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Getting back to your question about challenges specific to this site… sure, all those things I mentioned — the frost, the heat spikes, etcetera — affect everybody, [regardless of vineyard location]. But all those things are amplified up here because it's a much tougher area to grow, so anything that Mother Nature throws becomes that much more of a challenge. Whereas on the valley floor, most of which [eons ago] was river bottom, the dirt is very rich, very fertile, and very deep — all making for rigorous vines — so their base is stronger and more robust, allowing those vines to better withstand any extremes.
NM: So, in short, the vines up here are 'living one the edge,' so to speak. They're already struggling, even to just survive, let alone thrive, and so any climatic spike threatens their existence that much more. But then, on the flip side (spikes notwithstanding) the constant state of just enough stress potentially makes for smaller berries with more concentrated flavors…
MP: I know where you're going with that, and you're absolutely right. But another thing that really affects some of the red grapes, especially Cabernet, is the idea of the vegetative characteristics you can get with too much shoot growth. And that's why growers down in the valley do things to try to keep the shoots under control. There's a correlation between how much green growth there is on the vine to how much vegetative flavors end up in the berries and then ultimately in your wine. So, that's the other plus [of growing up on the hillsides]: we don't have to battle that vigor like people down in the valley do all the time. And that's really the big advantage here. In fact, one person told me, "I love your vineyard because there's no vigor" — which you don't say about any other agricultural crop! But, of course, in the end, we're still walking a much tighter line as far as the potential for disaster is concerned. It's a trade-off.
NM: And when everything comes together, it makes for a sensational wine. Whom do you see it appealing to the most? What kind of customer do you think most appreciates the VinRoc brand and vision?
MP: I think that our biggest fans right now are people who obviously like good red wine, but who are also interested in the story behind the wine. They'll most likely know that we're small and that they can't simply buy our wine just anywhere. But typically, they'll want to know a little bit more about us. We get requests from people who want to visit and see what we're doing. And once they do, they realize that we're doing this all ourselves and that the wine had an identity and is really connected to this place, rather than being just a product. And it's not just the consumer — there's a wine shop in Sacramento who's doing quite well with our wine because the owner knows our story and tells it to customers, and the same thing with a couple of restaurants in the area.
In addition to its estate-produced Napa Cabernet, VinRoc also produces a line of wines from both estate and externally sourced fruit under the proprietary name of Enjoie: RTW, a Bordeaux blend, and Enjoie, a dry rosé. To learn more about all of these wines and how to get them, visit VinRoc Wine Caves online.