Sonoma Mountain is perhaps one of the best known land marks in Sonoma, but most people only see if from a distance! Four million years ago, an east-facing slope of Sonoma Mountain blew open, sending molten rock and hot ash raining out over the upper valley. Remnants of the eruption are everywhere: large obsidian boulders, veins of ash, erratic variations in soil, extensive marine deposits, all characteristics of the ancient violence that shaped this hauntingly beautiful area. Sonoma Mountain itself rises to a peak of 2463 feet, and it’s here that wonder grapes grow in the unique terrior.
The Sonoma Mountain Appellation, with its eastern to northeastern exposures, rises high above the western edge of Sonoma Valley on the edge of Sonoma Mountain. Located above the typical morning and evening fog lines, the vines enjoy full morning sunlight and a lengthy growing season during which they can evenly develop and flourish. The region is steep and rustic and has a faraway feeling compared to the rest of the Valley.
The Sonoma MountainAVA is well known for it’s micro-climates that occur within the crevices and folds of the hillside terrain. Because of these diverse micro-climates, it is home to production for a wide range of varietals.
While best known for growing Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in its well-drained soils, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Semillon grapes also thrive in its diverse micro-climates. Well known Wine from this area include Benzinger Family Winery, Ravenswood and Van Der Kamp.
Overlooking the town of Kenwood, the Van der Kamp family has been making wine from this north-facing vineyard on Sonoma Mountain for more than four decades. The vineyard is farmed organically in key vineyard blocks, with some dry-farmed blocks. Few growers in the world give the kind of dedication that vineyard manager Ulysses Van der Kamp gives – and the results show. The Van der Kamps provide their own picking labor, calling on family and friends to pick the fruit so that no outside labor is brought in.
The vineyard sits at 1,400 feet, next to a full vegetable and herb garden and fruit orchard. It used to be that mountain fruit like this meant aggressive tannins but, through Ulysses’ tireless efforts, the viticulture here has worked to finesse the tannic structure of the wines.
It’s hard to believe that summer of 2012 is upon us, but here we are… so what am I going to do over Memorial Day weekend? I’m sure I am not the only person realizing how close the holiday already is, so here is a list of some of the best activities in Napa Valley that are scheduled between now and Memorial Day.
We hope this list helps your Memorial Day Weekend be the most memorable one ever!!
May 26 – 28 — Robert Mondavi Winery Memorial Weekend Moscato Madness
Celebration: Come join us from 10am to 5pm at Robert Mondavi Winery as we celebrate Memorial Day Weekend with Moscato Madness. Our Moscato Fairy will be on site and treat you with a complimentary taste. You will also receive 30% off Moscato. 7801 St. Helena Hwy., Oakville Fee: Free Time: 10:00 am thru 5:00 pm daily Phone Number: 707-968-2002
May 26 — Tres Sabores movie night and fundraiser
Benefit: Tres Sabores movie night and fundraiser for the Oxbow School showing “My Grandmother” a silent film, accompanied live by the Beth Custer Ensemble. Bring a dish to share, chair and a blanket.$10 from every bottle of Tres Sabores wine sold will be donated to The Oxbow Film Program. 1620 S. Whitehall ln, St. Helena Fee: Ticket prices are $60.00 Reserve Admissi Time: 7:30pm Phone Number: 707 967 8027
May 27 — Wine 101 @ St. Supery Vineyards & Winery
Wine Education: We welcome all who wish to expand their knowledge of all that is wine. We start at the beginning with an explanation of where, why and how we plant, grow and harvest our grapes. Then we move onto the winery, following the grape to wine process, from vineyard to the bottle. 8440 St. Helena Hwy, Rutherford, CA Fee: $25/$20 for wine club members Time: 11 a.m.- 12 p.m.; reservations required Phone Number: 1.866.963.4524
May 27 — Les Violettes Concert @ Grgich Hills
Live Music: Enjoy a classic music concert by Violet Grgich and friends! Call for reservations and more information. 1829 St. Helena Hwy, Rutherford CA 94573 Fee: $25/$20 Wine Club Members (Cheese Festival & Concert $40/$25) Time: 2pm Phone Number: 800-532-3057
May 27 — Sterling Vineyards Greek Festival
Celebration: Not everybody can take a summer vacation to Greece…so Sterling Vineyards is bringing Greece to you with our Inaugural Greek Festival! Join us for this can’t miss event celebrating all things Greek: the wine, the food, the music, the culture, the lifestyle. Event price includes food and wine at the Greek Festival, plus aerial tram, self-guided tour, complimentary tasting of five wines and a souvenir wine glass. Call to RSVP. 1111 Dunaweal Lane, Calistoga CA 94515 Fee: $85/$75 Wine Club Members Time: 11:30am-2:30pm Phone Number: 800-726-6136 x1
May 27 — Joan Osborne at Napa Valley Opera House
Live Music: “I knew when the time was right and my voice was ready, I wanted to make a recording like this one,” says Joan Osborne. That recording is Bring It on Home, a collection of vintage blues, R&B and soul songs that make up the seventh album from the Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum artist. 1030 Main St., Napa Fee: $40/$45 Time: 8 p.m. Phone Number: 707-226-7372
May 27 — Sunday Happy Hour: Mosel Rieslings
Wine Tasting: Every Sunday, Back Room Wines pours three very special wines, centered around an ever-changing theme. Sunday Happy Hour is always be just $10, and the wines poured will be on sale for a 10% discount during Happy Hour only. Back Room Wines is pleased to pour three Rieslings from the Mosel in three distinct styles: Kabinett, Spatlese and Auslese. First & Main Streets, Shop 120, Downtown Napa Fee: $10/Tasting. 10% off wines poured. Time: 3-7pm. No reservation neccessary. Phone Number: (707) 226-1378 Toll Free, (877) 322-2576
May 27 — Cheese Festival @ Grgich Hills
Food & Wine Education: Meet local artisan cheese mongers to learn about pairing cheese with wine, plus you’ll get to sample with some wonderful Grgich Hills wines! 1829 St. Helena Hwy, Rutherford CA 94573 Fee: $25/$15 Wine Club Members Time: 11am-2pm Phone Number: 800-532-3057
The Carneros-SonomaAppellation is situated at the southern end of both Sonoma and Napa Counties and encompasses portions of both. Known for it’s summer fog, warm days and a long growing season that is helped by the cooling effect of the Pacific Ocean. The Carneros wine region is an independent American Viticultural Area (AVA). This area influenced by the marine environment of San Pablo Bay, which runs along its southern edge, is generally cooler in summer and warmer in winter than other nearby wine regions. This consistent weather, allows the wines from this area avoid large spikes in differences between vintages.
Carneros became an official AVA in 1983, its unique characteristics based on climate and on its geographic features – the Pacific Ocean, the Coast Mountain Ranges and the San Francisco Bay – that affect the region’s terroir and put a distinctive stamp on its grapes. Some people think of this area as a “sub” Appellation, however it sits in the middle of Sonoma and Napa.
The massive rolling vineyards are planted in rich, though shallow, bay-influenced soils and grow right up to the edges of the bay wetlands. The refreshing environment of Carneros-Sonoma is perfect for growing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and, increasingly, Merlot and Syrah.
Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards is one of the best known Wines from this area. They recently won awards at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Gloria Ferrer’s Executive Winemaker is Bob Iantosca. As a masterful winemaker, Bob is devoted to capturing the distinctive Carneros terroir in wines, and does this uniquely by handcrafting the wine to pair perfectly with food. Bob joined Gloria Ferrer’s Sonoma Carneros vineyards in 1984. Over the years, he has created more award-winning California sparkling wines than any other single winemaker.
Bob Iantosca has collaborated on the cultivation of the estate vineyards from 20 to 335 acres, experimented with some 20 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir selections and led the winery to expand its repertoire to include intensely flavorful cool-climate estate varietal wines.
The reports coming in on the “Wine Harvest of 2011″ are pretty good! There were some patchy weather items, but from the comments being made, it ended on a good note! The additional time on the vines is said to create complex flavor profiles, and there were some who used different winemaking techniques to create port! That’s good news for those interested in Selling a home with a vineyard in Sonoma, or a farm with land in Napa Valley! Here are the reports on the 2011 Harvest:
In some of the Sonoma Appellations, the entire season was seen as a fight. In June there was a devastating rain that knocked flowers off the vines (limiting the amount of fruit that would be produced) and then there were unseasonably cool temperatures. The lower temperatures slowed the growing season from some growers to about 40 days, compared to 60 in an average year. It ended, for many with wet days in October that created a situation that left many with rotted fruit from botrytis.
But what hindered some wineries proved to be an opportunity for others. Zach Long, winemaker for Kunde Family Estate, said after seeing so many acres impacted by rot, they decided to make a limited production of botrytis white in a style similar to the French sweet wines known as sauternes.
“It’s kind of our celebration of detriment,” Long laughed.
He explained that the grey botrytis rot dries out the grapes, drastically increasing the sugar levels to around 40 brix. The wineries stomped 1.76 tons of fungus-infected grapes by foot to keep the fruit more intact, filling two barrels for fermentation. The unique flavor produced by botrytis mixed with the high sugar content creates a sweet wine with a higher alcohol content.
“It’s kind of like port, but you don’t add booze to it,” Long said. Although it’s a popular product, this style of winemaking is less common because so much fruit is required for a small yield of wine.
“It really is a high-end product lots of people strive for,” Long said, adding that it is not traditionally something Kunde offers. But the winery works exclusively off estate grown grapes, and this year, with a 30 percent drop in yield, it was important to salvage as many grapes as possible.
“Years like this are always a big heartbreak on an estate because you can’t subsidize the loss,” Long said. “If you have this challenge from Mother Nature, you might as well take advantage of it.”
While the impact on quantity was immediately apparent, the quality of grapes is yet to be seen. Thanks to the cooler weather, many vintners said the brix did not develop to the levels they were hoping, but the longer hang time on the vine meant the fruit was able to build more complex flavor profiles.
NAPA Valley Harvest 2011 Report
“2011 was a challenging and as well as what I am calling ‘an educational vintage,’ the third in a row,” said Oakville Ranch Winery General Manager Paula Kornell who was born and raised in the Napa Valley wine industry. “What we found this vintage were flavors that developed at lower brix, giving us an opportunity to make truly elegant wines at lower alcohol levels.”
“Harvest 2011–from tears to glory!” is how renowned vintner Tim Mondavi, owner of Continuum capsulized the year and winemakers appellation-wide are in agreement.
I have several vineyards listed for sale in Wine Country! As people are searching for information, they might expect to find ALL vineyards listed as Napa Valley – although it’s a very large geographic footprint, and the grapes grown in Sonoma, St. Helena, Kenwood, Napa and Calistoga differ largely from each other too!
Nuns Canyon Vineyards is located on the Mayacamas Mountain Range located near Glen Ellen. The property is located at 2449 Nelligan Road, Kenwood and totals 114.1 +/- acres and includes 113.48 +/- acres of vineyard planted on gentle to steep slopes of the range. Elevations are 1,300-1,755′ and the vineyards have southwestern exposure.
List price-$7,500,000. Southwestern exposure allows this vineyard site to enjoy full sun exposure and produce high quality red varietals.
Grape varietals include: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Sangiovese and Zinfandel. The vineyard is separated into 20 blocks planted from 1994 to 2008. Spacing is a combination of double, 12×8 and 9×6. 9 acres of Syrah were grafted to Cabernet Franc in 2011.
Varietal Acres (+/-) as a % of Total are:
Cabernet Sauvignon 50.27 or approximately 44% of the planted vineyard
Merlot 34.51 or approximately 30% of the planted vineyard
Zinfandel 14.32 or approximately 13% of the planted vineyard
Sangiovese 2.99 or approximately 3% of the planted vineyard
Cabernet Franc 11.39 or approximately 10% of the planted vineyard
Fruit characteristics: Straight forward berry character, similar to Napa style. Grape Sales: Wines produced from this vineyard are made by St. Francis Winery. Wine quality as reported by the winery is excellent. Wine samples are available upon request.
This property is co-listed between Paul Spitler of V&E Properties and Mark Stornetta of Alain Pinel. Please contact us for additional information, or download a brochure on the property now
When purchasing a property in Sonoma or Napa Valley that incorporates a Vineyard, you will be looking at what types of grapes are growing in each vineyard (some properties have 3 or 4) and what types are flourishing in adjacent lands. You will also be looking at the Age of the Vines and the production numbers for the past several years. So that you can have a better understanding of the varieties and the vines growing on the land, here are a few terms you might hear me mention.
Variety – For our discussion variety means a sub-species of vitus vinifera. All wine grapes grown in California are European in origin and from the family vitus vinifera. In addition to the most popular varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Zinfandel there are many, many other varieties to choose from – several hundred as a matter of fact.
Clone – A clone is a genetically identical vine propagated by cuttings from one mother plant that was chosen because of some particularly desirable trait. In some varieties, there is not much difference between clones and in other varieties, like Pinot Noir, there are large differences.
Selection – A selection is vine material taken from a specific site. If you go into your neighbors vineyard during pruning and collect bud wood from plants that you particularly like you have a “selection”.
Rootstock – Although Vitus Vinifera is generally considered the best grapes for making wine, it is highly susceptible to several diseases native to North America. So, to get Vitus Vinifera varieties to grow in North America, you have to graft them onto rootstocks that are created from crosses of North American native species that are resistant to those diseases. There are a variety of rootstocks suited to different situations and it is far, far beyond the scope of this to go into them. Suffice it to say that you will need an expert advising you on the rootstocks that will work best at your site with your varieties.
Old Vines – In France there is a ruling by Appellation that determines how old a vine must be before it can be labeled anything other than Table Wine. In the US, we have no such distinction. The theory, passed down for Centuries, is that the older the vines, the deeper and stronger the root system. The stronger the roots, means that the vines could be pulling from different nutrients in the soil, and the terrior does impact the flavor of the wine. Perhaps more importantlythough, as a vine ages it typically produces less fruit; its effort and energy goes into fewer grape clusters. The plus side? The clusters tend to be very concentrated and offer a level of depth and complexity that, according to some, only older vines can produce.
When you hear this term used in Sonoma, it normally refers to the thick, gnarled, somewhat stunted (normally zinfandel) grapevines, planted in the 1880s or 1890s or early 1900s by Italian immigrants. These particular vines are so old that they must be carefully tended, and they manage to bring forth only a handful of grapes in each vintage. However, it is the deep, rich and flavorful wines that these particular vines produce that is some of the most sought after.
Are all “Old Vines” a hundred years old or more? Certainly not! Again, it’s a term that is not regulated. A vine that is 10 to 20 years old could be labeled as “old.” What’s more, not all winemakers, are convinced that old vines produce better grapes. Many firmly believe that vines producing their first crop of fruit at about three or four years old are responsible for the best wines in the world!
If you want to know more about Vineyards in Napa, or buying a home in Sonoma – Call me!
There are close to 65,000 acres of grape production in Sonoma County covering 13 different AVA’s. The American Vintner Association classifies each area based upon the types of grapes grown in a specific area, the climate of that area and the soil (and about 12 to 15 other items!). Another way to think about the various AVA’s listings is this… If you look around San Francisco, for instance, you might find 15 to 20 “unique” areas (burrows) in the City. Each one catering to a different “hub” of businesses or a different type of homeowner. Historic Homes in one area, Start Up Techie Companies in another, a wonderful restaurant district further down the street. It’s the same way with the AVA system – each area is a thriving environment for a unique type of grape.
Sonoma County is interesting, because of the large number of AVA’s in the county, which can be attributed to the huge difference in landscape from the Coast to the Mountains. Sonoma County vineyards typically produce 30 million gallons of wine from the nearly 300 wineries there. Of the 13 AVA’s in the county, the largest production area is the Sonoma Coast with 27,000 acres of vineyards. The Sonoma Valley AVA, by comparison is small 14,000 vineyard acres, however it does have the most ( 55 ) wineries.
It’s important to note that Sonoma Valley IS ACTUALLY an AVA… a bottle labeled Sonoma County, might not be from this unique corner of the county. The Valley is shaped almost identically to the Napa Valley appellation to the east. It runs from south (at the ocean) 17 miles to the north. Mountains stretch from the west to the east across various growing regions. You will find well-draining rocky (and in some instances volcanic) soils along the mountain sides – perfect for growing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Zinfandel.
The Sonoma Valley appellation is bordered by the Sonoma Mountains on the west and the Mayacamas Mountains on the east. Warm days and breeze-cooled nights during the growing season create perfect conditions for grape growers. The ocean winds in the southern sections of the valley are attributed with slowing the ripening process… this is important, as it is considered a factor in prolonging the hang time and it is thought to help promote the natural balance in the wines. The grapes that produce the award winning wine from this area include the red wine favorites: Zinfindel, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah – and the white wine favorite: Chardonnay.
Trying to compare the grapes, vineyards and potential of this area to other great Wine Production areas of the world? The Sonoma Valley appellation can be compared, based upon the number of days during the growing season that the temperature will be a consistent above 50 degrees F (the Winkler Scale). Based upon the growing times, Sonoma Valley would be classified as a Region II, and therefore similar to Alto-Adige in Northern Italy, the Northern Rhône region of France, Yountville of Napa Valley and the Clare Valley of Australia. Region II is similar to Bordeaux in France. Accordingly, the Carneros AVA and the Sonoma Mountain AVA both compare at cooler classifications, at Region I and low Region II, respectively. The cost of ownership for a vineyard here, when you look at the global comparison and potential, is quite reasonable!
Interested in a vineyard for sale in Sonoma Valley, or Napa Valley? I work with buyers everyday who are looking for the right property to meet their ROI / EBIT and individual needs. Please call me for more information!
Many of the buyers interested in California Wine Vineyards are also looking at “unimproved” land that might be suitable to start a vineyard, as opposed to purchasing one that is already established. We find that these buyers are generally in one of 2 camps. Either they are looking for a “Deal” and feel that they can start small, and grow a presence – or they are already Vintners, looking to expand.
If you fall into the “Just Starting Out Camp” here are some things to consider:
Vineyard development costs fall into two basic categories – Those expenses that occur in every vineyard and those expenses that occur in some vineyards and not in others and vary according to the vineyard.
There is one basic decisions you have to make that will drive all the standard costs – how far apart to space your rows and vines. In the “Inner” California AVA’s, where you find more “bulk” (as opposed to premium wine production) you will find that spacing has been consistently dropping (and therefore vines per acre increasing). In the past 20 years this “production” in certain varieties has gone from a standard 450 vines per acre (8′ by 12′ area) to close to 900 vines per acre (in a 6′ by 8′ space). With Premium Wine Productions (again based upon the grape) in the Coastal AVA’s of Napa and Sonoma, you still find the norm to be fewer vines, better quality.
You should figure about $20,000 for standard costs of installing a vineyard. You can add an estimated $5,000 to $20,000 per acre to cover the upfront costs associated with engineering, WATER, soil tests, drainage, erosion, rocks, fencing, and frost protection.
While the numbers vary WIDELY depending on location, and the production nearby – the current typical end cost per acre is between $20,000 to $40,000 per acre.
The grape growing areas of Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley are similar. They both run from the South Coast to the North, and they both benefit from the hills, rain and historical care given to the vines placed in their care. So it’s not surprising that these unique areas (AVA’s), which are IDEAL for growing the some of the World’s Finest Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, compete for the title of “favorite” all the time!
Napa has long been considered the favorite, and they’ve been working for decades to create wines that grow in value as they age, with some success. The 2011 season is considered by some one of the best years yet – granted there were fewer grapes, but higher quality.
Recently though, James Laube, one of the most Internationally acclaimed Wine Experts wrote this about a Sonoma Valley Cabernet:
“Rich, savory and full-bodied, showing direct, potent young Cabernet flavors built around blackberry and dark berry fruit, with touches of spice, black licorice, mineral and toasty wood. Very impressive for its purity, finesse and graceful finish. Best from 2012 through 2022. 2,450 cases made.” –JL
The region is comparable to French Bordeaux grapes, and growing season, and the Beringer Knights Valley wine (he was referring to) does mirror these flavors gracefully. The price: $45, with 3,600 cases made. It’s the best Beringer Knights Valley wine I can recall and one of winemaker Laurie Hook’s best efforts
In addition to Beringer’s Cabernet, Wine Spectator’s “Top 100 Wines” list for 2011 includes HALL as #2 in it’s list of the top 20 wines! (and the FIRST one is NOT from Napa!)
“With a successful real-estate empire, Craig and Kathryn Hall didn’t take any shortcuts with Hall estate, which comprises several hundred acres in vines spread over six vineyards in Napa Valley. The 2008 Kathryn Hall Cabernet is a blend from four of the sites. Winemaker Steve Leveque added a splash of Merlot to round out the texture and heighten the aromatics. The wine captures the essence of Napa Cabernet yet is distinguished from other great 2008 Cabs by its seamless texture, wonderful focus, purity of flavor and persistent finish.” -Wine Spectator, November 15, 2011
What does this mean for clients interested in purchasing a vineyard with potential ROI? Despite current U.S. economic conditions, the wine industry is showing signs of optimism. Bulk wine market inventories have come into balance and in some cases there is a shortage. Grape prices are on the rise. 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are virtually, entirely committed.
For the past many years, there’s been a direct correlation between the prices / demand for grapes – and the prices / demand for vineyards. (the adjacent chart reflects the sales price for land SUITABLE for a Vineyard, not planted). The tightening of inventories will leads to increasing vineyard prices. Also, this optimism has caused winery owners to take a strengthening position regarding thee perceived value of their winery assets.
When assessing a property, I look at the cost of operations over the last 3 years, the tonnage produced, the Vinter, the WineMaker and how it is being marketed… we also look at the weather in that Appellation, and what is being produced from that area.
We also look at the soil, and the quality / life of the vines. In many ways, it is important to note that you are not just purchasing real estate when you buy a Vineyard, you are buying a business.
What are we doing to identify winery properties without brands and have the potential to produce $100/btl wines? We are networking throughout the Napa Valley to source potential wineries that may be for sale. These properties are not easy to find, so we ask for your patience. If you are interested in purchasing a Premium Winery in the Sonoma/Napa Region call Mark Stornetta.
Looking for more information on which area of Sonoma or Napa might be the perfect place to grow grapes and create your dream of owning a Cabernet Sauvignon Vineyard? I can help with that too!