Paso Robles West Side
Willow Creek Appellation
The west side of Paso Robles is cooler, with a landscape shaped by rolling hills and sharp peaks ranging from 700 to 2,200 feet. Early on, many farmers avoided the west side because of its steep slopes and the high cost of developing vineyards in the rugged, rocky terrain. Willow Creek, in the coolest corner of Paso's west side, is known for its chalky, calcareous soil. Its hilltop terraces are chock-full of fractured shale, rocks and even fossils (the west side of Paso was once an ocean floor). There's a reason why Willow Creek has the densest concentration of vineyards and wineries in Paso Robles, and it begins with the soil. The terroir of Willow Creek shows in its wines. The best expressions are richly textured and precisely structured, with mineral or loamy accents and ripe tannins. As grapes ripen, malic acid is metabolized through the process of respiration. Acid levels begin to drop during the ripening stage as sugar levels rise. The biggest secret to Willow Creek's success may be the high pH level of the soils, which helps the grapes retain natural acidity even as they reach ripeness.
RUSSELL FAMILY VINEYARD
We currently source our grapes from the Russell Family Vineyard, located in the Willow Creek Appellation on the west side of Paso Robles, California. This western positioned vineyard is composed of rolling hills, highlighted by a blanket of limestone rich soils. The variable elevations and sun exposures allow the vines to soak up the warmth of the sun throughout the day and then cool when the night air envelops the vineyard.
Because of its close proximity to the ocean, the vineyard is characterized by warm clear days with night time temperatures which can drop by approximately 40 to 50 degrees. This dramatic temperature variation increases the time of the grapes maturation cycle, providing fruit that creates a more complex and balanced wine. With clear, sunny days typically lasting well into November, our fruit has the chance to stay on the vine longer to develop mature polyphenols, while the cool nights and heavy limestone laden soil encourage the vines to produce opulent clusters boasting remarkable natural acidity, resulting in the ideal combination of maturity and balance.
Our Syrah and Viognier are planted in the eschalla style, as is traditional in Côte-Rôtie and Condrieu. This style of planting involves two wooden posts tied together to make a teepee. A vine is planted at the base of each post, and the vines on each teepee grow together. This is a more sustainable method of planting grapes, as the vines grow vertically instead of horizontally. This proves beneficial because the leaf canopy protects the grapes, resulting in less sun, wind, and animal damage. This practice produces a lower yield of fruit on average, but a much higher quality grape than other common methods. Additionally, this method is more drought resistant. Grapes planted in this style produce consistently low quantity, high quality fruit in both drought and non-drought years.
The Mourvèdre is head-trained on single stakes surrounded by hand lain limestone. In Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Bandol, the Mourvèdre is planted in this staked manner. The added touch of limestone is a method used to ensure full ripening of the fruit. Limestone will retain heat around the vines and cause the brix levels to always reach their peak.
In addition to the Rhone varietals that flourish in Willow Creek, we also have Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, and Pinot Noir. These are grown on the more common trellis system. However, these vineyard blocks are set apart in their upkeep. Planted above the fog line, these grapes receive help from the strong coastal influence mentioned previously. Pruned to perfection, these blocks never produce more than two tons per acre, guaranteeing high quality yields.