As our sole source of grapes, our estate vineyards define our wines. Everything begins here. For over fifty years, we have been students of this land, and the more we learn, the more questions we have. Today, we farm at a level of detail that would have been unimaginable three generations ago. And yet, every harvest reveals more about the singular characteristics of each individual vineyard block, and the vine rows within it. Our awe for this place, and its unending complexity, is undiminished and we hope that you can taste the vineyard and the vintage in the wines that we craft.
Surrounding our historic winery, in the heart of the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley, is our Main Ranch. Its 400 acres of vines are planted in 49 distinct blocks, a mosaic that echoes the complexity of our soils. Sitting on the largest alluvial fan in Napa Valley, where Dry Creek spills onto the valley floor spreading gravel eroded from the Mayacamas over clay and loam left by an ancient ocean, our soils change dramatically across the estate. We have identified over twenty different soil types across the Main Ranch, allowing us to grow 9 different varieties, all planted in their preferred soil.
Our Bordeaux varieties cluster on deposits of alluvial gravel, where water drains deep into the soil, stressing the vines just enough to encourage the ripening of the fruit and the development of flavor. Chardonnay, meanwhile, thrives in the richer loam with a higher capacity for water retention. Our 49 vineyard blocks are broken down further into 120 separate irrigation subblocks, which allow us to tailor the delivery of water to the differing needs of each variety and the unique water holding capacities of the soils in which they are planted.
We are fortunate to be in the Oak Knoll District, where both early-ripening varieties, like Riesling and Chardonnay, and late-ripening varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon, can prosper. For each variety to reach its true potential, however, we have to both match the grape to its proper soil, and our farming practices to the climate.
For Riesling, Chardonnay, and other early-ripening varieties, we farm for freshness, taking advantage of the built-in air-conditioning of the Oak Knoll District. Cool evenings and foggy mornings preserve a bright acidity and liveliness on the palate, and we manage the foliage to provide shelter from the afternoon sun. For our Bordeaux varieties, on the other hand, our climate is considered relatively cool and we farm for flavor development over our long growing season. We encourage early budbreak by pruning early, aggressively thin the fruit to ensure balanced vines and we open up the canopy to allow just enough of the warm California sun to fully ripen the berries.
Soil, climate, and variety are the major factors that drive our detailed farming practices, each decision getting us closer to producing the best possible grapes for our estate grown wines.
Nestled within a notch in the Mayacamas Mountains, this exceptional property is elevated, often above the blanket of fog that covers the valley floor. Though still within the Oak Knoll District, with earlier exposure to the sun and protection from the afternoon breezes, the climate is warmer here, perfectly suited to our 40 acres of Bordeaux varieties.
The topography is complex, demanding even more precision than on the Main Ranch. Vineyard blocks are on average much smaller here, some a mere half acre. With the blocks facing different directions, some exposed to gentle morning light and others receiving the warm afternoon sun, each block receives unique attention. Irrigation sub-blocks take our detailed approach further and even include irrigation line changes mid-row as the soils tend to become rockier as they reach the top of a hill.
Indeed, the most important difference from our Main Ranch is that, after thousands of years of natural erosion, the soils throughout Hillspring are very thin, with often just a foot of topsoil on top of fractured bedrock. This dramatically reduces the water available to the vines which leads to much smaller grapes with more concentrated flavors.
Every year at harvest, we pick each small block separately when the flavors are just right and, the following spring, we begin to assemble that year’s HāLo, our flagship Cabernet Sauvignon, which is derived entirely from this special vineyard. We are so particular in our choices that less than 10% of the resulting wine makes the blend. The combination of our extreme attention to detail and the unique attributes of this property – the warmer climate, diverse exposures and limiting soils – is what makes HāLo a truly spectacular wine.