It was mid-May 1988 when Brenda Lee and I bought the vineyard, 12 ½ acres on the western end of Alexander Valley in Sonoma County, California.
When my friends heard we bought a vineyard, the first thing they’d ask, “Simoneau, what do you know about growing grapes?” My response, “Nothing.” In fact I was such a novice that when I saw the vineyard was in bloom, I was afraid to touch the flowers for fear of interrupting fruit set. Fortunately for us, the vineyard came with a 2-year lease, so there was a farmer for the ‘88 and ‘89 growing season.
It was in 1989 that Brenda Lee and I took Viticulture 101 from Rich Thomas at the Santa Rosa Junior College. In 1990 the vineyard manager was now gone, there was a new red tractor in the barn, and you know who was driving.
So here are the facts: 10 acres of grapes with five acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, five acres of Chardonnay, along with the south, western and driveway fence line planted to the other four Bordeaux varieties, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.
The Cabernet Sauvignon is on an open Lyre trellis system. The spacing is 3 x 12, twelve foot rows with 3 feet between the vines. The clones are a combination of 7, 8, 15 and 337. Rootstocks are S04, 101-14, 3309, and 4453. Soil types vary from north to south and are a mixture of gravelly loam and clay. Irrigation is a 3-block drip system. The majority of the vines were planted in 1995 through 2000.
The Chardonnay is on a vertical shoot position trellis system. There are 4-blocks with spacing of 3 of the 4 blocks at 6 x 8 with the final block at 8 x 12. The clones are a combination of 9 clones predominantly Clone 17 the Robert Young Clone and the others being Clone Musque, clones 4, 5, 15, 76, 95, 96, and 809. Rootstocks are 3309, 1103P, 101-14, and AXR1. Soil type is predominantly clay with some gravelly loam. Irrigation is a 4-block drip system. The vines were planted block by block. Blocks 4 and 5 planted in 1992, 6 in 2009, and 7 in 1972.
Fence lines and the driveway, here is where I‘ve had some fun. The Simoneau south fence is planted with the Gustave Niebaum Heritage Clone 29 and the wine cellar fence is planted with the Heritage To-Kalon Clone, both are Cabernet Sauvignon. The western fence line is planted to Merlot Clone 181. And the driveway is planted to Merlot Clone 181, Petit Verdot Clone 2, Malbec Clone 4, and Cabernet Franc Clone 1.
Now here we are, all these years later, with the same passion for growing grapes as that young tractor driver in 1990