Ever taken a sip of a wine and stopped dead in your tracks? Felt it engage your belly and then seep up into your brain? That is the experience we seek to create for consumers of Peay wines. Those wines almost universally come from estate wineries. The people who walk the land, make the wine. They live with their vineyard and know it intimately. You can almost taste the vineyard, the history and the personalities of the people behind those wines. That is what makes them unique. That is what arrests you as you distractedly take a sip, “Hey, what is this?”
To make a wine that captures a sense of a place and a people it is necessary to allow the vineyard to speak. Every decision we make is driven by a desire to let the vineyard show in our wines. Below are some specifics on how we grow fruit. This is just a quick overview. To learn more, come on out and walk the land with Nick.
We farm organically and have for the past 8 years. We are not certified, however. We are not dogmatic, black and white people, and farming on the coast means we are often thrown curve balls. If we needed to address something that threatens the vineyard – and there is no organic alternative – we would do it to save the vineyard. But we have not for 8 years.
We employ 8 year-round workers in the vineyard. They have worked for us for years and have become a highly skilled and integral part of the place. Everything is done by hand though we use tractors for spraying, hauling fruit, undervine tilling, and the like. Our workers touch each vine over 13 times per year. Having our own “crew” is rare as it is expensive but the care and attention they give our vineyard translates into the wine you drink.
Lastly, we use bio-diesel in our tractors. This allows us to minimize our reliance on certain fossil fuels at the expense of withstanding the smell of French fries while we work. We also power our vineyard and winery via solar panel arrays. Can you taste the effects of these last practices? Probably not, but perhaps the intention behind them.
For our location and wine growing philosophy, we use a vertical shoot-positioned trellis, supporting a head trained bilateral cane pruned system, excepting the Syrah which is on a bilateral cordon. This allows plenty of direct, dappled sunshine, kept cool by ocean breezes – part of the formula for quality – resulting in intensely flavored grapes and a complex array of subtle nuances, framed by balanced acid and tannin structuring components.
Spacing is intermediate to semi-close. Our narrow width tractors are less than five feet wide. The seven and eight feet spacing between rows is just fine as we are on steep hillside slopes and need whatever room we can get. Spacing between plants – currently our shortest is three feet – is governed by a desire to create fruit and energy balance along the length of the canes. After the vines are well established we no longer till the soil between the rows. We utilize erosion-minimizing cross-slope farming, aiming to keep the hilltop out of the ravine, and on top of the hill.
Vines & Crop Load
Our clones and rootstock have been extensively evaluated and selected to produce superior fruit. The large number of clones we farm enables us to blend for enhanced complexity or to bottle separately to express a unique profile. The clones we grow produce smaller berries and clusters but we will “drop” crop to keep yields low to achieve fruit intensity. We also wing the pinot noir to ensure that all the berries we pick develop at the same rate. And despite our long growing season, due to our cool climate we need a “light” crop load to ensure we get our grapes ripe at harvest. And not to worry, Mother Nature has kept our yields very low with tonnage less than one per acre for 3 of the last 7 years and averaging around 1.5 tons/acre. But that is okay, lower yields maximize flavor and bring out the essence of our vineyard site.