We densely planted the vines to create competition, and trellis them low to the ground to take advantage of the radiant heat from the rocky soil. The competition between plants, as well as the rugged terrain and limited water create intense small clusters of grapes with thick skins. The soil is rocky clay, which is good to hold the water and provide the vines with many natural nutrients. The vineyard currently consists of 3500 vines of 12 different varietals; all on a VSP trellising system with unilateral cordons. We prune and harvest by hand due to the steep terrain. The pruning is done both to promote the general health of the vines and to minimize crop load. We regularly thin our crop to improve the quality of the fruit. All grapes are harvested by hand at optimum ripeness. There are many fruit trees planted above the vineyard and below are still many herb plants, mainly lavenders, that we call the survivors after the fires. A few olive trees will be planted in 2011 and there may be Olive Oil in the future.
Rocky Hill Vineyard was created when our business, Rusty Acres Herb Farm was forced to close down due to the wild fires in October of 2007. We lost our nursery plants due to lack of water during the 6-day evacuation. We decided to try our hand at growing grapes in early 2007 when Jim made a few cuttings from a single Syrah vine we had planted in 2003. A few cuttings survived (about 80) that he planted in April 2007 in our “Chicken House” vineyard as an experiment. We began hand clearing the hillside for the main vineyard in October of 2007. Several tons of rocks were removed, thus the name Rocky Hill Vineyard. We selected grape varietals based on the similarity to the climate and terrain in Provence, The Rhone Valley in France or Tuscany in North Italy. Primarily Rhone varietals were selected.
The vineyard is a very steep hillside, over looking the beautiful Rainbow
Valley in the most northern part of San DiegoCounty, far from the noise and pollution of the city. Hand terracing the 300 foot rows required many hours of Judi’s time with her shovel and rake. Jim cleared brush, pulled stumps, and removed rocks. This idyllic location provided warm days and cool nights critical to premium hand crafted wines. We began planting the first vines on St Patrick’s Day in 2008 in hopes of bringing them the “luck of the Irish”. All work in the vineyard is done by hand as it is to steep to get a tractor across the vineyard. The decision to plant 4 x 5 spacing was made and is now becoming a growing practice in a lot of new vineyards appearing in California. Our viticulture model is designed to produce grapes with concentrations, intensity and a true character of place.
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