The Sta. Rita Hills AVA is significantly impacted by its proximity to the ocean (10 miles), consistent morning/evening fog, and steady afternoon winds. These cooling trends are not only perfectly suited to growing Pinot Noir, Grenache, and Syrah, but also serve to prolong the growing season, allowing for heightened varietal flavor intensity. Additionally, the area’s cool climate and vineyards’ calcareous rock and sand help produce grapes with natural acidity and flavor balance.
At SAMsARA, we believe that all of the important work should be done in the vineyard, with little handling or manipulation of the fruit once it reaches the winery. Winegrowing at SAMsARA starts with selecting special sections within each vineyard where soils, altitudes, slopes, and elevations will bring the best out of the vine. With each section, the aim is to have “healthy vines in extreme conditions”. As there is a direct, inverse relationship between the quantity of grapes a vine produces and their quality, all of the SAMsARA sections are purchased by the acre – SAMsARA pays the same price no matter how little fruit is produced.
Optimal winegrowing begins with soil management & Springtime irrigation to ensure that vines have the nutrients and water they need to grow. Once flowering occurs in mid-summer, irrigation is stopped, forcing the vines to stop growing and focus on ripening their fruit. Leaves are removed by hand, exposing the grapes and their stems to sunlight, and moving air through the canopy. Grape clusters are then thinned by hand, further increasing the intensity of the remaining fruit.
Rancho La Viña Vineyard was planted in 2005 at the far southwestern edge of the Sta. Rita Hills. Situated on a gently-sloped mesa several hundred feet above the valley floor and fully exposed to the cool winds coming off the Pacific Ocean, this site is one of the coldest Pinot Noir vineyards in California. Along with the region’s marine influence, the site’s low fertility sandy loam soils yield very small berries, which give the wines remarkably deep, dark color and intense flavors.
Planted in 2005, Kessler-Haak Vineyard sits on 29 acres of east-facing rolling hillsides in the cooler northwestern portion of the Sta. Rita Hills. The soils vary from sandy to sandy loam with patches of clay loam. Seven Pinot Noir clones are planted on 3 different rootstocks with low yields averaging 1.2 – 1.5 ton/acre. Although not certified, vineyard practices are strictly organic. No pesticides or herbicides are used and weed control is done mechanically. Pest control is done through natural predators, such as hawks, badgers, and coyotes.
Las Hermanas Vineyard sits to the west of the Melville Estate Vineyard, just 8 miles from the ocean. It is planted on over six different soil types, all of marine origin. SAMsARA’s four rows of clone 115 Pinot Noir are located towards the top of the vineyard, where it is well-drained and aggressively sloped.
Overlooking the western Santa Ynez River, Cargasacchi Vineyard was planted in 1998 on a south-facing slope of the Sta. Rita Hills range. The vineyard is comprised of a mere twelve acres, all of which are Pinot Noir Clone 115. In Burgundy, this particular clonal selection is looked upon as the whole package because of its ability to produce wines of both intense aromatics and flavor. Cargasacchi’s low-nutrient and lean soils evolved from a weathered Miocene period seabed, which forms the dorsal spine of the Sta. Rita Hills. Over millions of years, the upslope weathering and erosion have created an ancient alluvial fan on which the Cargasacchi Vineyard is planted. The site’s “argilo-calcaire” soils, with their moderate water holding capacity and excellent drainage, are perfectly suited to growing Pinot Noir.
Melville Vineyard sits in the cool-climate Sta. Rita Hills AVA. SAMsARA’s sections are located just behind the winery, planted in deep, light-textured sandy loam soil at an 8′ x 3′ spacing (1,815 vines/acre). The vineyard is predominantly north/south-facing and the vines are all vertically shoot positioned with aggressive canopy management to ensure proper ripening and varietal development.
The SAMsARA Syrah section – 8 rows of vines in the only remaining Syrah block on the estate – was planted in 1998. The vines are 100% Estrella clone on two different low-vigor rootstocks and produce 2.5 to 2.75 lbs per vine.
The 6-row SAMsARA Pinot Noir section is nearby. The soil is a darker, textured clay-based soil with slightly more vigor and more minerals, which produces more complex fruit. There are four rows of Pinot Noir clone 667 and two rows of the Pommard clone, producing 2.25 to 2.5 lbs per vine.
Turner Vineyard sits on 21 acres adjacent to Melville’s Estate Vineyard in the northern part of the Sta. Rita Hills. The site is planted to three acres of Syrah and fifteen acres of Pinot Noir, amongst other varieties. SAMsARA’s Pinot Noir section is located beside Carrie’s Block and has the same dark, clay-based soil with calcareous chunks. It has a high elevation and is very exposed to the Sta. Rita Hills wind. The four rows of vines are comprised of clones 777 and Pommard, which produce approximately 2.25 to 2.5lbs per vine. This site benefits from an incredible landscape comprised of a valley floor, gentle hills facing both north and south, and a mesa.
An optimal growing site for Syrah and other varieties, Zotovich Vineyard is comprised of 35 acres in the northern part of the Sta. Rita Hills between Buellton and Lompoc. The vineyard is made up of mostly diatomaceous earth and sandy loam soils that create intense, mineral-driven wines.
Planted in 1999, Larner Vineyard is situated amongst the beautiful rolling hills of Ballard Canyon in the Santa Ynez Valley. At approximately 680 feet in elevation, this organically-farmed vineyard is planted to almost all Rhone varieties, including six acres of Grenache (4 blocks, 4 clones). The soil is composed of Marina sand roughly four feet shallow on top of a chalk bedrock, intermixed with conglomerate hardpan.