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"Terroir" from a Rockpile

"Terroir" from a Rockpile

Clay Mauritson (photo by C.S.)

Carrie Strong | Chefs Blade

Secondly, the Healdsburg-Rodgers Creek earthquake fault runs right through the Mauritson Rockpile AVA vineyards. Its presence creates diversity of soil, slope, sun exposure and drainage, therefore creating many different terroirs in one vineyard site. An example of this, as mentioned earlier, are the 17 different soils found in the Mauritson vineyards. Built up by the fault, the Rockpile AVA is a singular ridge line that runs down the center of Lake Sonoma. Lake Sonoma is extremely deep and therefore holds its temperatures extremely well, creating an inversion layer as the air heats up in the summer and fall. This inversion layer holds the fog below the 800 foot mark, ensuring there will be little or no moisture in the air during the growing season. Large-berried grape varieties, which are more prone to rot due to tighter bunches, are able to prosper in such a climate; the lack of moisture in the air and a more stressed environment tend to produce smaller berries, creating looser bunches and eliminating rot.

Finally, the terroir of Rockpile is affected by a lack of water in the soil. Clay had seven wells drilled on the Mauritson vineyard property. Only one well produced water. At 10 gallons per minute, it was an insufficient amount of water to irrigate all 34 acres. As a result, it took 5 years to plant the Mauritson Winery vineyards. It became necessary to create environments for the youngest vines, mostly on aggressive rootstalks, to have enough water to survive with the goal of being dry farmed. As soon as the root systems of the young vines were deep enough to sustain them, the water was cut off and allocated to new sites. Once Clay had trained and cultivated his vineyards he began working on creating and defining the “Single Soil Wines”. The vines grow in soils consisting of Positas, Suther, Clough and/or other loam soils. Blocks, rows, or half rows mark each soil where individual vines grow accordingly. Official government websites define each of these soils so as to help Clay maintain uniformity on the project.

Positas soils, made up of “deep and very deep, moderately well drained soils that formed in alluvial material from mixed rock sources,” Clay says, produce very rich wines with broad expansive tannins, dark fruit with earth and tobacco notes.

Suther soils, found in higher elevations, are “moderately deep and have pale brown, medium acid loam … over weathered sandstone.” Vines grown in Suther soils produce wines with higher tones of red fruits, tightly focused tannins, and a core minerality. The lower lying Clough soils, sustained by more drainage and clay, are “very slowly permeable soils that occur on old terraces formed in gravelly alluvium.” Clough soils produce elegant wines with soft tannins, lush fruit with ranges from red to black cherry, and soft dusty characteristics. Each of Clay’s wines is named according to its soil type.

The first vintage, 2006, will only release the Positas and Suther wines and a blend of all soils appropriately called Loam. The 100% Cabernet Loam balances the bright focused tannins of hillside fruit with the dense, rich characteristics of fruit grown in the ancient river bed and valley floor soils. Currently, these wines are being slowly introduced to select markets. In these markets, Clay happily reports, “people have been blown away not only by the concept, but more importantly, by the wines!” A new website is in development for the “Single Soil Wines” to be linked to the Mauritson website at a later date. In the mean time, Clay is working on the next vintage which will have the full array of “Single Soil Wines.” With the rave reviews Clay has received, expect to taste and hear about more of these great “Single Soil Wines!”