Ancient Vines Dry~Farmed
Some of the original vines on Old Hill have succumbed to old age
and disease, but most of them are in relatively good health. As
result of old age, the yields off Old Hill are very low, between
one and two tons per acre, no more than half of what one would
expect from a comparable 20-year-old vineyard in Sonoma. Economists
would (and have) recommend replanting the vineyard, but we have
learned that this painfully low-yielding vineyard makes superlative
wines and is worth the heartache to farm. Those of us who have
attained legal drinking age understand the concept of age slowing
us down and a corresponding increase in quality, right?
A large part of the complexity of the wines of Old Hill is attributed
to the varietal blend of the vineyard ~ it is not 100 percent
Zinfandel. True to the tradition of the time, about one third
of the vineyard is comprised of at least 14 other varieties interspersed throughout the Zinfandel. Grenache, Petite Syrah
and Alicante Bouschet are the most prevalent. Although vineyard
blends in old vineyards are not unusual, the actual make up of
the varieties is comparably unique. Hill chose varieties that
would add color, complexity and acid structure to his wines. The
Grenache provides acid back bone and fruit intensity while Alicante
and Petite Syrah add color and tannin
structure. The other minor varieties such as Mourvedre (Matero),
Carignane, Tempranillo, Grand Noir, and Le Noir, to name a few,
add layers (upon layers) of complexity.
How We Farm:
Our farming techniques are probably quite similar to Hill's. We don't use any chemical fertilizers,
herbicides or pesticides. Presumably, neither did Hill. One major
difference came to my attention last spring, when I was disking
the vineyard with the tractor. I uncovered an old horse shoe and
I realized how thankful I am for the internal combustion engine.
Hill fertilized whenever his team of horses were in the vineyard
working; we compost the manure first.
We don't irrigate the vineyard, because we believe that watering
the vines dilutes the fruit intensity. Fortunately the vineyard
was planted on Saint George root stock which has very deep roots
capable of mining water very efficiently. This rootstock is also
very long lived and resistant to most of the important pests.