When Steve and Bruce Cousins first acquired Armida Winery in 1994, they looked forward to the day they would plant the seven and one-half acre hillside surrounding the winery buildings. In 2000 this dream was realized as they began the extensive work of planting a hillside vineyard, making sure that drainage and erosion challenges were adequately and professionally engineered. This was a unique piece of land in that is was “virgin,” nothing had ever been grown on it. The hillside was gently contoured for erosion-free drainage and an extensive system of subterranean tiles and drainage pipes were installed. They planted St. George rootstock on our rocky hillside, then field-budded cuttings from the famous Maple vineyard owned by Tom and Tina Maple. Because of their heritage and the particular Mediterranean-like growing region of the southern tip of the Dry Creek Valley where Armida Winery is located, the brothers Cousins decided to plant an Italian “field blend.” We now have Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Carignan growing on the hillside. The vines are all head pruned in the old Italian fashion giving us great vine balance. While head pruned vines will never produce the same quantity as trellised vines, they allow for more air flow and encourage even ripening. The three varietals are all picked at the same time and co-fermented to create an opulent, dense, and well structured wine that we nick-named “Il Campo.”
The Castelli-Knight Ranch named after Steve and Glenda Castelli and their daughter and son in law Sheri and Rob Knight, is a 9-acre ranch planted in 1997 with about 8,000 vines. Approximately half of those vines are Pinot Noir (Pommard clone 4, and Dijon clone 115), all of which is sold to Armida Winery. This rolling hillside vineyard sits in a bowl above the Russian River. The soil is sandy loam and red clay, and stresses the vines just enough to create perfectly small, intensely flavored berries.
Steve Castelli has been a collector for about 40 years. A collector of what, you might ask? Just about everything! Old tractors, gas station pumps, toys, bicycles from the 1930’s, oil cans, signs, and Chevy Chevelle Super Sports, to name some of them. Steve and Glenda’s ranch is filled with beautifully maintained and artfully displayed collections. When Steve gets his mind set on collecting something, he does his homework then manages to get his hands on pieces from around the globe. He spends countless hours re-finishing and re-building old cars and tractors to perfection. His attention to detail and his meticulous nature is abundantly clear in the beauty of his vineyard and the quality of his fruit. For Steve, there is always work to be done in the vineyard - from fertilizing, pruning, and hedging his vines, to checking every single water emitter in the vineyard. Not one vine is overlooked, which translates to truly spectacular fruit from an exceptional grower.
The famed Durell Vineyard was founded in 1979 by Ed Durell who quickly earned a reputation for producing some of Sonoma County’s finest grapes. Ed Durell subsequently partnered with the highly respected viticulturist, Steve Hill, with a single goal to plant a world-class vineyard and grapes of unsurpassed quality. Located in the hills overlooking the town of Sonoma, Durell Vineyard extends from the southern tip of Sonoma Valley to the northern end of the cooler Carneros region. Because Durell is north of the Carneros district proper – and thus further removed from maritime influences of San Pablo Bay – it is not as chilly or fog-bound as many Carneros vineyards, but still enjoys an ideal, cool-climate environment for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The vineyard’s sloping hills, rocky clay loam soils and low-vigor vines help keep yields low – three tons per acre on average – while its clonal diversity ensures great complexity. The typical summer evening coastal breeze creates ideal growing conditions for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir by slowing the ripening process, locking in natural acidity and creating rich dense wines. Immaculate farming practices and Steve’s hands on dedication help make this vineyard one of the very best in Northern California.
Zinfandel | Alexander Valley | Sonoma County
Located in Alexander Valley, Italo’s Vineyard straddles the border of Dry Creek Valley at Lytton Springs Road. The vineyard was originally planted in the early 1930’s to mostly Zinfandel, with a bit of Petite Sirah sprinkled throughout. After the repeal of Prohibition, Gino and Italo Sbragia planted the vineyard on the deep sandy soils of the eastern-facing slopes of the property. The five acres of dry farmed grapes are split between ourselves and Gino’s son, Italo’s nephew, Ed Sbragia of Sbragia Family Vineyards. The combination of old world farming techniques and ideal site, allows the vineyard to fully express the distinctiveness and potential of old-vine Sonoma County Zinfandel.
Pinot Noir | Sonoma Coast | Sonoma County
Gap's Crown Vineyard sits atop a perched slope facing south-west towards the Petaluma Wind Gap. Out of the available 415 acres of the property, there are only about 100 acres of Pinot Noir originally planted in 2002. There, Pinot Noir Clone “777” is harvested from the southern-most block. The Petaluma Wind Gap is a unique environment caused by a break in the coastal mountains to the west and the warm inland valleys to the east. As the warm air of the valley’s begins to rise, cool air and fog from the coast is pulled through the “Gap.” The cool fog delays the ripening of this pinot noir, allowing more colors, flavors, and complexity to develop in the grapes. The addition of intensely balanced farming practices makes this vineyard produce some of the most-sought after grapes in the country.
Chardonnay | Sonoma Coast | Sonoma County
Gap's Crown Vineyard sits atop a perch facing south-west towards the Petaluma Wind Gap. Out of the available 415 acres of the property, there are only 32 acres of Chardonnay originally planted in 2002. The Petaluma Wind Gap is a unique environment caused by a break in the coastal mountains to the west and the warm inland valleys to the east. As the warm air of the valley’s begins to rise, cool air and fog from the coast is pulled through the “Gap.” The cool fog delays the ripening of this chardonnay, allowing more flavors and complexity to develop in the grapes. The addition of intensely balanced farming practices makes this vineyard produce some of the most-sought after grapes in the country.
Maple Vineyards is owned, farmed and lovingly tended by Tom and Tina Maple. They purchased 25 acres of premium benchland Dry Creek Valley property in 1987. Before they knew it, Tom and Tina had become full-time farmers, including “his and her” tractors. Most of Maple Vineyards had already been planted with grapes when Tom and Tina purchased it, but as some of the vines become too old to produce, they’ve replaced them with cuttings from other original Zinfandel vines in the Maple Vineyard. All of their vines are head-pruned which allows for even sun exposure, wind circulation, and distribution of grape clusters for uniform ripening. Since Maple Vineyards is also the place Tom and Tina call home, they are meticulous stewards of their land. They do not use artificial fertilizers but rather feed the soil with natural cover crops between the vines, which are then tilled back into the soil. The vineyard is also “dry farmed” meaning they do not water mature vines. This forces the vine roots to dig deep into the soil to find water from winter rains. This way of farming gives the truest representation of the uniqueness of each growing year and of the terroir that is Maple Vineyards. As a winery we work very closely with the Maple’s to ensure we consistently exhibit the stunning characteristics of this inimitable vineyard.
Tina’s Block is named for Tina Maple who loves to collect things and hates to throw anything away. This very old block was planted in 1910. When the Maple’s bought the property this block was so neglected they had it slated for removal. But as time went on they realized it was a very special field blend of not just Zinfandel, but Petite Sirah, Carignane, Mission, Cincault, Grenache and even a few unidentified black grapes. After years of hard work retraining and rehabilitating old vines this has become the rock star block of Maple Vineyard. As the only winery making wine from this block we strive to showcase this amazing history in a bottle, with its deep color, rich structure, amazing fruit and obscenely long finish.
Parmelee-Hill Vineyard is owned by Steve Hill and his wife, Gwen Parmelee Hill. Along with their son Ned Hill they planted this gorgeous 55-acre property with Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Chardonnay. The heart of Parmelee-Hill faces Sonoma Valley to the east, and San Pablo Bay to the south. This particular microclimate warms up during the day, but cools off rapidly at night due to the maritime breezes of San Pablo Bay.
Our Zinfandel block is planted on an eastern facing hillside stressing the vines just enough to produce rich opulent flavors balanced with firm acidity. Our Pinot Noir is planted on exposed rocky clay flats bringing lush fruit, a sensuous texture and vibrant minerality to the wine. With 30 years farming experience under his belt, Steve Hill brings a wealth of knowledge, meticulous farming techniques, and a love of the land to his vineyard. Since both Steve and Ned live literally in the middle of Parmelee-Hill they are able to keep an eye on every part of their vineyard and meet the unique challenges of each growing season. They are dedicated to grape growing excellence in the pursuit of world class wines.