Our vineyard is at a 2400 foot elevation in Fiddletown, California, in the Sierra Foothills of Amador County. The vineyard is on south by southwest slopes and is cooled by breezes during both day and night, which temper the hot sun and drop the temperature substantially at night. Our site is cooler than the California Shenandoah Valley, which means our grapes bud later and ripen later than in the valley.
The five-acre vineyard was planted in 2007 and undulates across both simple and compound slopes. The vineyard is divided into six blocks of five varieties: Zinfandel, Primitivo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo (2), and Tannat.
What We Grow
Cabernet Sauvignon is an uncommon grape for Amador County but it does well at our high-elevation site. We planted Cabernet Sauvignon for Beth’s brother, Jim, who was the impetus for our move to California. Jim loved Bordeaux wines and thought Cabernet Sauvignon would do well at our elevation. Our Cabernet Sauvignon is grown on a bi-lateral cordon trellis system.
We were introduced to Tempranillo at a Sierra Foothills winery and were impressed with the wine. As Spain’s equivalent to Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s blended with Garnacha (Grenache), Mazuelo (Carignane), and Graciano, among others, to make Rioja. Tempranillo, under the name Valdepeñas, has been grown in California for many years but is relatively new to the Sierra Foothills, where it appears to be settling in. Our Tempranillo is grown in the traditional head-trained and spur pruned manner.
Zinfandel has been grown in California since the mid 19th-century Gold Rush when it was widely planted in Amador County, where original vineyards from the era still produce notable wines. For many years, the origin of Zinfandel was a mystery; thought to be Primitivo from Italy, then a Croatian variety – Plavac Mali. In 2001, researchers from UC Davis and Croatia searched for the ancestor vine and found it in an almost extinct variety in a coastal vineyard of Dalmatia. After DNA profiling, the Dalmatian grape, Crljenek Kaštelanski, was identified as the parent of California Zinfandel.
Amador County is well-known for Zinfandels and Fiddletown area grapes produce notable wines. We decided to grow our Zinfandel in the traditional head-trained, spur-pruned manner because we believe that it produces better fruit than a trellis system.
Until DNA profiling was done in 2001, Primitivo was thought to be synonymous with Zinfandel but it’s, instead, a sibling. Its heritage, too, is the Dalmatian variety Crljenek Kaštelanski. Although very similar to Zinfandel, Primitivo grows in looser bunches and ripens more evenly than Zinfandel, resulting in less bunch rot. It also has a deeper color than Zinfandel, is fruitier and has a spicier aroma. We chose to grow Primitivo because we like its distinctly different taste and mouthfeel. Our Primitivo also is grown in the traditional head-trained, spur-pruned manner.
Tannat is native to southwestern France and may be Basque originally. It’s a very tannic grape and often is used in blending to provide structure and color to other red varieties. It requires long barrel-aging and is considered one of the most heart-healthy wines due to its high level of ologomeric procyanadins (OPC) and resveratrol. Tannat is fairly uncommon in California, with very limited plantings. We grow our Tannat on a bi-lateral cordon trellis system.