Our vineyards hug the mountain rims along the south-east edge of High Valley AVA. Surrounded by dramatic landscapes and pristine wilderness, the story of High Valley is clearly visible from our property. At 2,200 feet, on top of the Terre Vermeille vineyard look to your south, you'll see the deep blue waters of Clear Lake, that provide cooling winds throughout our long summer days. Turn to the west, and you can distinguish where the lava flows give way to the alluvial fan of the ancient lake bed on the valley floor. And from the north, and you can feel the cold night winds from Snow Mountain and the peaks of the Mendocino National Forest.
Stretching across these mountain ridges, our vineyards are comprised of well-drained volcanic rock. Each vineyard block was carefully planned to fit the contours of the land and maximize ideal sun exposure. Varietals, rootstocks, clones, vine spacing and row direction were matched to the soil composition and exposures. For example, we've planted seven different Zinfandel and Syrah clones and six Cabernet Sauvignon clones on seven different rootstocks. Because of the jagged characteristics of these mountain slopes, most of our vineyards blocks are small, averaging less than 3 acres each.
Our first vineyard was Terre Vermeille, a cinder cone, just south of Round Mountain. Here, between two high ridge tops, a fault line runs through the property. Along one side, you see the fiery-red soils from the volcanic flows . These vineyards hang on steep west and north facing slopes. Planted in two phases, we started in 1995 with Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel. Since then, we've added Petite Verdot, Barbera, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
Over the ridge from Terre Vermeille, on a steep south facing slope is the Morine Ranch. Dropping precipitously down toward Clear Lake (on a 38-40 degree pitch!), these rocky vertical slopes are reminiscent of the Rhone Valley's famed Crozes-Hermitage vineyards. Fittingly, we've planted Rhone varietals, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache and will continue to experiment with Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier. These slopes may also suit a little Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and possibly Tempranillo. Two small vineyards connect Terre Vermeille with the Caldwell Ranch, where our home is located. First is La Sierra, a 25 acre vineyard, divided into 8 small blocks of Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. Next is the Ogulin Vineyard, still owned by the family who originally pioneered this land, where we lease about 19 acres for Cabernet Sauvignon. These two vineyards are at approximately 2,200 feet elevation and face north and south.
The Caldwell Ranch is our home. On this dramatic piece of property, the Petite Sirah rows run vertically on a slope so steep, that if it were a ski slope it would earn a black-diamond rating. The ridges wrap around the inside of the canyon, providing southern, western and northern exposures for the Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Tempranillo, Zinfandel, Mourvèdre and Sauvignon Blanc we grow here.
Of the 1,000 acres on the Ranch, only 60 to 70% will be converted to vineyards. The balance of the land has been preserved for wildlife which wanders through our property from the expansive wilderness to our north and east. We've carefully planned all of our vineyards to leave corridors open to migrating animals and protect nesting areas. We're committed to this land, as great vineyard sites, and also as home to bears,elk, mountain lions, eagles and other creatures with whom we share it.