In the fall of 1999, we purchased a 30-acre parcel in the Sage Canyon area of Napa Valley, a few miles east of Rutherford on Highway 128, near Lake Hennessey. Ehren Jordan oversaw the design and construction of a group of three buildings, which when fully equipped, began our ‘state of the art’ wine production facility. The facility consists of a central processing and fermentation cellar separating the two barrel storage cellars used for red and white barrel aging respectively. Winemaking operations began at the new facility in October of 2000 with the red grape crush, and the entire 2001 vintage was produced here. The individual wings were built using natural construction materials, and the group of buildings sits comfortably into a recess cut into the rocky north slope of Pritchard Hill, alongside Sage Creek.
Our home vineyards are located in the hills east of St. Helena, at elevations ranging from 400 to 1200 feet, on a south-facing, 50-acre parcel bisected by Conn Creek. In late 1998, we acted on a long-standing conviction and began to farm these vineyards sustainably. In 1999 with the help of farming consultant, ‘Amigo Bob’ Cantisano, we returned to the time-honored combination of hand and tractor hoeing for weed control. A cover crop of vegetation rich in naturally obtained nutrients is now planted after harvest between vine rows to replace those depleted from the soil. This new, natural habitat encourages the spread of beneficial insects as well. At the same time, we plant a ring of pest-attracting plants around the vineyard to serve as an alternative habitat – an insect ‘buffer zone’ so to speak – for those creatures we want to keep away from the vines. Decreasing the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers has done much to alleviate our concerns about long-term soil health and crop viability. At the same time, we have also found that sustainable farming produces richer, more complex, and more flavorful fruit. Our current bottlings of ‘Neyers Ranch Merlot’, ‘Neyers Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon’ and ÂME Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon reflect these huge dividends in wine quality.