Month: June 2020

Hawk’s Roost Ranch Vineyard, Russian River Valley

Hawk's Roost Ranch - Russian River Valley

Hawk’s Roost Ranch – Russian River Valley

What began as a weed abatement program for Chuck and Gail Jones turned into one of our stellar vineyards. The couple first purchased a half-acre adjacent to what would become their nearly 8-acre property in West Sonoma County in 1968. “The place had an absentee owner. There were some unkempt zinfandel vines on that land but it appeared to be propagating more weeds and poison oak than wine vines,” Chuck recalls. Eventually building and living on their half acre, Gail grew weary of the eyesore next door. “I’m tired of looking at weeds. Let’s buy the place,” she declared in 1992.

They called the owner only to learn the property would be going on sale within days. They acted fast. Then, after denuding the vegetation, the couple began fulfilling a lifelong dream of farming, or rather, learning to farm. Their first plantings were pumpkins and cut flowers, followed by sheep. “Neither of us knew anything about farming grapes much less what rootstock was and what it should be for our particular growing area,” Chuck recalls.

Chuck Jones of Hawk's Roost

Chuck Jones of Hawk’s Roost

Since their “growing area was in the middle of the Russian River Valley winegrowing region, they soon sought and found seasoned practitioners, particularly in Jim Pratt, one of the area’s most respected vineyard managers. He analyzed the soil, finding it consisting of alluvial clay-loam with hardpan about 18 inches beneath the surface. Jim suggested a hearty rootstock and equally virulent clone, known for strength and boldness.

In 1998, more than 5,000 vines eventually were laid in east-west rows, calling for the sun-sides to flourish under protective leaf canopy while the shady side would require aggressive leaf plucking. “We’d go out and talk to each vine, treating them like each was a station of the cross,” Chuck recalls. “This is when we realized was kind of commitment this would take.”

The reward has been consistently meaty wines featuring notes of bacon fat, smoky, peppery, savory spice and Santa Rosa plum, making the mouth buzz with flavors.

AVA: Russian River Valley

Clones: Swiss Klevner Mariafeld (UCD-23)

Jessie’s Grove, Lodi Ancient Field Blend

Greg Burns, owner and winemaker of Jessie’s Grove

Greg Burns, owner and winemaker of Jessie's Gove

The proper entrance is with head bowed and on bended knee. The 5-acre Royal Tee vineyard at Jessie’s Grove near the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta town of Lodi has endured for 128 years. Originally planted in the midst of 320 loamy, oak-studded acres by pioneer Joseph Spenker and named for his daughter Jessie, the property is now farmed by Greg Burns, Spenker’s great great grandson. Here, tradition holds; deep roots are venerated. The gnarly vines, resembling stunted oaks, are comprised of 86 percent head-trained Zinfandel, with a field blend of Black Prince, a close cousin of Cinsault and of Moroccan decent, Flame Tokay, once a popular table grape, and Mission grapes brought to California by Franciscan friars in the 1700s. The last jewels in the treasure chest are ancient Carignane vines. Each contributes a distinct element for the alchemy we strive for.

This is our first project supporting Lodi growers and we are honored that Greg Burns has entrusted us to work with arguably the most cherished vineyard of a region already renown for its ancient vines.

Ancient Field Blend

AVA: Lodi, San Joaquin County

Oppenlander Vineyard, Mendocino County Pinot Noir

Nearly 160 years ago, Charles Oppenlander, a trailblazing Danish immigrant, cleared a redwood forest near the hamlet of Comptche, about as far away as anyone could get in northern Mendocino County. There, he built a timbered house, logged the nearly 2,750-acre property, raised cattle, gardens, and a family. Five generations later, little has changed, save for an impressive accumulation of rusty heavy equipment, junker cars and trucks, and a vineyard that has earned the toasts of cool climate pinot lovers.

Bill and Norman Shandel, Oppenlander’s great grandsons, occupy the land now along with their wives, Kitty and Wanda, some cattle, and immense blackberry bushes that turn out jams with flavors that rival their wines. The 20-acre vineyard, first planted more than 100 years ago and more recently replanted in 1998, is hosted in heavy, clay loam, surrounded by redwoods. Set 8 miles from the coast, well north of the Anderson Valley, the scalloped property holds cool marine air that fosters long hang time and slow ripening. The results are assertive but supple wines featuring oceanic acidity with aromas of smoked meats morphing into cool forest floor and bramble with raspberry and wild strawberry on the palate.

Pinot clones are Pommard, Dijon 114, 115

AVA: Mendocino County

Van der Kamp Vineyard, Sonoma Mountain Pinot Noir

Morning light on the mountain

Morning light on the mountain

Learn more about the beauty and history of van der Kamp Vineyard The winding, 1,500-ft. ascent up Sonoma Mountain provokes the senses. Foremost is the recognition of sheer natural beauty broadcast by the forested and open hills, undulating and opening vistas folding unto themselves. This is the stage; all else is the theater of nature and human history. Marine fog plays a big role, emanating from the Petaluma Gap and the Bay, pushing from separate directions. Their silent, silver breaths travel upward along stream cuts and through gaps in the hills to converge, joust, and dictate the mountain’s climate, rarely shrouding, mostly visiting long enough to kiss and cool its volcanic slopes before giving way to the sun. Natives recognized the mountain’s attributes and their history traces back thousands of years. From their settlements along the Russian River came the Pomos with their baskets; from the coast came the Miwoks, the area’s hunter-gatherers, so too did the Hupas arrive from the north with their penchant for baking, carving, and sweat lodge ceremonies. They were joined by small groups of Wappo, fierce and proud hunters from what is now the Napa Valley, and Patwin, who hunted, sowed seeds and were considered supreme spiritual myth keepers. The tribes came to trade and ritualistically express their spirits and the land upon which they had enacted these rituals is the 60-plus acre bench of land Martin and Dixie van der Kamp first farmed in the late 60s and then purchased in 1989. They raised six children here as well as countless hens and roosters surrounded by gardens and orchards and cultural icons. Buddhist prayer flags fly over the entrance to the property and across the road is the Sonoma Mountain Zen Center. On the property itself stands a sweat lodge erected at the request of tribesmen who still gather on the land.
Ulysses directs the harvest

Ulysses directs the harvest

Spirituality is the core of the place and Martin and Dixie van der Kamp, along with their son Ulysses, have assumed the proprietorship of a belief system that has bound this ground for thousands of years—the deep connection to the land and the land’s ability to reciprocate. The Pinot noir vines are among the oldest still producing in Sonoma County. Ulysses farms them single-handedly, pruning and leafing each as devotedly as if it were a one-and-only child, striving for balance over abundance, bio-diversity over monoculture, letting nature inform him and responding in kind. The results are floral wines with finessed tannins reflecting the sacred ground from which they come. Stewardship flows from the land to those of us fortunate enough to work with the van der Kamps. We feel this kinship, these shared values and our own responsibility for upholding the spirit this land and these grapes provide. Pinot clones are La Tache, 777, 828, Klevner Mariafeld, UCD 23, Martini, Swan, Pinot Meunier AVA: Sonoma Mountain

Lorenzo Vineyards, Russian River Valley Chardonnay

Russian River epicenter

Russian River epicenter

Land speculation, bad luck, followed by neighborly assistance and blind luck created this premium Chardonnay vineyard located at the epicenter of the Russian River Valley appellation. Owned and farmed since 1974 by John and Phyllis Bazzano and named for John’s Italian grandfather, these 10 acres might have been a golf fairway instead of a now famous vineyard. “My father, a doctor, and some friends got wind that the Santa Rosa Golf and Country Club was considering expanding. So, being pretty shrewd, they purchased land that would be in the way of the expansion, hoping for a nice sale,” recalls John, a retired high school shop teacher. “Well, the expansion never came our way. We ended up with a bunch of oak trees and an old orchard.”
Phyllis joins the harvest

Phyllis joins the harvest

John and Phyllis took over the property in 1973, living part time in a trailer on the property and commuting to Novato, where they taught school. John acquired a beat up old tractor and they spent the year clearing the land, hoping to farm and eventually raise their two boys, John Jr. and Matt, and their daughter, Soo, in a house John would build himself. “We worked on a shoestring,” John says, adding that they tried various crops and even some livestock before recognizing what their neighbors already had realized: their ground possessed just the right amount of Russian River loamy clay to foster wine grapes. But which grapes? “We were clueless,” John says, chuckling to this day. “We thought Gewürztraminer sounded good. Let’s try that.” They located the varietal for sale at a nursery in Healdsburg and ordered 3,500 vines in May of 1974. John laid out the redwood marking stakes for the vines and waited for them to arrive. “May came and went; then June, and still no vines. In July we said: ‘We can’t wait any longer.’ ” A member of their newly formed potluck club located Chardonnay grapes of dubious quality, but they were for sale and there were plenty available. “Wente clones,” John says. “I had no idea what they were. But what I had instead was blind luck.” Planted in 1974-75, Lorenzo Vineyards not only features some of the oldest Chardonnay vines in the appellation, it has consistently turned out wines known for their expansiveness, their minerality, and profound acidity. “Lemon, peach, liquid slate” are some of the key descriptors accompanying the wines from this site, along with critics’ scores ranging consistently well into the 90s. Premium labels Marcassin, Turley, Landmark, Chasseur, Goldfield, Souverain, and La Follette have also processed Lorenzo grapes in their vineyard designate labels. “Sold out,” is also another term commonly associated with Lorenzo on the label. Greg La Follette has worked with John and Phyllis Bazzano for more than 10 years. “I admire the care John puts into his vineyard with his pruning and leafing practices, channeling dappled sunlight into each vine,” he says. “He’s a natural. You can always count on his meticulousness.”
The fruit of John's labor

The fruit of John’s labor

Alquimista is proud to count Lorenzo Vineyards among our growing portfolio of premium vineyards. We are working with the Bazzano family to produce a very limited 2015 chardonnay harvest that promises to live up to all the expectations the vineyard has rewarded over the years. Clones are Wente, and Unspecified AVA: Russian River Valley

Haiku Vineyard, Sanel Valley, Mendocino County Chardonnay

Russian River pastoral

Russian River pastoral – (photo Tyler Rodrigue}

Tucked into a bend of the Russian River beneath the Mayacamas Mountains in the Sanel Valley of Mendocino County lie 141 acres of prime Chardonnay plants hosted by Haiku Vineyards. The cobbled and stony soil is the result of centuries of floods. Every block has been organically farmed since they were planted more than 25 years ago. Working with the venerable wine-growing Fetzer family since 2005, Greg has encouraged Haiku’s practices of integrated farming using canopy management, water management, organic compost and natural habitats that encourage raptors for rodent control and songbirds for insect control. Cover crops that attract beneficial insects are utilized instead of pesticides. Cover crops also prevent erosion, retain moisture, and add organic matter to the soil. Weeds are mowed rather than killed by herbicides. The resulting fruit expresses terroir rather than altering it.

Sunrise over the Mayacamas

Sunrise over the Mayacamas – (photo Tyler Rodrigue)

Haiku chardonnay manifests this practice in its purity and cleanliness, allowing itself to reveal indelibly layered, curling aromas and flavors that arrive individually, merge and then leave accented calling cards on the palate.

Clones are UC Davis 4

AVA: Mendocino County

Manchester Ridge Vineyard, Mendocino County Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

Late afternoon on the ridge

Late afternoon on the ridge

As about as far from anywhere, Manchester Ridge lies about one hour west of Boonville up a tortuous, narrow, winding road toward the Mendocino coast. The torture gets worse as you turn onto a rutted dirt road and bump along for more than eight miles ascending ravines and ridges before you can go no farther. You have come to the edge of the land 2000 feet above Point Arena and the Pacific. Here, sharing the land with chestnut orchards, is Manchester Ridge, 30 acres of breathtakingly beautiful, enigmatic and hardscrabble vines. No other vineyard endures what vicissitudes nature throws at it in the way of wind, rain, elevation, temperature mood swings, and weathered soil. And yet Manchester Ridge’s extremes allow its Pinot noir and chardonnay fruit to hang longer, nurturing phenological ripeness and complexity without giving up acidity and freshness. Since the late 1990s Greg has collaborated with vineyard manager Martin Mochizuki to protect and coax Manchester Ridge vines into producing rich, opulent wines featuring ethereal qualities that reach beyond classic Burgundian and California pinots and chardonnays, all the while revealing a purity and grace achieved from turning adversity into overachievement. Pinot clones are Dijon 115, 114, 777 Chardonnay clones Old Wente, 76, 809 AVA: Mendocino Ridge
The romance of winemaking

The romance of winemaking

Mes Filles Vineyard, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

Mes Filles Vineyard, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

Mes Filles vineyard morning

Greg began working with growers Rick and Diane DuNah in 1998, supervising viticulture to his own specifications on their 10-acre site planted above the fog line on a crown of a hill above southwest Sebastopol. The vines are hosted in Goldridge soil, a fine sandy loam left from an inland sea that flowed into the Pacific more than 2 million years ago. Goldridge soil is prized for its excellent drainage and lack of challenging fertility. The sloping vineyards enjoy long hours of sunlight and cool coastal evening temperatures borne by marine air rushing through the Petaluma Gap.
Greg LaFollette and David Gensler

Greg LaFollette and David Gensler

With the vineyard’s new owner David Gensler, as with the DuNahs, Greg monitors the health of the vines, guiding them to produce small clusters and low, but distinctly flavorful yields manifesting the essence of cool climate Pinot noir. Pinot clones are Dijon 115 and Pommard Chardonnay clones are Dijon 95 and Robert Young AVA: Russian River Valley
Scroll to top