A decade ago, when I was named the winemaker for MacRostie, one of the key things I was tasked with accomplishing was to build a vineyard program that would take our winery far beyond its Carneros roots, and that would be the equal of the finest Chardonnay and Pinot Noir producers in California. Today, we source grapes from 17 acclaimed Pinot Noir vineyards and more than 20 Chardonnay vineyards, with renowned sites in the Russian River Valley, Green Valley, Carneros, Fort Ross-Seaview, Redwood Valley, Anderson Valley, Santa Maria Valley, and the Petaluma Gap. While partnering with the finest growers in California has been one of the keys to our success, we also believe in the importance of estate vineyards, which is why we began developing a remarkable unplanted piece of land in the mountainous eastern edge of the Petaluma Gap appellation (AVA) in 2017. We called the vineyard Nightwing, both to honor the property’s owner (a former WWII pilot who built a landing strip on the site), and as a nod to the Petaluma Gap’s many indigenous birds.
While the Petaluma Gap only became an official AVA a few years back, among winemakers who focus on cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir it has earned renown as one of the finest region for Burgundian varietals in California. Home to such famed vineyards as Gap’s Crown, the Petaluma Gap benefits from a wind gap in the coastal mountain range that funnels cooling breezes and fog east from the Pacific Ocean through the city of Petaluma and south to San Pablo Bay. The persistent afternoon breezes result in lower grape yields and longer hang times, enabling flavors and fruit characteristics to fully develop, and creating beautifully balanced wines of uncommon depth and distinction.
While designing Nightwing, which features elevations ranging from 1,100 to 1,300 feet and numerous exposures and soil types, my friend and mentor, Steve MacRostie, and I personally selected all of the rootstocks, along with our favorite clones of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. We largely planted the Pinot Noir above the fog line and predominantly established our Chardonnay at lower elevations where it benefits most from the cooling influence of the fog. The end result is a majestic 74-acre vineyard, planted as a mosaic of 35 blocks featuring 44 acres of Pinot Noir and 30 acres of Chardonnay. Working with Steve to establish Nightwing has been one of the proudest accomplishments of my career. To be able to sculpt this stunning site from the ground up was a remarkable opportunity to apply everything that we have learned about cool-climate viticulture at MacRostie over the past 35 years.
Though still in its youth, Nightwing is already taking flight! Crafted from four elite clones, our inaugural 2020 Nightwing Vineyard Chardonnay is a captivating wine with spicy aromas and soaring flavors of orange blossom, honeysuckle, ripe mango, and zesty lime. Vibrant, toned, and elegantly textured, it beautifully reflects the bright, balanced, and complex style that Steve first helped to pioneer. It is also a spectacular debut from a site that promises to one day become one of the Petaluma Gap’s defining vineyards. As I write this, our debut 2021 Nightwing Vineyard Pinot Noir is patiently aging in barrel. Based on early tastings, it promises to be a spectacular wine! We will also be using fruit from Nightwing Vineyard to further enhance the quality of our acclaimed Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and Chardonnay bottlings, ensuring that they continue to be benchmarks for the region.