All of our wines are estate grown, hand tended and harvested by family and friends. They are all European or “vinifera” varietals that are associated with fine old world wines. Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Merlot and Chardonnay were all established here when we came. Most of these vines are very old (25+ yrs.) and this is both tricky and remarkable.
Tricky in the sense that each one is unique and must be pruned and tended as an individual. There is no one single or fool proof formula that works for all. Remarkable because they are deep rooted, and accustomed to the not so forgiving micro-climate of our little hollow. They are also the benefactors of a rich, rocky soil structure and long summer days.
Many of the original vines are still alive and produce exceptionally expressive, deeply colored fruit when they are happy. Unfortunately, farming the hollow makes for a sharply increased risk from yearly frost damage. We have narrowly dodged many such events and were clobbered by one. The lower elevation also makes a difference in low temperatures during arctic cold blasts and these too, have taken their toll. During the winters of 2014 and 2015 our Cab Sauv vines were killed, with the exception of 2, who we should probably name. Many of our other vines throughout both vineyards were also killed. Vitis vinifera also have little or no resistance to native molds and mildews and require extra care to keep them healthy. This is accomplished with proactive “canopy management” to take advantage of the benefits that sunshine and air naturally provide and fungicide use only as needed each growing season. We often include biological and organic fungicides and controls when the efficacy is good. Our prima donnas make fabulous wine, but are very labor intensive!
With that in mind, we have planted a more cold tolerant vinifera varietal, Albarino, in the lower vineyard block that was originally Cab Sauv. We planted a new block of Pinot Gris in the upper vineyard and filled in the missing Chardonnay and Merlot plants in both vineyards. This time around we planted Cab Sauv in the upper vineyard, where it is a little warmer and slightly sheltered. In the spring we will fill in a few more holes and plant a block of Riesling to fill the lower vineyard. Going forward, we plan to incorporate one or two of the new hybrids being developed specifically for our region. Interestingly, our soils and growing season are surprisingly similar to those in the Bordeaux region of France. It’s those pesky fungi that make our job so tricky!