the grapevines in different ways, both produce small clusters of grapes with thick skins. We believe that a balance of the two gives us intensity with both structure and elegance.
Organic Vineyards with Hands-On Farming
Our organic vineyard practices following the lead of the Beaucastel estate in Chateauneuf du Pape. Like Beaucastel, we use no chemical herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers in the vineyard. Cover crops minimize erosion, host beneficial insects, and return nitrogen to the soil. Composting keeps soil fertility up, while compost tea controls mildew in the vineyard and reduces our need for sulfur. We received our organic certification in January, 2003. We began farming much of the vineyard Biodynamically in 2010, and have increasingly incorporated a mixed grazing herd of sheep, alpacas and donkeys (pictured right) into the vineyard since 2012.
We prune and harvest by hand. The pruning is done both to promote the general health of the vine and to minimize crop load, and we regularly thin our crop to improve the quality of the fruit. All grapes are harvested by hand at optimum ripeness, and most of the vineyard blocks are harvested in multiple passes, ensuring that the grapes that arrive at our winery for vinification are at peak ripeness.