The key to great wines is the ability to grow and harvest great grapes. Northern California is one of the finest wine growing regions in the world, and we intend to produce wines that reflect the special character of these vineyards. Because we buy grapes from independent growers, we travel from vineyard to vineyard most of the year. When we visit the vineyards, we discuss with the grower ideas on how to improve pruning, trellising and other growing techniques to improve the quality of their grapes. Our growers clearly understand that we are interested in quality rather than quantity.
There are several hundred major soil types in Northern California. Red Hill clay loam, Sierra coarse, sandy loam and Ahwahnee rocky, thermic loam appear to be some of the best for growing grapes, as they are well-drained and contain the kinds of trace mineral elements that contribute to rich flavor and aromas in wine.
Red Hill Series - Sonoma Valley, Sonoma County
At the northern end of Sonoma Valley on the Mayacamas foothills between Nunn’s Canyon and Kenwood are the Wildwood Vineyards. Wildwood has many micro-climates and slopes with different exposures. Part of the vineyard is planted on hillsides and mountain ridges above the frost line and, thus, has a warmer micro-climate during the growing season. The slope and location of the vineyard shelter it from the fog and winds from the valley openings and Sonoma Mountain vents. The mild climate allow the fruit to develop slowly with optimum maturity and balance.
The soil, known as the Red Hill series, is similar to the soil in Farneta in that it is also a cool clay loam, rich in iron-oxide and organic nutritive materials. The Red Hill soils are rare and comprise only 14 percent of the total soil in Sonoma County. My grandfather, Samuele and my father, August recognized the potential of this soil in small parts of Sonoma County land as having the perfect growing characteristics for premium wine grapes. Red Hill series is prized among winemakers of the world for the extra character it imparts to the wine.
Sierra & Ahwahnee Series - Amador County
Amador County is located in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range; and has long been known for its distinguished Zinfandel and Barbera grapes. Our growers’ vines are planted on rolling, oak-studded hillsides at elevations great than 1,500 feet. The vineyards are located in the Shenandoah Valley and Sutter Creek areas. While Amador County temperatures rise earlier in the day than Sonoma County, the evening breezes from the Sierras rapidly cool the vineyards in the evening encouraging the characteristics of balanced wines.
Sierra and Ahwahnee soils provide moderately stressful growing conditions which are ideal for wine fruit. These two primarily sandy clay loam soils originated from both decomposed and weathered granite. The gravelly soil content promotes good drainage, yet the high clay content retains moisture during the dry summer months. The moisture also creates a cool soil temperature which cools the roots, thus slowing vine metabolism. The result is sparse, less bushy leaf canopy on the vine so that the fruit can receive more sunlight for developing deep color and full flavor. These rare iron-oxide soils are characterized by a rich brick-red color.
My grandfather, Samuele had an instinctive sense for locating a micro-climate. He would follow the local bakery truck as it made morning deliveries of piping hot bread. When the windows would steam up as the truck drove thru a cold area, he would make a mental note. Being more scientific today, we use calibrated equipment to identify sites with the potential for grape growing.
We toil day to day in seeking a harmonious relationship between the soil, micro-climate and varietal selection. All of our work in making the right match can be dashed in an instant with crop damage from severe front or unseasonable heavy rains. Yet working with the soil gives us unending rewards…beautiful moments when the sun and rain glitter on the vines and feelings of satisfaction when our studies and physical exertion in the fields produce an exceptional wine. The soil is truly an infinite source of inspiration for our art.