Defining The Sonoma Coast

There are many rigorous challenges of growing fruit in this dramatically cold environment on the far western reaches of Sonoma County, but they are well worth the risk. We rise to the challenges of the Sonoma Coast to produce wines with fully ripened fruit at lower brix, mature flavors and tannins, that are balanced by a high-acid profile.

  • A new frontier with tremendous potential: Viticulture only began in the Sonoma Coast in the early 1990's. Historically the land had been used for cattle grazing, lumber and limited farming.

  • Extended vineyard development time: Due to the challenging climate it can take up to six years for vines to produce fruit. Contrast that with a typical vine that reaches maturity in three years in most other regions.

  • Wet weather is always an obstacle: A wet spring can cause bloom problems as well create the perfect conditions for organisms that cause high pressure botrytis to thrive -- a problem compounded by the difficulty in getting equipment into the vineyards to combat this threat. In the Fall, encroaching rains always threaten harvest.

  • Animals are challenge: Deer and gophers are abundant. Gophers, which have grown to a population as high as 100 per acre, can destroy as much as 20 percent of new vines.

  • Growing season is severely affected by temperature: Due to the close proximity to the Pacific Ocean, nighttime temperatures hover in the 40's as the cold maritime fog moves inland from the coast and daytime highs rarely exceed the low 70's. This affects every aspect of grape development from late bud break to ripening. Additionally, a cold spring can result in poor vine nutrition at bloom and often disappointing fruit set (in 2005, Balistreri Vineyard yielded a mere 1,680 pounds from four acres of 10,000 vines).

  • Yield is exceptionally low: Crop loads will always be small, with typical yields of one to two tons per acre.

  • Cluster Size is considerably smaller: Grape clusters are one half to two-thirds the size of clusters grown in warmer areas. Resulting in a concentrated skin-to-juice ratio. In addition, the skins on this cold-climate fruit display an unusual thickness. This unique attribute appears to be the result of the vine's ability to adapt in order to survive the cold and dampness.

  • Late harvest: The height of harvest activity is from mid-October into November -- its earliest varietal is often picked later than Napa's last varietal. By the time Pinot Noir was ready to be harvested at Balistreri in 2006, there were no leaves left on the first eight rows of vines.
555 Highway 1, Bodega Bay, CA 94923 | (707) 921-2860
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