Impasses Inspire Innovation
Choosing the Santa Cruz Mountains for our vineyards offered the best hope for growing grapes in a Pinot Noir-friendly climate. That said, wild temperature swings, steep slopes, and thin soils present their own unique challenges. Our response is innovation.
Turning Tables on Cold, Rain, and Fog
Extreme weather in our Domaine Lois Louise vineyard routinely affected yields. Cold spells killed flowers. Two out of 10 years delivered…nothing. Until we learned about micro-greenhouses used in a British Columbia vineyard. We tried them. They worked. Now we routinely deploy row-by-row mini-greenhouses—improving yields during bad weather and good.
Conquering Slippery Slopes
Some of our vineyards grow on slopes with up to 35% grade. Tilling the thin soil causes it to wash to the bottom of the mountain. Normal tractors trying to traverse steep slopes face a high risk of overturning. Working with a German tractor company, TJ Rodgers developed a self-leveling tractor run on cables. Each leg of the tractor articulates independently—like a four-legged robot—to safely move it across, up, or down hills.
Monitoring Disease and Leaf Pressure
We rely on drones to monitor disease and leaf water potential, as well as to spray for disease prevention. Drone monitoring allows us to reduce spraying by up to two events in a season, saving time and money. We also measure actual water pressure in leaves—watering only when the vines tell us they’re thirsty.
Minimizing Astringent Tannin
During pressing, shoveling the grape skins and seeds (pomace) results in astringent tannins being released into the juice. We developed a press that eliminates shoveling pomace. Instead, juice flows by gravity to fermentation with native yeasts and no additional manipulation from pumping or filtration. Sensors automatically report fermentation temperatures and Brix levels, which are closely monitored.
Cellaring in Caves
The winery is in three caves stepped down the hillside to accommodate gravity-flow winemaking. Each cave is 30 feet wide, 30 feet high, and 300 feet deep—dug four feet at a time and immediately reinforced with shotcrete to prevent cave-ins.