Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
Syrah Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
Alban Vineyard, Edna
Ranch, Russian River Valley
Ranch, Napa Valley
Hirsch Vineyard, Sonoma
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Introduced to the secrets of the Sonoma Coast in
1994 during a stint working for Helen Turley in her Marcassin Vineyard,
Ehren spent a full year noting the areas climate idiosyncrasies,
soil elements, and coastal influences. Its steep hillsides, rocky
soil, and cool temperatures made it an ideal location for cool climate
varietals. In addition, only a few other vineyards had made the
area their home, keeping land prices within reach of Ehrens
then demographic: Hand-to-Mouth. Once he was completely besotted,
he indulged his penniless self in a meeting with a local real estate
Several false starts and overpriced bogs later, Ehren found himself
walking a 40-acre parcel on the Gualala Ranch, boasting a whopping
five plantable acres perched on the crown of steeply sloping hillsides
fanning out like a skirt. Gary, the owner, had planned to finance
the note himself and figured that after several payments, this kid
would quickly go broke and forfeit the land back to him to sell
all over again. Pulling the proverbial rabbit out of his wallet,
Ehren came up with the down payment. Two years later he paid Gary
off in full. It would be still another year before we broke ground
on the vineyard.
The relatively small region within the Sonoma Coast AVA that our vineyard shares
with those of Marcassin, Flowers, Hirsch, Martinelli, and Peter
Michael, among others, is characterized by minimum elevations of
1000 feet, (keeping us just above the fog line), and distances from
the ocean of 1-3 miles as the crow flies (keeping temperatures lower
than average). ). In fact, an initiative led by the vintners at the above-named wineries is working to create the Seaview Fort Ross subappellation to better define the unique area we've all chosen to best express our varietals' potential.
Before we could layout our vineyard we had to liberate the wild
pig that Gary had penned up as a baby, find new homes for the decades-old
trailers left behind, and turn a cash-crop drying-hut into a civilized
shelter for overnights (the trailers were OUT of the question).
What we did not disturb was the towering bay tree, estimated at
300 years of age, which proudly stands in the center of the vineyard
casting its considerable shadow without prejudice on all sides.
Planted with year-old bench grafts in 1998, our humble five acres
of vineyard worked hard to produce fruit in its third leaf - although not enough to produce marketable quantities of wine until the 2001 vintage -
all according to plan. Tight spacing is the first thing visitors
notice; one block is planted with Syrah spaced meter-by-meter, and
the other with Syrah and Chardonnay spaced 3x6 feet. Because our
parcel is situated off of the power grid, solar panels and pumps are forced to carry water up 200 vertical feet from the two developed springs
on the property to holding tanks situated at the highest point above
the vineyard, before running back downhill through irrigation lines. This sisiphean task tends to limit each plant to an average of about eight gallons all summer. We still pamper the meter-by-meter Syrah but now dry-farm the 3x6 blocks.
In 1998 an adjoining parcel became available and we indulged our youthful empire-building tendencies and snapped it up. Our youthful bank account-building tendencies were not as successful, so development had to wait until 2002 when we planted rootstock. The area we cultivated faces southeast and is surrounded by, and defers to, stands of madronas, douglas firs, redwoods and giant oak trees, which host the best winter mushrooming grounds around. The following year we grafted scion material from six different Pinot Noir selections, chosen by Ehren based on more than 20 years of tastings, to ensure a diversity of plant material.
Also off of the power grid and blessed with
natural springs, this vineyards water is also muscled
hundreds of vertical feet uphill by solar power and metered out miserly. We picked our first fruit from this vineyard in 2006, wrestling a meager ton from the rapacious birds.
We have farmed organically since the beginning, adding compost and oyster-shell lime, hand-hoeing the weeds, planting nitrogen-fixing cover-crops in the fall, and mixing up cocktails of fish-emulsion and water for the irrigation system.
The Gualala Ranch, which hosts our vineyard, bears the scars of
a century of logging and the ravages of the Creightan Ridge fire
30 years ago. We therefor initiated, and continue, a responsible forest management plan which includes planting thousands of redwood and douglas fir seedlings throughout
our property. Our hope is that the wild pigs, coyotes, wild turkeys,
deer, and mountain lions will continue to thrive as their habitat
rebounds, and that the erosion so ubiquitous on our long denuded
hillsides will slow to a halt.