24 Oct Hilliard Bruce Vineyards – Part 3: Canopy Management, Wines & Philosophy.
Part 3 of a 4 part series on our trip to Hilliard Bruce in the Sta. Rita Hills in Santa Barbara County.
Canopy management that you will see no where else!
The planting style at Hilliard Bruce is compact with 2,420 vines per acre at a spacing of 6 feet by 3 feet. The canopy management that John is so rightly proud of begins with the trellis system that is vertical shoot positioned. The vines here are hand pruned twice each year. Each spring the new shoots are carefully positioned to run parallel and then are individually tied so that they do not cross each other. They monitor the number of leaves per vine to offer the perfect exposure to sun and so that the air can move through. This keeps down the mold and disease. This also allows the bunches to hang free which is helpful for easy harvesting. All this is lots of work during the growing season, but makes for much less work in the winery. As we looked down the rows from the top of the vineyard John pointed out how you could see from the shadows that all the vines were healthy. It’s easy during the day to come out and look at the shadows and see where you have lost a vine. But of course with the kind of attention that these vines get, that is rare.
Fruit of all this labor…amazing wines.
They are growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay here exclusively. Christine claims the Chardonnay as her own and John’s focus is on the Pinot Noir. The yield per acre here is less than 2 tons and less than 1.65 lbs per vine. Next year the new winery will be ready, but this year they will make their wines at the Central Coast Wine Service facility that is located in Santa Maria.
While there we tasted the 2010 Moon Pinot Noir, the 2011 Earth Pinot Noir and the 2011 Chardonnay.
The Moon Pinot Noir is very much a Sta. Rita Hills style Pinot. After 12 months in barrel they go through a careful selection process and choose only the barrels that show the concentration and focus that this cool growing region is known for. They look for riper fruit and full spice as they choose the barrels.
The 2011 Earth Pinot Noir is definitely earthier. This wine has rich clove spice, darker fruit and minerals as well as great tannins.
The 2011 Chardonnay comes from the coldest corner of the vineyard and these vines produce very little fruit. With great acid, oak for tempering and a little salinity this is a truly stunning Chardonnay.
The winery is well under way and photos of the progress can be seen on their facebook page. This will be a LEED Certified, gravity flow winery with an underground cellar that will be humidity controlled. It will be designed as a work of art, but also to blend and compliment the beautiful natural setting.
There is a quote from Paul Ingersol on the Hilliard Bruce labels that really sums it up
- Happiness is the only good
- The time to be happy is now.
- The place to be happy is here
- The way to be happy is to make others so.
This is what they embody at Hilliard Bruce.
Stay tuned for a video of our visit tomorrow!