The estate consists of 21 acres today, which are all “precision farmed”, as Maya describes it, operating both organically and biodynamically.
Naoko Dalla Valle says they were the first in the Napa Valley to plant above the valley floor, planting vines 100 metres above sea-level on very steep, rocky, iron-rich decomposed andesite and clay loam soils on the far eastern side of the Oakville AVA. The vineyards are west-facing, giving great sun exposure, while the altitude provides substantial diurnal shifts: Naoko believes this combination of factors is key to the wines’ unique profile.
Their hillside vineyards offer a great variety of soils and microclimates, with different varietals better suited to different plots. After much initial experimentation, the estate found great success with the normally temperamental Cabernet Franc in their ridged vineyards. These ridged vineyards, however, were the source of a serious setback in the late 1990s, when the vines became infected by an oak tree fungus. In 1999 they made the difficult decision to completely replant the vineyard.
They recently completed a full geological study of every vineyard block, with the help of Brenna Quigley, an up-and-coming terroir specialist, deepening their understanding of the vineyards and how to improve them. Steve Matthiasson – one of California’s leading viticulturalists – also consults here.
Following her extensive experience working on some of the leading organic and biodynamic estates in Italy and Bordeaux, Maya has emphasised the importance of organic, sustainable farming, setting out a 50-year program aimed at protecting the long life of their vines. They are also experimenting with deficit water irrigation, encouraging the roots to grow deeper in an attempt to further protect the vines’ longevity.