One of the first people to plant grapes in the Sonoma Mountain / Bennett Valley region after a 60-year absence, David Steiner was viewed as a pioneer when he established the vineyard in the early 1970s. David originally planted Cabernet Sauvignon and had success with the initial vintages produced by Stonegate and Joseph Swan, among others. Over time, as the site proved too cool to consistently produce high-quality Cabernet, Rod Berglund of Joseph Swan convinced David to plant Pinot Noir instead. As a result, Steiner Vineyard became a go-to source of grapes for highly-acclaimed California Pinot Noirs beginning in the early 1990s.
After a series of different turns in ownership, we were lucky enough to acquire the site in 2005, and began the painstaking process of re-developing the vineyard to bring it back to its historic standards. Roughly ten of the original thirty acres under vine were still standing. Most of those vines were virused and impacted by phyloxera. In the end, we were able to save only one block – a 1.5 acre stand of Pinot Noir clone 667 planted in 1998. The remainder of the 18.5 acres developed to date were installed in high-density, state-of-the-art plantings. We grow Pinot Noir, Syrah, Grenache, Grüner Veltliner, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier.
We proudly view our vineyard as one of the best in California. Our fruit is used by highly discerning wine producers including: Argot, Carlisle, Donelan Family, Enkidu, Eric Kent, Holdredge, Three Sticks, and Vaughn Duffy. Out of respect for David Steiner’s hard work in establishing the site and a desire by our winemaking clients to be associated with the quality standard David initiated, you will find Steiner Vineyard designated on these producers’ best bottlings.
Matching grape varietal to appropriate climate is one of the most important variables in creating great wine, and our Sonoma Mountain perch above the Bennett Valley provides a very accommodating home for the cool-climate grapes we grow. The cool conditions allow our grapes to accumulate their sweetness (sugar) slowly, so that the vines have time to transfer all of the other physiological elements that create distinct flavor before we pick. Situated west of the Santa Rosa Plain, Bennett Valley is directly in the path of the pacific marine air migrating inland via the Petaluma Gap. This Marine influence results in cool winds on summer days, and a fog that can start in the early evening and linger late into the next day’s morning – absolutely ideal circumstances for growing grapes that reach their fullest flavor potential. From a temperature accumulation and temperature diurnal change, our site is very similar to that of the Sonoma Coast.
Our site’s 1,000-foot elevation provides some important grape growing advantages. Our elevation allows our vineyard to peek through to the sun earlier when fog dissipates, and those extra minutes of sun can add up to more consistent grape quality – an advantage that becomes increasingly important in particularly cold vintages, like those we witnessed in 2010, 2011, and 2018. Additionally, every 200 feet in elevation reduces the temperature by one degree compared to the valley floor. As a result, our 1,000-foot elevation gives us approximately five degrees of relief on hot days, which is important because grape quality can suffer at higher temperatures. The intensity of sun at higher elevation tends to result in thicker grape skins. Skins are where flavor is derived, so our wines are imparted with a special degree of intensity. Finally, our elevation protects our site from pockets of pooling cool air that can lead to frost at the valley floor. As a result, we experience little to no frost risk, resulting in more consistent crops and no need to use water for frost protection.
Sonoma Mountain was created by volcanic activity, and our site’s soils are a mixture of basalt rock and clay derived from volcanic ash. With that said, our vineyard blocks can be quite varied in soil composition. Matanzas Creek, which runs across the Southwest corner of our site, has had a profound influence on the evolution of the site’s soils. Over the eons, the creek has run over much of the property. When digging in the vineyard, it is not uncommon to find old creek bed of sand, gravel and round stones eight feet below the topsoil. In addition, one bench of our vineyard is derived from an ancient rock slide and the vines are literally planted on a rock pile.
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