To consistently offer superior and unique wines requires a combination of factors each of which is of crucial importance.
• First one must have a firm wine goal in mind for each wine prior to the pruning season. Also the soil composition must be such that allows the expression of that wine goal. Wrong soil – no chance.
• The next factor is climate. In general the climate must allow the grape to develop the desired flavors and structure.
• The third factor is farming skill – the understanding and ability to change practices as the weather patterns fluctuate – all constantly geared to the wine goal in mind.
• The fourth factor is the application of different winemaking techniques that are relevant to each given wine.
• The final factor is the creative passion within the individuals involved to maintain that focus day in and day out, year in and year out, always striving for greater perfection.
The Vineyard is located on the west side of the Salinas Valley, Monterey County, California, where the Arroyo Seco River exits the Santa Lucia Mountains. The Arroyo Seco River drains the coastal range wherein is located the Ventana Wilderness Area. Today the Arroyo Seco River flows, (when it runs), on the Eastern edge of our vineyard.
Long ago the Arroyo Seco River cut a deep groove in its travels to join the Salinas River. Subsequently, it began to fill up its previous cut with alluvial gravel, rock, sand, and some silt. The Ventana Vineyard is planted on that alluvial deposit, enjoying drainage to, nominally, ninety feet or so, low nutritional characteristics, pure water, and the benefits of sun reflecting benefits of stones. The rocky “soil” creates very difficult farming situations and is very abusive to equipment. The soil has a very low moisture holding capacity. These tough farming conditions and rough looking soil actually help aid in the development of superior flavors in the fruit and thus in the wine. It slows the vigor of the wines and allows the fruit to develop more slowly which intensifies the flavor.
Since 1976, the Ventana Vineyard has been a viticultural research vehicle, conducting in-depth studies on the major questions facing cool climate winegrowers. Monterey is the coldest grape growing region in the United States –during the growing season. The outcome of the research can be seen in the “look” of the vineyard and in the vines themselves. Our Vineyard rows are very close together, 6 feet apart and our vines are very close to each other within the row. The distance between the vines within the row varies a small amount by variety and location. The majority are 3 1/2 feet apart between vines resulting in 2074 vines per acre. Larger-cluster and /or more vigorous varieties are at 4 to 4 1/2 feet between vines resulting in a range of 1815 to 1613 per acre. This allows the vineyard to grow more tons of fruit per acre, but more importantly, the proximity of vines ensures that the expectation of production from each vine is less. This lesser expectation allows each vine to “concentrate” on its manageable load and to have fully ripe, intense flavors that are found in the best wines.
The choice of varietals and clones was also extremely important. There can be quite a few “clones” or types of plants within each varietal. Sauvignon Blanc for example may have many, many clones, but they are all types of Sauvignon Blanc. A fine Wine grower needs to chose a clone for many reasons such as adaptability to environment (a cool growing region), or when seeking certain flavor profiles. Doug Meador has personally selected each clone within each varietal so that it suits our wine making flavor profiles and so that they grow optimally on the Ventana Vineyard.
Happily, wines made solely from all our varietals garner gold medals at various major California, national and international wine competitions. The Ventana Vineyard is now 25 consecutive years of Golds on its Chardonnay grapes and 27 years on its Riesling grapes - every single vintage, from and including its first commercial harvest! The vineyard has never missed.
The chalky rock and gravel soils of The Ventana Vineyard provide the foundation for the superior white wines by allowing the growing of the vines in the ancient way, that is, on their own roots without the modifying effect of rootstocks. The extremely low nutrition of the gravelly soil combined with the specific varietal characters produce unique intense flavors. These soil attributes working within the very cool climate of the Arroyo Seco area focus the flavor composition into a balanced whole with a charming “minerally” touch. Special farming procedures are followed in order to present the fullest expression of each varietal. The winemaking procedures, again, follow the same pattern, different for each variety in order to continue the evolution of each wine.
With the cool climate and rocky soils of the Ventana, red grapes demand detailed and careful attention. For red wines, small berries are a must and ultra low fruit load per vine is necessary for concentration and elegance. The flavors generated by low nutrition soils, rocks, own-root growth and cool climate are directed to the desired wine by different techniques in the winery. We ferment in the old way – open top and punch down. We use different yeast strains for each variety for added unique expressions. French and American oak barrels are used in different combinations for different varietals.