Terroir, the unique characteristics and the combined effects a location has on a product (in this case grapes), is becoming more important in developing high-quality fruit and wine. Recent data suggests that the terroir of high altitude mountain vineyards is producing some of the highest quality fruit and wines.
High altitude vineyards generally have rockier soil and better water drainage than vineyards located on a valley floor or even on hillsides. The temperatures on a mountain vineyard tend to be cooler, yet the sunlight exposure time is longer throughout the day. This is definitely the case on the Fortress Vineyard. In addition, the Fortress Vineyard has a constant breeze/wind each day which keeps the vine environment cool and dry (the “Lake effect”). Studies have shown that this breeze/wind helps maintain the acid structure developing well balanced wines. Together, these growing conditions result in bunches and grapes that are smaller with a lesser juice content and a larger skin ratio which in turn, produces more intense, structured wines.
Photo by Martin Sundberg, Berkeley, CA
Fortress Vineyard is located on a ridge of Mt. Konocti in the Red Hills Lake County AVA. The vineyard elevation range is from 2,000 to 2,400 feet. The vineyard directly overlooks Clear Lake. The vineyard was named because of the number of large rocks and boulders that were pushed over to the side as we cleared the land on the side of the mountain. The rock “walls” that were formed from pushing these rocks and boulders to the side resembled the ruins of an old fortress going up the mountain side, thus the name – Fortress Vineyard. The well-drained gravelly red volcanic soil and increased UV ray exposure contribute to the uniqueness of this high-altitude mountain terroir.