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Estate Grown Grapes
Our Soils

When it comes to winemaking, it’s difficult to point to a specific style of winemaking without mentioning farming. We like to think of ourselves as winegrowers rather than grape growers. Don’t get us wrong, we farm in many of the usual ways one thinks of: getting up before the crack of dawn, working long hours, riding the tractor for what seems like an eternity and working in all types of weather. Winegrowing encompasses all of that, but with the attitude and mindset that every decision in the field affects the quality of the finished product. Every activity executed in the vineyard focuses on making the grapes the very best for our wines.

One of the most important things we do is canopy management. We open up the morning side of the vine by removing most, if not all, of the leaves. This ensures that the developing grape clusters have ample sunlight and a good air flow, helping minimize disease pressure and maximize fruit development.

Our irrigation philosophy is to provide the plant with enough water to keep the plant healthy without excessive vigor. Too much water makes the plant focus on leaves rather than grape development. Over the past several years we have changed our irrigation patterns 8-12 hours every 2 weeks (for very young vines) to more frequent, but shorter cycles of only


3-4 hours every 6-8 days. We believe these shorter cycles allow the plant to stay vibrant while not excessively overgrowing its canopy. And of course, it prevents wasting water that the plant may not need. Our goal is to have small clusters with very concentrated flavors. Too much water usually causes the berries to balloon up and dilutes flavors.

At the winery our focus is all about gentle handling. 100% of our red grapes are whole berry de-stemmed to avoid any crushing. The berries fall from the de-stemmer right back into half ton bins for fermentation. We also do not use a must pump to transfer grapes, which is like putting your grapes into an osterizer. During fermentation all punchdowns are done by hand, 2-3 times a day. While it is more difficult and time consuming to do punchdowns by hand, it allows us to be more involved with the aromas and temperature of the fermentation. Manual punchdowns also allow us to monitor progress first-hand rather than using pumpovers or punchdown tools, which would keep us at a distance from all the nuances of the process.

We believe that our gentle handing allows the fruit to express itself in a more fruit forward style while minimizing sharp tannins and astringent flavors. In our opinion, it makes better wines. Our white wines are either whole cluster pressed (Viognier and Roussanne) or whole berry pressed as in the Chardonnay. This minimizes oxidation and keeps the wines fresh and the aromas intact. We move our red wine grapes directly to barrel fermentation and allow the wine to remain on the lees until bottling. Our whites are stirred while in barrel every 3-4 weeks to maximize the flavor from the lees, which impart a creaminess to the finished wine.

Lastly, we’re big believers in blending. Of the 20 or so wines we make 18 of them are blends. We have found that blends tend to make even more complex wines with greater balance and are better food partners. Sometimes it may only take 5-10% of another varietal to change a certain aspect of a wine making it more round, smooth or complex.

Estate Grown Grapes                   

At Narrow Gate Vineyards our entire farm is 
Demeter Certified Biodynamic©.

We grow 9 varietals farmed on
13+ acres

Grenache - 2.50 acres
Syrah 2.30 acres
Mourvedre .60 acres
Viognier 2.0 acres
Roussanne .75 acres
Cabernet Sauvignon 1.60 acres
Cabernet Franc .60 acres
Primitivo 2.25 acres
Petite Sirah .33
Vermentino .15


Find out more about Rhone Varietals.

Our Soils

Our soils come from a series called Josephine. They consist of well drained soils that are underlain by vertically tilted schists, slates and contact metamorphic rocks at depths of 40-60 inches. These soils are gently rolling to very steep ranging from 5-30%. Our vineyards are planted up on slopes as steep as 15% in our Syrah and Primitivo blocks.

Planted on a southwest facing hill on 6' X 11' spacing on Vertical Shoot Positioning (VSP) trellis.

The main type of rock found on this site is Serpentine. The rocks and soils are formed from weathered volcanic (utramafic) rocks. These soils provide a harsh environment for plant growth. Several factors contribute to the inhospitability of serpentine soils to plant growth including: 1) a low calcium-magnesium ratio; 2) lack of essential nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous; and 3) high concentrations of heavy metals (mineral toxicity). Serpentine is a major rock forming mineral and is found as a constituent in many metamorphic and weather igneous rocks. It often colors many of these rocks a green color and most rocks that have a green color probably have serpentine in some amount. Serpentine can be an attractive green stone that takes a nice polish and is suitable for carving. It has been used as a substitute for jade and is sometimes difficult to distinguish from jade, a testament to the beauty of finer serpentine material.

Viognier and Grenache
Planted on south facing hills on 6' X 9' spacing on VSP trellis.

The rocks and soils are named Rhyolite, also known as Placerite. Rhyolite is usually light grey to pink in color, and it can form in two different ways. The most spectacular way to form rhyolite is to have a very explosive eruption which hurls hot lava and fragments of the volcano into the atmosphere. Gravity eventually brings these pyroclasts back down to Earth’s surface where they are deposited as layers. If the pyroclasts are hot enough, they might weld together to form a rock called rhyolite tuff, in which we have TONS!!

Planted along the crest of the highest part of our property with a slight southeastern slope on one side and North Slope on the other. Spacing is 6’ X 10’ on VSP trellis.

These rocks and soils are called granites and meta-sedimentary rocks such as schist. The meta-
sedimentary rocks are older: they were originally sediments deposited in marine environments during
early Palaeozoic times (~ 570 – 400 Ma ago). These deposits of mud and sand were probably thousands
of meters thick, and deposited in subsiding basins. Later, as they became involved in intense folding and
heating during mountain building, the mineral composition of these rocks was changed by heat and
pressure. The clays in the mud rocks changed to mica, forming a characteristic sheen on folded surfaces
in the resulting metamorphic rock: schist.

Mourvedre and Roussanne
Planted just below Syrah on the same type of orientation: spacing is 6' X 10'  on VSP trellis.

This site is the roughest, most diversified and most inhospitable of all our sites. If the shallow soils (due
to the many rocks!) don’t do these guys in, the gophers, turkeys or birds will. It is the most remote locale
and bordered by trees to the South and the West, with a large, open hillside on the North (great for
varmints to hide in!). The main soil type is similar to Syrah with meta-sedimentary rock, however there
are many floating (above ground) rocks filled with quartz and quartzite. Some of quartz is Rose Quartz,
but the majority is the milky white quartz. Quartz is the most common mineral on the face of the Earth.
It is found in nearly every geological environment and is at least a component of almost every rock
type. It frequently is the primary mineral, >98%. It is also the most varied in terms of varieties, colors
and forms. This variety comes about because of the abundance and widespread distribution of quartz.



Narrow Gate Vineyards & Winery - 4282 Pleasant Valley Road - Placerville, CA - 95667 - 530.644.6201

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