Fe Ciega Vineyard
July 30th, 2009 Pre Harvest Update
2008 marks the 10th anniversary of the establishment of our Estate Vineyard, Fe Ciega. Originally planted to 7.75 acres with three clones of Pinot Noir, we added an additional 1.25 acres of Pinot Noir and .75 acres of Chardonnay in June 2008. The vineyard is situated on a small mesa about 350 feet above the Santa Ynez River in the middle of a 40 acre ranch owned by Hank and Brenda Klehn. Located at the end of Sweeney Road about 8 miles east of the Lompoc city limits, it is at the western end of the Santa Rita Hills viticultural appellation. The combination of the cool climate, clay loam soil with shale fragments, and gentle southern exposure all combine to produce intense, concentrated Pinot Noirs.
I was introduced to the Klehns in the summer of 1996, by the Marks family, owners of Sweeney Canyon Vineyard. I had been buying Chardonnay grapes from them since their first harvest in 1984. When Hank told me that they owned the property just above Sweeny Canyon Vineyard, I immediately asked him if he would be interested in planting a vineyard on his property. For the next year we explored the parameters of working together to establish a vineyard, and in 1997, we arrived at a plan which culminated in the planting of vines in 1998. It has been a gratifying experience for all of us, and we have been amazed at what an incredible site Fe Ciega has turned out to be for producing outstanding Pinot Noir.
From the first vintage, it was clear to me that this was a special site for Pinot Noir production. The wines have had a distinct personality which sets them apart from other Santa Rita Hills wines. They take on different nuances with each vintage, but the core personality comes through each year. Fe Ciega Pinot Noirs have an interesting sage-like herbal character behind the more typical black cherry and blackberry aromas. On the palate the wines tend to be quite intense, with strong but smooth tannins and strong acidity. They have often been described as masculine. We are excited about our Chardonnay planting which is located immediately next to Sweeney Canyon Vineyard. That vineyard has produced many outstanding wines for the Longoria label as well as others. We anticipate the grapes will provide us with an opportunity to produce classically-styled Chardonnay. We expect our first harvest to be in 2011.
In 2003, I decided to sell a few tons of Fe Ciega grapes to a longtime friend and a winemaker for whom I have tremendous respect, Adam Tolmach of Ojai Vineyards. Adam has a great feel for vineyard sites and as soon as he saw Fe Ciega for the first time, he didn't hesitate to sign up for grapes. Adam receives grapes from all three clones and on the same days that I decide to harvest the grapes. Adam feels Fe Ciega makes one of his top if not top Pinot Noir each year. To read Adam's notes on his current vintage of Fe Ciega Pinot Noir click here: Adam Tolmach's Fe Ciega Pinot Noir