Blue Rock is excited to announce some very big news! Kenny and Cheryl have officially broken ground on a brand new vineyard expansion that will bring cool climate varietals to the portfolio in the years to come.
Kenny had long dreamt of expanding the Blue Rock wine portfolio to include white varietals and also taking on the challenge of growing Pinot Noir. For many years, the inspiration played like background music in his mind until earlier this year when he received an unexpected email from a real estate agent who wrote to tell him about an available plot of land in the Petaluma Gap. Intrigued, he agreed to have a look.
The 30-acre parcel is a stone’s throw away from two world famous vineyards: Sangiacomo Family Vineyards and Gap’s Crown. It turned out to be just what he was looking for, virgin pasture land with tremendous potential. After many calculated land surveys and soil studies, the team officially acquired the property and now operations to get the vineyard ready for planting next year are well underway.
The Petaluma Gap
Located 32 miles north of San Francisco, the Petaluma Gap has shared history with winemaking since the mid-1800s. Early pioneers and European immigrants produced wine and shipped it via the region’s waterway downstream to nearby gold miners who dug for paydirt around San Francisco and the Sierras.
Over time, however, the Petaluma Gap didn’t develop the same way other areas like the Russian River Valley did, so it remains one of Northern California’s best kept secrets. Today, it is largely known as a Breadbasket because farming continues to overshadow wine production, and the challenging nature of growing wine there has certainly only attracted those strong enough to take on the endeavor.
Be that the case, the Petaluma Gap has its handsome rewards. For example, the winery adjacent to Cheryl and Kenny’s property, Gap’s Crown Vineyard, won the 2011 Wine Spectator Wine of the Year.
It’s all in the Land
Shouldered between two mountain ranges, the Gap receives fog and cold air from the Pacific Ocean in the morning followed by a temperature spike in the afternoon for only a few hours, which then gives way to cold night temperatures. As a result, the grapes take a long time to ripen, but this extra hang time on the vine also leads to complex wines with great aromatics and detailed flavors. It’s also the perfect climate for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Kenny and Cheryl saw this as their chance to create something extraordinary for their customers.
Our clients are asking us for more diversity, but beyond that, Pinot Noir is the holy grail for winemakers. It’s one of those wines where the soil really speaks through the vine. It’s the most feminine, complex, ethereal grape, but it’s also the hardest to get right. It’s a challenge for everyone,”
Despite any anticipated challenges, Kenny and Cheryl are most excited about the potential of the soil, which also encouraged them to purchase the land. The previous landowners had hired one of the top soil scientists in the world, Alfred Cass, to evaluate the land. Alfred happened to also be a friend of Kenny’s. When Kenny spoke to Alfred, he told him with great enthusiasm that this is some of the best soil he’d ever seen. Alfred has worked in the industry for 30 years surveying vineyards around the world. He continued to gather information from experts only to keep coming back to the same conclusion: this is an incredible place to grow wine.
A Change of Pace
With all the factors under consideration, Kenny and Cheryl knew making the choice to pursue winemaking in the Petaluma Gap would also be a lifestyle decision. Doing so would require a substantial investment of their time and energy in addition to operations that continue to flourish at the Blue Rock Estate. Embracing the power of their long-time vision with a can-do attitude, the two chose to jump in with both feet, buy the property, and get right to work.
In the coming weeks, Kenny hopes to make plant selections after he finishes assaying the land and chatting with local winegrowers to discern which vines and clones perform best in the region. Afterward, the vines will take a year to grow at a nursery before they can be planted on-site. Until then, the team will prepare the land by integrating organic soil amendments and preparing the ground for planting season in March 2017.
We are doing everything right from the ground up with great advice. We are well supported and have a ton of personal experience, so now at this point in our careers we have the resources to really do this right and that’s what makes it most exciting,”