The Emeritus Philosophy Behind Our Vineyards
Everyone at Emeritus Vineyards shares the passionate vision that our founder, Brice Jones, had when he first saw Hallberg Ranch: , to create the best estate for Pinot Noir in North America. Our founding winemaker, Don Blackburn, said it best, that “when Pinot Noir achieves its highest expression, there is no wine that can compare.” To make that kind of Pinot Noir, our team aims to create wines whose vineyard character is of greater importance than varietal character. A sense of place in every sip.
We also want to share who we are, what we do, and why we love what we do. It all starts with the Emeritus philosophy that great wines are shaped by three fundamental factors: soil, climate, and people.
Soil gives wine its Character
Being an estate winery allows us to have the greatest attention our land, planting, and cultivation of our vines is second to none. We began with Hallberg Ranch in 1999, then Pinot Hill in 2007.
As a vineyard manager, it is incredibly rare when you are given the perfect piece of land to plant a vineyard, and all of the resources necessary to do it exactly the way you know it should be done.
—Kirk Lokka, Vineyard Manager
Both sites have a similar soil profile of Goldridge soil underlain with clay. Inspired by the great vineyards of Burgundy, our dry farming techniques lead the vines to dig deep for moisture and nutrients stored deep on the earth. Dry farming allows the vines to be in balance and attuned to the land and climate, resulting in wines deeply expressive of where they were grown.
The finest Pinots inspire the senses and stir the soul. They are also wines that transport you to the place they were grown. These things are the essence of Emeritus.
—David Lattin, Winemaker
We make a lot of farming choices to have our vines growing in a dynamic habitat, not a sterile environment. Tilling only every-other row, we believe, creates the healthiest habitat for the vines, native grasses and plants, and ‘beneficial’ species (bugs, spiders, snakes, rabbits etc.).
Climate gives wine its Personality
The cool, foggy climate of our two renowned vineyards give our wines their pure, soaring flavors and elegant, energetic personalities. The difference between the two sites is obvious from the first sniff of the wines. While Pinot Hill is just a few miles away from Hallberg Ranch, it’s worlds apart. Pinot Hill is a steeper vineyard that lies in the Sebastopol Hills area, at the Northern edge of the Petaluma Wind Gap. This is where the fog first penetrates inland from the Pacific in the late afternoon, and the last place it burns off in the morning. As a result, the vineyard is generally bathed in afternoon sunlight for only a few hours; the rest of the day it is covered in fog. Because of this, Pinot Hill is often up to 10°F cooler than Hallberg Ranch, and is consistently harvested later.
You can taste the distinct difference between the fruit on the eastern and western slopes in our Pinot Hill East and Pinot Hill West wines. The eastern slope receives fog cover from the morning sun, resulting in wine that is lighter in color and higher in acid. By the afternoon when the fog has burnt off and the western slope is bathed in sunlight, cultivating a darker flavor. It’s such a vivid example of the land shaping the finished wine that in 2016 we began bottling the East and West separately, in addition to our classic Pinot Hill wine.
People give wine its Spirit
Last but certainly not least, wine cannot happen without the human hands attending to it from the vineyard to the bottle. And from there, it wouldn’t get far without our dedicated team sharing these unique and extraordinary Pinots with you!
Emeritus means to earn through service. I chose the name because Emeritus is the culmination of everything I have learned about wine throughout my life. But I also chose it because what we are striving to achieve is something unique and special. It is a goal that has to be earned. Everyone here believes passionately in what we are doing. This spirit is an essential part of our wines.
Every step of the way, an Emeritus team member can be counted on to do their best to honor and elevate what we do here.
Making a great Pinot Noir—one with nuance, elegance and a deep and meaningful sense of place—is incredibly difficult, and to me is the ultimate challenge.
The choice to dry farm has a positive impact on the wine’s flavor and intensity, and is an important part of our commitment to sustainability. As a family owned and operated business, we strive to ensure our land will be productive for generations to come.
We are certified sustainable by the CSWA and Sonoma County Wine Growers, as well as in the first group of wineries enrolled in the Climate Adaptation Certification (CAC) program. This is designed to not just eliminate but offset carbon emissions. In 2020 we began by planting Manzanita trees at Pinot Hill, which naturally absorb and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Once grown, they’ll also provide local birds with more nesting opportunities.
I want Emeritus to outlive me. That means that we need to be sustainable in every sense, from the way we care for our land to making sure that our employees have healthy families. These things aren’t separate from what goes into the bottle; they are essential.
Everyone here is committed to the Emeritus philosophy of expressing the unique character of our vineyards. That’s why in every glass, regardless of vintage, you’ll find the elegance, balance, and charm that our Pinot Noir is known for.
Share and enjoy!