Our Winemaker’s Passion

From Charles B. Mitchell:

The noblest agricultural pursuit that I have endeavored. growing grapes in my Estate Vineyard.

I established the winery in 1994. sold it in 2007 and repurchased the winery Iron the Bank of Alameda on October 1, 2009. With clipboard in hand, I introduced myself to all of the approximate 9,000 vines. After about four weeks of analysis, I made quality decisions. I replanted two acres to Primitivo, the Chardonnay was grafted to Zinfandel, and an additional Semillon vineyard was planted.  Decisions are now paying dividends in the quality of wine.

The French believe terroir influences the wine. The soil, the altitude, the climate, and the aspect to the sun are very important.  The French value hillside terroir. Fertile valley floors produce high yields of poor quality grapes, which maybe better suited for tomatoes.  In the French style (hillsides), I prefer the special fruit of the cotes, with lower yields and more intense fruit.

Planting and executing at the vineyards, I pay attention to the spacing of the vines. Spacing of the vines greatly affects the wine, the vineyard should have no areas without vine roots. Today’s VSP system allows more light and air into the canopy. Do we pull leaves’ Do we drop crop? If so, when? These things influence the quality of the Anal product.

During the entire year, we must be careful about diseases that will affect the final product.  Are we sustainable?  Do we use systemic herbicides and pesticides?  Do we use organic material?  Do we irrigate?  When do we irrigate, and how much?  Let the plant talk to you!  l use my refractometer to check the alcoholic potential of every fruit I eat at home.  Using the refractometer, I look at various fruits, from pomegranates to watermelons; no fruit has more potential alcohol than wine grapes!  But, there is much more than brix to look at in wine chemistry.

Bill Naylor, viticulturist, is responsible to carry out the wishes of the grower.  We must babysit the plants every day of the year, not just the growing season.  For example, after harvest, Mr. Naylor did a post-harvest irrigation.  Why?  To help insure quality next year.  When do we harvest?  At a predetermined chemistry?  I think not!  When the fruit is physiologically ripe.  Let it talk to us!  Are the stems brown?  Are the pips soft (seeds)?  Is there any raisiny fruit?  The vineyard tells us when it is time to hand pick our precious fruit.

I have spent most of my adult life learning about vineyards.  I am still learning every day.  The French have an enormous impact on my beliefs about viticulture.  After all, they produce four times as much wine as all the US combined.  They have been growing wine grapes in Marseille for at least 2,500 years.  Our wine history began after Prohibition.

The French believe small yields have everything to do with quality.  As a matter of fact, the French have rules that regulate yields in an AOP (appellation).  Unlike the US, the French highly regulate appellations.  Cepage in Burgundy only allows Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  They have teamed that Burgundy is the perfect location for those varietals.

In the Northern Rhone, only Syrah is allowed for red wines.  Is this system valid?  Well, in Tain, M Chapoutier bottle of Hermitage fetches 600 Dollars US in today’s market.  The five “First Growth” Chateaus of Bordeaux all produce wines that sell consistently in the hundreds of dollars per bottle.

In my travels, I have learned to go out and talk to my vineyards.  In turn, I must carefully listen and learn.  It is my passionate desire to produce consistently superior and notable wines.  The Estate Vineyards are managed to produce the best possible wines.  I only buy grapes from my neighbors, after carefully waking the vineyards.

Wine is not made in the vineyard.  Nor, is wine made in the winery laboratory.  To get a notable wine that proves the Grand Cru potential of our Fair Play AVA, we all must do great work.  My planning has created a wonderful series of vineyards.  Bill Naylor, my viticulturist, has brought the crews for planting, trellising, pruning and maintaining the vines through to harvest and beyond.  Craig Unverferth, Maiter de Chai, watches the fruit and listens to hear what the vines say before they come to the crush pad.

Our team allows you to participate by tasting wine from the barrel before bottling.  Wine is a living thing.  It lives from bud to bottle.  It matures in the barrel.  It matures in the bottle.  When ready, it is the delight for which we have worked. You must understand that our passion is your wine, where it should be, in your glass.