News/Culture >> Browse Articles >> Q & A

News/Culture >> Browse Articles >> Wine & Drink


"Terroir" from a Rockpile

"Terroir" from a Rockpile

Clay Mauritson (photo by C.S.)

Carrie Strong | Chefs Blade

Some might say that terroir is the most important thing in making great wine. Its elements—soil composition, sun exposure, wind exposure, slope, drainage, etc.—determine how a vine will grow, contributing to the specific personality or characteristic of the vine’s wine. Terroir varies from vineyard to vineyard, creating different flavor profiles in wine. Clay Mauritson, owner and winemaker of Mauritson Family Winery, is capturing this concept in a new type of wine called “Single Soil Wines.”

According to Clay, the philosophy at his Sonoma County winery is that wine is made in the vineyard as opposed to by the winemaker. Clay says, “Great wine comes from great grapes. Great grapes originate in great vineyards and great vineyards are a function of the perfect mix of soil and climate.” While cultivating the Mauritson vineyards in Rockpile American Viticulture Area (AVA), one of the newest designated wine growing regions in the United States, Clay realized that there were 17 different soil types on their vineyard property. These varied soils presented him with an opportunity to create wine which represents a specific element of terroir.

Since all of the elements of terroir play a major role in the outcome of a wine, understanding their effects clarifies the importance of different soil compositions as a feature in wine. The specific terroir in the Rockpile AVA is a direct result of geographic factors.


Rockpile AVA (photo by C.S.)

First and foremost, Rockpile is one of the only AVA’s delineated by elevation where all vineyard sites must be at least 800 feet above sea level. The soils higher in elevation tend to be poorer with steeper slopes but with better drainage, sun, and wind exposures. Each of these factors aid in stressing the vines, limiting yields, and promoting ripening. Rockpile AVA is also only thirteen miles from the Pacific Ocean. As a result of its high elevations and close proximity to the ocean, it receives coastal breezes that cool the vineyards, limit temperature fluctuations, and maintain drier air. This aids in an even ripening of fruit as well as achieving mature flavor profiles at lower brix (or sugar) levels.