In 2000, just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, I found this remote and rugged 40 acre coastal parcel.
I vinified our first vintage in 2004 under the Aston Experimental label. The vineyard is planted exclusively to Dijon clones 115 (2 acres), 667 (4 acres) and 777 (8 acres). In the beginning, the style was a bit bigger reflecting what was currently happening on the coast, the unpredictability of the weather, young vine characteristics and the logistics of hauling the fruit out of this remote site. As the vineyard matured, so did the area and that part of the world feels much smaller and closer these days.
With better access to the site, more vineyard activity in the area and older vines, it has become easier to take the quality of the fruit to exactly where I want it out at the Estate. The established vines now ripen more thoroughly at lower brix which has tamed the style while still focusing on the more broad shouldered, savage style of wines from the Annapolis area. There have been a few turning points out here in terms of wine quality. After investing 20 years of effort into this now mature 14 acre plot of Pinot Noir, I'm proud that as it’s gotten older, it has become more interesting due to an increased focus on small block fermentations, vine age and two decades of experience. The most important part of winemaking is to begin with a great vineyard site, manage it well so the vines bring forward the best they have to offer, and then get out of the way and let the natural beauty of the wine come through and evolve. Pure and simple.
The Sonoma Coast – Aston Estate Vineyard. Regarded by winemakers and critics alike as the “ new frontier of excellence,” the Sonoma Coast is ripe with potential. The superb combination of marine-influenced climate, scarcity of plantable land, and proven track record for growing stellar quality grapes have catapulted this region into the forefront of American winemaking and the appellation’s wines are a “must have” for the pinot passionate.
Aston Estate is located near the remote township of Annapolis, approximately five miles and two ridge lines in from the coast-close enough to benefit from the ocean’s cooling effects, yet just outside the fog line, so days are long and temperate. The southwest facing vineyard thrives in a microclimate typified by full-sun days and moderate temperatures that are a standout in the cooler Sonoma Coast climate.
The Goldridge Loam soil is perfectly suited to Pinot Noir, and the gentle slopes and contours (10-15%) are reminiscent of the topography of the prestigious grand cru sites of Burgundy. Typically, these sites lie in the transitional “belt” between the extreme hillside plantings and the lower flatland sections where the moderate slopes provide an excellent balance of stress and support to the vines.