In the 1990s, we planted vineyards in the hills above the winery using Dijon clones from France. These clones were highly regarded in Burgundy but untested in Philo. To hedge our bets, we divided the three sites into 18 separate blocks and planted six different clones. This approach allows us to blend wines from different clones in varying amounts to create the best wine from that site. After harvesting, the grapes from each of the blocks were fermented in small bins then aged as separate lots in French oak barrels—around 35% new—for 11 months. We then tasted each lot and chose the best wine created from the various clones within each site; these cuvées were then assembled and returned to the barrel for another six months of aging prior to bottling.
Pigeage is a minimalist winemaking approach that yields distinctive wines which reflect the character of each vineyard site.
Fall colors; Middle Ridge in the foreground. The vineyard faces the mouth of the Navarro River and is exposed to chilly breezes coming off the Humboldt Current. We selected a cuvée of 58% clone 777, 21% Clone 667 and 21% clone 114 as best representing this vineyard in 2019.
The Middle Ridge is a steep, windswept hill with three blocks of Pinot Noir grown at 750 to 830 feet in elevation. Caressed by cooling ocean breezes which seem to leave an imprint, these vines deliver a wine that seems almost ethereal. The wine features bright red cherry-raspberry flavors and suggestions of anise and vanilla with delightfully delicate tannins. Comparing these tiny lots underlines the significance of elevation, exposure, microclimates and clones.