To make the finest wines, you must start with great vineyards. We were blessed with the 130-year-old Monte Bello vineyard (abandoned after Prohibition), and the cabernet blocks that were replanted in the late 1940s. These vines produced our Monte Bello wines from 1959 to 1969.
To supplement that limited production while we continued to re-plant the rest of the abandoned cabernet vineyards, we turned to California’s heritage of pre-Prohibition zinfandel vineyards, making a 1964 from vines planted lower on the ridge in the 1890s. Two years later, in 1966, we made our first Geyserville Zinfandel from Sonoma County vines planted in 1882. By the 1970s, the superb quality and immediate appeal of our old-vine zinfandels was clear. They perfectly complemented our cabernet, whose full complexity developed only with age. Together, the two have become our focus. We have made a Geyserville in every vintage, and took over farming the vineyard in 1990. 1972 marked our first Lytton Springs, from vines planted in 1902. We purchased that vineyard in 1991. They, with Monte Bello, make up our estate vineyards. Farming them sustainably, we have certified as organic the majority of blocks at all three.
The individual character of a fine wine reflects a totality of elements, i.e. the terroir of its vineyard. Because flavor and balance are the overriding factors dictating our harvesting decisions, we pick when the grapes are ripe, but not overripe. All grapes are hand-picked, which allows for initial sorting in the vineyard.
We base our grape-growing in each vineyard on long experience, while making use of the most recent advances in vineyard practice. In the cellar, winemaking begins with respect for the natural process that transforms fresh grapes into wine, and for the 19th century model of guiding that process with minimal intervention. When you have great vineyards that produce high-quality grapes of distinct, individual character, this approach is not only environmentally and socially responsible, it’s also the best way to consistently make fine wine.