Rigorous planning and research to find the perfect growing conditions
The most complex wines are created from vines grown on slopes and physically stressed by their environments. Though more expensive to plant and difficult to farm than lowland fruit, the qualitative difference is palpable.
Given its irregular shape, slopes, and soils, planning our vineyard site was a great challenge. Forty exploratory pits revealed multiple soil profiles, rendering traditional subdivision methods ineffective. Science came to the rescue; however, as very recent technology in electro-conductivity measurement provided a systematic approach that revealed the boundaries of each soil profile section as they related to one another.
This data was then computer processed to identify multiple geo-coded points of reference where further probing and soils samples were taken. The results were mapped in multiple layers, reflecting the key considerations for evaluation. Concurrently, detailed topographic aerial survey data was input into graphic computer programs that calculated slopes, sun azimuths, and drainage patterns. In the same manner as the soils study, this data was then processed into compatible visual images.
The resulting graphic data sets, primarily consisting of soil composition (chemical and structural), water bearing characteristics (vigor potential), and sun exposure (aspect and slope) were layered upon one another with the intent to divide the site into subsets (blocks) that represent distinct and separate homogeneous growing conditions. In France, these conditions are collectively referred to as “terroir”, and it is credited in creating the distinctive characteristics of wine made from the same grapes, but grown in different conditions.
Within the 200-acre working ranch is the Pence Vineyard. Seen from above, the vineyard itself appears as an island within a larger land mass that has been slowly eroded over time on all sides.
We would like to think that our vineyard blocks were developed in a manner akin to the various tiny appellations within Burgundy, which were painstakingly identified by Cistercian monks over two millennia of trial and error.
Ranging in size from one to four acres each, our blocks are organized according to their geographic locations within the vineyard. They are split into two groups: east and west of the main ranch road; and ascend numerically to the north from the ranch’s southerly border and entrance along Highway 246.