Both estate-vineyards have prized Goldridge soil, which is a sandy loam that usually runs one to four feet deep, underlain with clay subsoils. Inspired by the greatest vineyards in Burgundy our vineyards are planted with “close spacing,” trained with the traditional Burgundian methods, and dry-farmed.
In keeping with the hands-on approach that defines everything at Emeritus Vineyards, both Hallberg Ranch and Pinot Hill are stewarded by a year-round, 23-person vineyard team led by acclaimed Vineyard Manager Kirk Lokka. This team includes five Sonoma County pruning champions, and several individuals who have been with Emeritus since its inception, as well as a handful who worked with Brice and Kirk at Sonoma–Cutrer. The consummate skill and knowledge of this team ensures that both Hallberg Ranch and Pinot Hill are proactively farmed with a level of thoughtfulness and meticulous attention to detail that profoundly impacts the quality of our wines.
Wines Produced: Hallberg Ranch, Wesley’s Reserve, Don’s Block, La Combette, Hallberg Ranch Elite, Hallberg Blanc, Ruby Ruby Saignée
Soils: Goldridge Sandy Loam underlain with Sebastopol Sandy Clay Loam
Appellation: Russian River Valley, Green Valley, Sonoma Coast
Average Temp During Growing Season: Daytime: 78.2°F ~ Nighttime: 47.9°F
Clones planted: 37, 115, 459, 667, 777, 828,943 Cruz, Elite, Hyde, Pommard, Swan
Acres planted: 107.76
Elevation: 200’ above sea level
Grade of slopes: 3.2%
The 115 acre home ranch of Emeritus Vineyards is in the Green Valley, a cool region of the Russian River Valley where fog lingers late into the morning. Our founder Brice Jones purchased it in 1999 because of it’s highly sought after Goldridge soil and the marine influence that comes from its proximity to the coast. As part of our quest to produce the best Pinot Noir, we set out to dry farm the vineyard in 2007 and completed weaning the vines of irrigation in the 2011 growing season. It is now the largest dry farmed vineyard in Sonoma County, and possibly in the state of California.
Dry farming helps the grapes achieve full physiological ripeness at lower sugar levels, perserving more acidity and creating smaller berries resulting in fresh, complex, and concentrated wines. The vines are growing in natural harmony with the soil and climate, and in turn give the wine a purer expression of Hallberg Ranch’s unique terroir.
Fog and breezes from the Pacific Ocean cool the rolling, ridge-topped land here. During the day, moderate temperatures provide an ideal growing season in which the grapes ripen slowly. Nighttime fog cools the vineyards, most nights to below 55°F, and allows the grapes to retain the crucial acids that carry the flavors in the finished wine.
Hallberg Ranch’s eponymous wine is a blend representing all of the clones and blocks of the vineyard. In addition, the vineyard produces Wesley’s Reserve named in honor of Brice’s father, La Combette, Hallberg Ranch Elite, and Don’s Block, named after the late Don Blackburn, Emeritus’s founding winemaker.
Wines Produced: Pinot Hill, Pinot Hill East, Pinot Hill West, Pinot Hill Cruz, Pinot Hill Elite
Soils: Goldridge Sandy Loam underlain with Los Osos Clay
Appellation: Sonoma Coast, Sebastopol Hills
Average Temp During Growing Season: Daytime: 77.5°F ~ Nighttime: 47.7°F
Clones planted: 115, 667, 777, 828, Elite, Cruz, Pommard
Acres planted: 30.68
Elevation: 292’ above sea level
Grade of slopes: ± 10.2%
Pinot Hill is the younger of our two vineyards, and the smaller with 30 planted acres. As the name suggests this is a very steep vineyard, rising in elevation from 100 to 300 feet with 10-15% grades, ensuring good drainage which is so important for quality Pinot Noir. We have dry farmed this vineyard since 2013.
Planted in 2008, Pinot Hill lies in the Sebastopol Hills area of the Sonoma Coast AVA—where the Russian River Valley and Petaluma Gap meet. This is where the fog first penetrates inland from the Pacific in the late afternoon, and the last place it burns off late in the morning. As a result, the vineyard is generally bathed in sunlight for only a few hours in the early afternoon; 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.
With its steep slopes, Goldridge sandy loam, and very cool climate, Pinot Hill tends to yield half the crop as Hallberg Ranch, producing darker colors and higher acidity. The cooler temperatures lengthen the growing season, allowing the grapes to retain acids while also encouraging the vines to keep their berries and clusters small and concentrated. Because of the long growing season, the tannins in the fruit tend to be finer in style.
There is also a distinct difference between the fruit on the eastern and western slopes. The eastern slope does not receive much direct sunlight as it is covered in fog until the afternoon. The resulting wines are light in color and high in acid. The fog burns off in the afternoon bathing the western slope in sunlight for a few hours. These wines have a rich and dark flavor. The two sides produce such different wines that in 2016 we began bottling Pinot Hill East and Pinot Hill West separately, in addition to our classic Pinot Hill wine.
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