What makes pinot noir unique among red wines is the elegance and finesse of its delicious flavors and aroma. Far too often, wine writer Ed McCarthy notes, California pinots are “too big, too ripe and too high in alcohol”. The trend is worldwide. In his book, “North American Pinot Noir”, John Haeger recalls the lament of one Burgundian wine maker: “Our wines of lace and polish have given way to more structured wines marked with tannin and fruit.” Our goal in winemaking, both in the vineyard and the winery, is to maximize the expression of what Mr. McCarthy calls “the delicacy and subtlety that is so difficult to capture in California pinot noirs.”
Pinot noir is a notoriously fickle grape to grow, requiring days that are warm but not hot, nights that are quite cool and ideally moist with fog, but not enough moisture to cause the bete noire of pinot noir, mildew. It hates “wet feet,” so the soil must be well-drained. A pioneer of California winemaking once said “the devil made pinot noir” to taunt its growers. Only a few areas of the West Coast are ideally suited for pinot noir, and the Anderson Valley is one of them.
We call our vineyard the Deep End Vineyard because it is located in the northwest end of the valley where it slopes “deeper” down toward the ocean. This part of Anderson Valley was named “The Deep End” by locals who had their own secret language called Boontling. It is currently planted with three French Dijon clones – 114, 115 and 777 – each comprising 30% of the vines, and 10% Pommard, a moderately more intense pinot noir clone. The Dijon clones each offer a slightly different characteristic of aroma, fruit and body. The vineyard is planted in a traditional 5×8 pattern, five feet between vines and eight feet between rows, on a southern-facing hill that slopes down to Mill Creek, a full-year, spring-fed stream. Summer days are typically 80 to 90 degrees; nights 50 to 55 degrees, a variance not seen in many wine-growing locales. The slope and the soil, a rocky loam, ensure good drainage, while the southern exposure maximizes sun and heat. The moist air streaming in from the ocean, approximately 10 miles away, cools the vineyard at night. All these factors create an ideal microclimate for raising pinot noir.