For over two decades, Arbor Bench Vineyard has been a source of outstanding grapes for premier wineries in California, including Clos du Bois, Dry Creek Vineyard, Kendall-Jackson, Rodney Strong Vineyards and Gloria Ferrer. We have produced our own estate-grown wines since 2005.
Under the management of Viticulturist Duff Bevill, the vines are cultivated and selectively pruned to take advantage of the sun exposure on the floor and famed benchland of Dry Creek Valley. Cluster thinning results in a smaller harvest, but with greater intensity of flavor and added complexity. Some wineries purposely stress their vines by withholding water in the final weeks, but ours are treated gently, allowing the grapes to ripen more slowly, maintaining a better balance of sugar and acid at harvest.
The House Vineyard is comprised of three blocks of Merlot, planted in 1988 and 1997. The blocks are located near Dry Creek in well-drained soils. All are Merlot Clone 03, selected for its deep color, intense fruit flavors and aroma, on either 110R or 5C rootstock. These vines produce medium-sized clusters which exhibit intense berry flavors after its long ripening period. All of our Merlot vines are cordon-pruned.
In 2005 we replanted our benchland vineyard to 9.24 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and 3.92 acres of Malbec. Cabernet Clone 06 was selected for its very small, loose-clustered grapes, known for their deep color, intense and highly structured flavors, and other desirable qualities for long-lived wines. We selected Malbec Clone 595, a recent import from Europe, for its intense dark color and great fruit characteristics in the aroma and palate. Both the Cabernet and Malbec vines are cane-pruned, leaving only two canes per vine, limiting the potential yield of fruit in favor of the higher quality already evident in our 2007 and 2008 vintages.
In 2008 we ended the practice of tractor “disking” for weed control, and have planted cover crops instead. With a non-till system, the vine row cover crop becomes habitat for beneficial insects, and the risk of erosion and runoff during the winter and spring rainy season is minimized. This is critical in helping protect our native Coho Salmon and Steelhead fisheries in Dry Creek Valley.
2010 saw a very cool and rainy spring, resulting in a delayed “bud break” (when the first shoots are seen). This led to a later bloom and, combined with a much cooler June through August, a longer “hang time” for the grapes prior to harvest in the fall. This extended mild ripening period helps develop more varietal character without the excessive sugar (and high alcohol) content that hotter weather can bring.