Adventures in Wine Exploration the stories behind the vines
Tom Beckmen purchased a 365 acre hillside property overlooking the Santa Ynez Valley in 1996. This would soon become Purisima Mountain Vineyard, producing Rhone Varietals, with Syrah becoming a Star and becoming the source of inspiration for the newest AVA in Santa Barbara County Ballard Canyon AVA.
Steve Beckmen began farming Purisima Mountain Vineyard 100 percent biodynamically in 2006. Biodynamic Farming is a proactive and holistic approach to Farming. Biodynamic farming often is confused with organic and sustainable farming practices, but is sort of a combination of both. Many wineries have been utilizing this somewhat controversial practice, but the by staying sustainable, their is some substance to the philosophy and at Beckmen the Wines do bear witness that it is seeming to work, because the wines here are excellent.
“Our goal,” says Steve, “is to always get better and better. Biodynamics allows us to achieve the purest possible expression of our Purisima Mountain Vineyard terroir, which is at the very heart of our winegrowing philosophy. Since we’ve gone biodynamic, we have produced some of our best wines ever.”
Beckmen Vineyards completed the rigorous biodynamic certification process in 2008.
Purisima Mountain’s has many unique microclimates, its complex range of soil, exposures and elevations. the vineyard architectecture is designed as a “palette of small vineyards” featuring 37 sub-blocks and numerous clone and rootstock selections. It has also been designed to optimize different hillside exposures and elevations. Planted to 18 blocks, 7 clones of Syrah, and 8 blocks and 5 clones of Grenache, Purisima Mountain Vineyard also has smaller plantings of Mourvedre, Counoise, Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Purisima Mountain’s high elevations (reaching upwards of 1,250 feet) influence climatic factors such as moisture, temperature and exposure. Influenced by marine air drawn up from the Pacific Ocean through the Santa Ynez Valley, brings morning fog and cool ocean breezes in the summer afternoons. These cooling factors ensure moderate temperatures that allow for a longer, steadier ripening period.
Some of the Soil types on Purisima Mountain, clay and clay loam soils of the Linne and Chamise series. along with its limestone subsoil. Limestone is typically found in the great Rhone regions of France, such as Cote Rotie and Chateauneuf du Pape, limestone subsoil is a rarity in California. Limestone, made of calcium carbonate that is not easily penetrated by the vines roots, they must struggle in thin topsoil, generally 12-36 inches in depth. The result is less vigorous growing conditions, producing smaller vines with lower yields of intensely flavored fruit.
Most of the row directions are southwest to northeast, with some north/south and east/west rows. Slopes range from almost flat to 25 percent, with an average slope of 15 percent. Slope angles are primarily south facing with some east, west and north-facing slopes. Vine spacing is also determined by the land, with an average of 1,200 vines per acre.
We first became aware of the Beckmen Vineyard on our trip to Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend. We went on the hike with Steve Beckmen and learned a great many things which we will be sharing in the coming weeks. The Wine Walk encompassed a walk through the hilly region of Purisima Mountain. Steve Spoke about the various blocks and tales about how and why each block was started and how they were working out. We then made our way to our first stop to refresh ourselves and taste the Beckmen Rose and then learned a little about how they maintain the grape vines.
We continued up the hill to gaze upon all of Purisima Mountain from the mustard fields, to the sprawling vistas of Rhone Varietal Grapes. Watch during the Month of July as we delve into the Beckmen Vineyard at Purisima Mountain
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