The beauty of our wines is that there is much to discover the deeper you explore. First color, then smell, then taste, then finish. It is no surprise that the farming of these exact wines requires similar exploration below the surface. While great wines begin with great vineyards, great vineyards begin with great soils.
Throughout the winemaking process, from farming to blending, the key factor is balance. To us, “balanced” is synonymous with “great.” There is a constant effort to keep a sense of balance throughout the relationship between the vines, soils, and climate. Quail Hill Vineyard consists mostly of Sebastopol Sandy Loam. The remaining areas are covered with Blucher Loam. Because these soils are naturally nutrient-poor, they limit the vigor of the vines. While it sounds counterintuitive, this is actually a positive quality to have. The lack of nutrients in the soils provides the vines with enough to grow, but also forces them to struggle, which essential for premium quality grape production. Additionally, having an average rooting depth of 36-40 inches in the soil limits the growth of the vines. The combination of these factors creates an environment where the vineyard is capable of producing fruit ideal for luxury wines, striking a balance between vigor, growth, and fruit production.
While the soil series covering the vineyards are mostly uniform, there is diversity created in the topography. Topsoils and subsoils exist in varying ratios throughout the hills of Quail Hill Vineyard. These differences expand the palette of our winemaker. Fruit from Block 10, Block 2 (Old Vines) and Summit Block produce some of our choicest fruit, creating wines that stand on their own thanks to the exposed, denser, nutrient-poorer subsoils where Pinot Noir really excels and produces smaller berries, looser clusters, and more concentrated flavors.
As part of the Wilson Grove formation, these soils have evolved from earthly forces shaping its geology over the course of the past 4-5 million years. Despite its astronomical age, this area is a grandchild in terms of its development compared to the Franciscan Complexes further inland, which have been formed over a period of 50+ million years. Vineyard Manager Jason Saling and his crew treat these soils always being mindful of the outcomes their actions have over the course of the decades to come. Relying on permanent cover crops and testing the soils for amendment needs every three years, it is simultaneously important to keep the soils balanced for farming, but also to avoid accelerating their evolution, resulting in a loss of the precious balance we are maintaining right now.
We treat the vineyard like a living organism that grows and changes over time. It is inter-related to its surroundings near and far, past and present. When it comes to agriculture, Jason will not hesitate to tell you that the soil we’re farming in is our most valuable asset. As such, what we do to the vines is just as important to what we do between them.