The simple truth of winemaking is that it takes great vineyards to make exceptional wines, which is why the competition for the finest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay is so fierce. We have been building relationships with the best growers for decades. We call these acclaimed winegrowers our Vineyard Partners—many of which are multigenerational families of farmers who played an integral role in establishing the world-class quality of Sonoma County viticulture. This includes our original Vineyard Partner, the Sangiacomo family, who we sourced fruit from to make our debut 1987 Chardonnay, and with whom we’ve now worked for 36 years!
Today, our vineyard program spans 25 Chardonnay vineyards and 20 Pinot Noir sites, including vineyards farmed by legendary winegrowers like the Sangiacomos, Duttons, and Bacigalupis. We have also gone beyond our Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast roots to explore extraordinary vineyards in the Anderson Valley and on California’s Central Coast. When selecting which vineyards to partner with, we focus on areas where marine influences, wind, fog, or elevation create ideal cool growing environments—factors that are integral to achieving our pure, balanced, and age-worthy style. We are also looking for partners who share our vision and our commitment to excellence.
As part of these relationships, we visit every vineyard regularly throughout the year, and especially in the run-up to harvest, working carefully with our growers to tailor farming techniques, including pruning, fruit drops, and harvest decisions. Because the relationships we form are collaborative, respectful, and long-lasting, we regularly get access to the most coveted blocks and prized older vines, which in turn shapes the character and complexity of our wines.
Single-Vineyard Versus Blended Wines
Not every vineyard we work with becomes the source for a single-vineyard wine. Because we make both Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, sourcing grapes from new vineyards for our appellation wines is a great way to evaluate the quality of new sites in our vineyard program. Whether in a blend or on its own, every vineyard we partner with should offer something unique and special. Sometimes, after several years of working with a site for one of our appellation wines, if it truly excels it will get “promoted” to a vineyard-designate. Other times, we will get access to grapes from a vineyard we have been yearning to work with and it may become a vineyard-designate almost immediately. One of the big secrets to the extraordinary quality of our Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley wines is that they are largely made up of a who’s who of top vineyards, with most regularly being the source for acclaimed single-vineyard wines.
Follow the three-part blog series highlighting our key vineyard partners: