Our vineyards are located in a highland valley at the southernmost tip of Monterey County, just on the border between the small towns of Bradley and Lockwood. Perched in the foothills of the Santa Lucia Range roughly 14 miles from the ocean and some 25 miles from Paso Robles, the Bradley-Lockwood area is a unique region with viticultural roots going back more than two centuries. First recognized as an ideal grape-growing region by the missionaries of Junipero Serra, the establishment in 1771 of the Mission of San Antonio de Padua also saw the planting of some of the first vineyards on the continent. These vineyards, planted in the eponymous Mission varietal and providing fruit as well as the necessary raw material for sacramental wine, remained in cultivation until the gradual decay of the mission system in the mid 1880s.
Relatively isolated and sparsely populated, the region was largely neglected by viticulturists for decades. In recent years, however, the San Antonio Valley has undergone a long-deferred renaissance as growers and winemakers have come to rediscover the area’s suitability for growing robust, fully mature fruit. Over the last decade, the valley has seen a marked spike in plantings, and a corridor of vineyards has sprung up along Jolon Road. In the process, the Lockwood area has attained a growing reputation for producing intensely flavored, complex wines of the sort more often associated with Paso Robles than with Monterey. Now the home of one the state’s most recently recognized AVAs – the San Antonio Valley appellation – the Bradley-Lockwood area is on the verge of adding an exciting, new facet to the wines of Monterey County.
At an elevation of 1000 feet, our vineyards are situated in the alluvial basin overlooking Lake San Antonio where they reap the benefits of the warm daytime temperatures. In this warmer climate, fruit is able to ripen consistently and reach full maturity with an ease rarely seen elsewhere in Monterey County.
Spanning some 30 acres and divided into three separate parcels, our vineyards are planted on lightly rolling hills in rocky to moderately rocky soils consisting mainly of a combination of calcareous shale and loam. The ample amount of bone-white, chalky rock in the soil helps to ensure drainage and aeration. Because of their distinct microclimates, soil types, and topography, each our three vineyards – the Home Ranch, “Y” Ranch, and Eastern Bloc, respectively – has a very different character. This variation in terroir from vineyard to vineyard helps to build complexity into the wines from the ground up, a complexity enhanced by our iterative approach to harvest, in which we isolate micro-blocks according to their relative ripeness and pick accordingly.
Part of our task as growers lies in pairing the different varietals to those corners of our vineyards that best suit them and making adjustments when necessary. In general, we are continually tuning our growing practices to find the best marriage of natural affinities and careful viticulture. The relatively small scale of our operation allows us to give our vines meticulous attention, carefully managing our growing practices as microclimate, soils, and varietal requirements dictate. Adjustments in crop load, water management, canopy management, and the like may be made on a block-by-block basis, allowing us improved control over fruit quality.
Our plantings are a somewhat eclectic mix of varietals selected not only for their ability to excel in our climate, but also for their complementary qualities.
Our region serves weightier varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel extremely well, where the warmer growing environment allows them to achieve the full richness and complexity of which they are capable. Notoriously late-ripening Cabernet is proving to be a standout in the valley, as the sun-rich growing environment translates into layered, robust wines that show the varietal to its best advantage. The sometimes underappreciated Petite Sirah also has a particular affinity for the area, and with the sturdy, yet supple intensity it attains in our region, it seems poised to make a name for itself as grown in the vineyards of the San Antonio Valley.
Rhone mainstays Syrah and Grenache and the Iberian varietals Tempranillo, Touriga, and Tinto Cão find a natural home in our vineyards as well, thriving in an environment reminiscent of their native regions. Iberian varietals have a considerable potential that has yet to be tapped in California, and we are eager to explore this particular avenue. Already, our Vinho Doce, an estate-grown Port-style dessert wine made entirely of Portuguese varietals, and a small, experimental planting of the white grape Albariño have both shown considerable promise.
This varied portfolio reflects something of a basic approach to winegrowing. By focusing on smaller plantings, we are able to fully explore the interplay between terroir and varietal in our vineyards and thereby identify those varietals that best suit specific niches. Placing an emphasis on variety also makes us better able to experiment with potential blending partners. Since we believe that the future lies not only in varietal wines, but also in the blends that are the natural outgrowth of a given region, we are very interested in working to find those combinations of varietals that unleash a true synergy from their constituent wines.
As a smaller operation with a comparatively low case volume, our approach to winemaking is fairly similar to our approach to winegrowing. A logical result of harvesting on a block-by-block basis is that we ferment our wines in small lots, effectively building each vintage from a series of micro-crus. This iterative method gives us the opportunity to experiment with a variety of different yeasts and fermentation practices, handcrafting each lot in the process. Carefully tailoring oak regimens to specific varietals and experimenting with different types of oak also help to add complexity to the finished product.
In general, our intention is to produce approachable, fruit-forward wines that provide robust yet elegant expressions not only of the varietal but of the region as well. Though we are interested in taking full advantage of our warmer climate and of the richness and intensity it helps to produce, we also intend to steer clear of overly big wines with their stratospheric levels of alcohol that mask flavor. In the end, we hope to strike the perfect balance between nature and nurture, finding the ideal middle path that best presents the remarkable potential that these varietals have demonstrated in our unique area. Ultimately, we’re interested in creating wines that make a true contribution to the landscape of viticulture and winemaking in Monterey County.
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