Excited about our plan to potentially revolutionize New World Mourvedre, it came time to find the ideal cuttings for our ambitious project.
With 36,000 vines going into the ground on the highest, steepest limestone ridge of the vineyard, I did not take this decision lightly.
A few years back, we met Ian Brand in his Salinas winery. On the concrete crush pad he drew a map extending from Big Sur in the South through the Santa Cruz Mountains in the North – the Pacific Ocean and the San Andreas Fault created either border.
As we tasted each lot, Ian pinpointed the location of the vineyard source by dotting the map on the floor. At the end of the tasting, he made a chalk mark over the Gabilan Mountain triangles and poured us one of the most compelling Mourvedres outside of Bandol.
No Cell Service
In December I gave Ian a call and asked for that Mourvedre vintner’s contact information. That taste of the Mourvedre still lingered, as did Ian’s explanation that the vines were perfectly healthy, well over 100 years old, and genetically tested to be Mourvedre unlike anything else found in California.
Ian explained he had one number for vintner Russell Enz and no email address – with no cell service back in no man’s land, Ian advised I’d be better off driving up there than calling to inquire about Mourvedre cuttings.
Without hesitation, Ruben and I headed north, filled up with gas at King City, and ventured out into one of the last remaining corridors of the Wild West – taking rural highways around Pinnacles National Park and north through a gloriously rugged valley – finally we wound our way back against the Eastern edge of steep mountains.
A thousand feet below the world-famous Calera Vineyard, planted somewhere around 1895, lies Enz Vineyard in a sheltered basin. Settled in the 1850s as a mining town, the stone structure of the old tavern still stands as a ruin across the dirt track from the vines.
Digging into the gorge above the vineyard, this community supplied the Limestone to build San Francisco and these days extracts ornamental stone for contractors. The soil under the Enz vineyard consists of both Granite and Limestone.
In my mind I didn’t have much leverage in negotiating for cuttings with Mr. Enz. I could buy sterilized Mourvedre from the nursery, we could get local Mourvedre that might be laden with virus, or I could get Russell’s cuttings that not only brought pedigree, but were still producing lovely wine at 120 years old. The thick gnarled vines, the dramatic cliffs, and the clouds hanging on the mountain peaks above – all heightened our desire for these truly unique cuttings.
Up until Ruben and I showed up, Russell planned to drop each pruned shoot to decompose on the ground – I offered to pay his crew for the trouble of bundling the sticks together so we could gather them for transport.
Russell raised his eyebrows, and asked how many I wanted. I looked around the small basin as an excuse to make eye contact with Ruben, and perhaps too quickly answered, “all of them”.