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info@prima-materia.com | Oakland, California

 

Our vineyard is located in the Kelsey Bench AVA of Lake County at 1,450' elevation.

It is only 12 acres, which is the perfect micro-manageable size to provide the grapes we need, and assuring that we personally touch each vine at least four times before harvest.

All of our vines are farmed sustainably without herbicides or pesticides, and they grow on roots suited to a dry-farming future. Some blocks, such as the Sagrantino, Negroamaro, Primitivo and Dolcetto are planted to a single clonal type, while other cultivars like Sangiovese are planted to four different types and in different row orientations and cultivation techniques. The Nebbiolo block has three types on two different roots and all interplanted with a different stylistic paradigm in mind. Aglianico is planted in the same way with a range of ripeness and rusticity desired at harvest rather than uniformity.

The goal is to highlight the aspects that Lake County excels at, such as high structure, good ripeness through warm summers, evolving minerality with vine age and forward fruit while keeping all in check and referencing what each cultivar's history has shown us in the old country. We want balanced vines with a proper crop load that does not loose acidity or become overripe easily, and retains Old World characteristics of earth and mineral. We do not use any vertical shoot positioning (VSP) which leads to raisiny grapes in our sunny climate, nor do we hedge or dramatically alter the vines in any way mid journey. We also defer to the classic wisdom in many cases, cane pruning Nebbiolo to 8 buds per vine with one bunch per shoot in the Piemontese tradition, while Negroamaro is treated very differently, as are the Barbera selections and Sangiovese.

Our red volcanic Forbesville soil lies above a pyroclastic lava flow and is very diverse with large amounts of obsidian, yellow and red clays, and rock washes from Mt. Konocti and the Mayacamas mountain range upheaval. It is high in iron, drains extremely well, and the proximity to ancient Clear Lake and the Mayacamas mountain range means frequent cooling winds balance the summer heat.

 

At harvest our picking friends use 35-pound tubs which we put on the back of the tractor and take to the winery a stone's throw away. Different techniques are used depending on the grape and winemaking goals. Nebbiolo and Aglianico will always be open-top, hand-punched ferments while stainless tanks work well for a portion of Barbera and Primitivo. Some grapes such as Refosco will be split into several different pick times - one for acidity and cool-climate tones then for fruit and tannin two weeks later. Sangiovese is picked multiple times depending on clones, and fermented with and without stems for varying lengths of time. For the Grenache blend the Syrah and Petit Sirah are dried for two weeks appassimento style before co-fermenting with the Grenache, as is a portion of the Sagrantino. If everything went right in the vineyard, then the general trajectory of the wine is in motion before a grape is even picked, and then it is a matter of aging, watchful patience, and constant learning of each grape's quiet language.