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“In a general sense, Bordeaux varieties grown in high altitude mountainous environments have the potential to achieve superior flavor profiles compared to the same variety grown at lower altitudes where deeper soils exist. … Grape farming at altitudes in excess of 1600′ has its own set of challenges… but the fruit produced is highly concentrated with rich varietal character. Vineyards capable of producing fruit with such intense characteristics are highly coveted by winemakers.”
~John Copeland

History of the Vineyard

History of the Vineyard

Initially developed by John Copeland in 1998, Pine Mountain Vineyards lies at the center of the newly designated Pine Mountain–Cloverdale Peak AVA. Pine Mountain Vineyards’ 36 acres are perched at between 2,200 to 2,800 ft of elevation.

IMG_1333-waterfallOur 36 planted acres are part of a larger 600-acre ranch, which is home to an impressive range of plant diversity including oak, madrone, and manzanita woodlands, fir forests, native grasslands, springs, streams, and water catchments supporting healthy wildlife populations. The property is carefully managed to balance the rewards of high elevation viticulture while still maintaining the pristine native ecosystems for future generations.

The Visionary

John Copeland worked for many years in the property development department of Kendall-Jackson, and traveled extensively to identify promising existing vineyards or lands with potential vineyard development for the company. John shared with us the following:

“It was my honor and privilege to learn the finer aspects of viticulture from one of the true visionaries of the wine industry, the iconic founder of Kendall-Jackson wines, Mr. Jess Jackson. One of the most critical lessons I learned from Jess was the importance of vineyard site selection in determining desirable wine flavor characteristics for a given grape varietal. This is particularly true for Bordeaux grape varieties in general, and more specifically for Cabernet Sauvignon. In a general sense, Bordeaux varieties grown in high altitude mountainous environments have the potential to achieve superior flavor profiles compared to the same variety grown at lower altitudes where deeper soils exist. The reasons for this are many, but Jess Jackson was one of the first vintners in California to insist on sourcing Bordeaux fruit varieties from high altitude sites.”

IMG_3702-blocksandbarnWhen it came time for him to look for a site for himself, he was attracted to the ranch owned by a retired steel executive on the top of a hillside east of Cloverdale. This was a retirement haven with olive trees, cattle, pasture, and ponds but no grapevines. John saw the potential of the site, convinced the owner to sell it to him and undertook to develop a vineyard. The first 25 acres were planted in 1998 and the second development of 10 additional acres was completed in 2001.

It was just the beginning of John’s plan. He not only knew the unique character of Pine Mountain Vineyards, but also recognized a larger area that shared the same potential and quality for wine grape growing. It was not just a vineyard he wanted to develop but a whole new viticultural area. While he had known for some time that the area had earned a reputation among winemakers for producing excellent fruit (as far back as the late 1880’s), he was surprised to find that that this specific area, on the border of Sonoma and Mendocino counties, lacked a descriptive appellation, and was included in the larger non-specific North Coast AVA. Knowing the importance of descriptive appellation within the wine industry, he set about gathering comparative data and found the unique characteristics for growing ultra-premium fruit in this high altitude region (above 1600′) to be richly deserving of their own designation.

According to John, “Grape farming at altitudes in excess of 1600′ has its own set of challenges. High altitude means low yield production, but the fruit produced is highly concentrated with rich varietal character. Vineyards capable of producing fruit with such intense characteristics are highly coveted by winemakers. With the assistance of neighboring grape growers on Pine Mountain, I began the long process of application for a small area, high altitude appellation. Ultimately, Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak was granted specific AVA status, recognizing it as one of the smallest area, highest altitude appellations ever granted within California.”

img_terroirIt was an odyssey with many reversals, but in November 2011, the new Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak AVA was officially created.

As our history illustrates, Pine Mountain Vineyards and Winery has been the beneficiary of decisions made years ago by visionary, generous, and overall exceptional people. We are grateful to all of them.