Occidental Ridge Vineyard was developed by the late Warren Dutton during 1999-2000. Instrumental in the genesis of West County farming, Mr. Dutton saw the great potential for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in this cool-climate region.
The vineyard site is on 11 acres at around 800 feet above sea level. The exposition is gently sloping to the North West. A blocking ridge out to our west provides a stalling effect on rain during the winter, resulting in high level of precipitation. That same ridge blocks summertime fog and keeps us in a sort of fog-free "island", resulting in long, dry, sunny days. Our proximity to the coast (about 7 miles) provides for a less dramatic diurnal variation in temperature: compared to vineyards further inland, we are cooler during the day, but a bit warmer at night - a true maritime influence. We believe that this unique mesoclimate, characterized by "cool sunlight" generates ripening and phenolic maturity at a more steady pace.
Soils are a huge variable in terms of wine production. Whether the composition of soil has any direct impact on the finished wine in terms of aromatics and flavor is a matter of debate for enologists, viticulturists, and wine writers. One thing is for sure: the texture, pH and depth of vineyard soils are crucial to the health of the vines, and the seasonal regime of nutritional and water management. Our Goldridge/Sebastopol soils are renowned for great balance of water holding capacity and drainage. Dozens and dozens of vineyards in West County have the same soils. Where we may differ is in the variability within our site, and our decision to not alter or "input" to make it uniform. Little "waves" and rises in the vineyard correspond to different soil profiles. Each of these areas are thus managed differently in terms of vine care, and decisions whether to irrigate or dry farm. In the end, we believe that this difficult situation is one that engenders greater variability within each vineyard block, and in turn greater fruit complexity - the true identity of a vineyard designate wine.
Because of our proximity to the pacific coast, we are susceptible to challenging conditions (wind, rain) during "bloom", the critical period when fruitset is determined. As a result, annual yields vary wildly from year to year. In consecutive seasons we have had as little as 9 tons from the entire vineyard, followed by 24 tons in the next...