. . . growing grapes and making both Napa and Sonoma wines . . .

Discussions with Bill Williamson

Different grape varieties show unique wine flavor characteristics when grown in certain locations because of the geology, soil chemistry, climate and sun aspects of that place.

This is why, over centuries, the growing of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhone varieties have been restricted to those specific areas. Even more finely defined, this is why a Chardonnay grown in Chablis has a different flavor profile from Chardonnay grown in Montrachet.

Northern California, in particular Napa and Sonoma, grow fruit equal or superior to any other place in the world. Uniquely the geology, geography and micro climates of their valleys parallel the best wine grape growing areas in old world countries like France, Italy and Spain giving us the potential to grow a multitude of popular varietals and make exceptional new-world examples of old-world wines.

Vineyard Map

Williamson vineyards / varieties are marked with a red dot. VINEYARD MAP 2023

Napa County

Defined by mountain ranges and influenced by its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, the Napa Valley enjoys a dry Mediterranean climate perfectly suited to the growing of fine wine grapes.

Only 2% of the earth’s surface is covered by a Mediterranean climate where the long growing season is marked by sunny, warm and dry days followed by cool evenings, an ideal combination for allowing grapes to ripen slowly and evenly.

In the mountains along the east of the valley temperatures vary more from summer to winter months and with more sun exposure in these elevated vineyards, the growing conditions are far more suited to producing world class, high flavor red varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon

The Atlas Peak viticulture area is located in the Vaca Mountain Range, which forms the eastern slopes of the Napa Valley. The rocky, volcanic terroir extends from the southern edge of Pritchard Hill to the westernmost regions of the Atlas Peak appellation.

Here red, volcanic soils made up of a boulder-strewn clay loam with a few solid rock outcroppings have been dynamited to create a shallow but more uniform soil base to give us five vineyard blocks to grow the fruit for our Stagecoach Cabernet and Reserve Bordeaux blends.

Stagecoach Vineyard

At 2,100 feet above sea level, Stagecoach Vineyards enjoys a unique micro-climate. The vineyard receives cooling mountain breezes from the San Francisco Bay, which offer refuge from the hot summer daytime temperatures. While coastal fog regularly blankets the Valley, it is unusual here at the altitude of the vineyard. The vines receive more sun exposure during the growing season, but without the high temperatures that sometimes occur in the Napa Valley.

The nights are high altitude cool, even in the summer months. A 20-degree temperature drop from the daily highs is common and this variation allows the fruit to mature slowly, resulting in well-balanced wines with remarkable complexity.

Our sustainable farming practices are very labor intensive. For example, when 80-85% of the fruit is through veraison, a French term meaning the change in the color of the grapes, we perform what is called a "green harvest". During this process, we remove the clusters that are behind in the ripening cycle. This is a very slow process, however, it enables uniform ripeness and flavors.

These conditions limit vine growth and stress the vines, producing small amounts of fruit with exceptional, intense varietal character complying with our vineyard protocols which mandate harvest yields of less than three tons of grapes per acre.

Sonoma County

Here we found nearly an infinite array of microclimates providing Sonoma's overall ideal combination of weather, temperature, fog and rainfall making its diversity and quality of wines unique throughout the world.

Sonoma County is heavily influenced by its close proximity to nearly 60 miles of Pacific Coast shoreline, and its cool nights and temperate days create the perfect conditions to draw in layers of oceanic fog to chill Sonoma’s warm interior Russian River Valley and Dry Creek Valley.

Daytime temperatures average a comfortable 71˚F, with the warmest summer days rarely topping 84˚F. Nighttime temperatures stay mostly in the 40s, meaning hard frosts are a rarity, even during the critical flowering time for grapes.

At the start of fall harvest, the weather remains moderate with little to no rainfall. Sonoma County experiences no measurable snow or hail and normal rainfall measures between 25 and 30 inches a year.

Grapes thrive in this climate, the reliably moderate diurnal swings, tempered by coastal fog and only trace amounts of summer rain allow a wide diversity of grapes from the delicate Burgundy varieties of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, to the right bank Bordeaux varieties of Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

Located on approximately 50 acres along the banks of Dry Creek the soil is primarily sandy loam over clay and gravel. Deep, well drained and fertile, this soil produces abundant crops of high quality grapes displaying complexity within desired varietal qualities. Across the estate ranch we enjoy three micro-climates and so the ranch supports multiple grape varieties together with several hundred Tuscan olive trees.
Directly across the valley from our home ranch, high on a hillside we have the classic Rhône red grape varieties, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre. planted on soil filled with shale and serpentine rock where irrigation water immediately drains out in the same way as it does in the hillside vineyards of the Rhône Valley.

To the south our Joy Sauvignon Blanc vineyard is located along the Dry Creek river bank where lots of sun, cool nights and free draining sandy-clay soils all combine to produce exceptionally flavorful fruit.

Close by and ideally situated on a south-facing slope is our low-yield, high quality, Scandal Zinfandel vineyard with its well-drained clay loam soils located next to the famed “Maple” vineyard,

Recently we acquired an old-vine Zinfandel vineyard planted around the ending of World War 2 now almost seventy years of age. Head pruned and dry farmed this ancient method of farming does not supplement the vines with irrigation. Stressful and labor-intensive this vineyard management method produces grapes of great intensity and flavor.

While also in Dry Creek Appellation we have one of the only remaining Zinfandel vineyards within Healdsburg city limits. Our two acre vineyard on Grove Street is ancient and produces grapes of serious intensity.

In 2018 we added a well-established, well-farmed, old-vine Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in the Chalk Hill appellation planted with our favorite Cabernet Sauvignon clone 337 which allowed us to develop even more Bordeaux blends.
In 2023 we added a new-vine Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in the Knight's Valley appellation to bring more character and variety into some of our Bordeaux blends.
Located in prime areas of Russian River Valley we have five vineyards to grow and make Burgundy style wines.

The Gertie Gewürztraminer vineyard is almost on the bank of the river.

We also are blessed with a hill of 100% Pommard clone Pinot Noir. Here the clay and gravel soil is covered with 18 inches of Goldridge Sandy Loam which is not particularly fertile and does not hold water causing the vines to struggle.

Further towards the Pacific we have three small vineyards producing the highly sought after Clones 23 and 667 of Pinot Noir. These vineyards produce our rich, elegant Pinot Noirs called Passion and Rapture.

The cool growing conditions with foggy mornings and ample warm sunshine contribute to the complexity of the fruit and the incomparable finish.

Alexander Valley, the warmest winegrowing appellation in Sonoma County is the location of our Malbec Vineyards.

Fruit from this vineyard finds its way into our Bubbles Sparkling Malbec and several Bordeaux blends. Deep, dark in color, bold tannin structure, and relatively high in acid structure.

Mendocino County

To get just the right terroir to grow our Frolic Viognier and Relish Roussanne we had to go north to the center of sunny McDowell Valley.

The vineyards are positioned between a river and a lake where the grapes benefit from all day sun exposure but also receive the cooling effect of the chill water, lengthening the growth cycle to develop the full flavor set of these Rhône white varietals.

McDowell Valley Map

Lake County

High elevation volcanic hillsides produce intense mountain fruit with great color and structure.

Located in the northern Mayacamas Mountains, the Red Hills are comprised of dozens of volcanic hills positioned directly over the North Coast Magna Pocket.

As a result, the Red Hills are a formation of the volcanic and tectonic processes producing well-drained vineyards rich in black obsidian, quartz crystals and volcanic gravel content, strikingly red in color.

The Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard elevation is over 2,600 feet and the higher elevation and pure air allow for more than 10% extra UV light than neighboring sea level valleys.

This UV triggers thicker grape skins, greater tannin, and intense wines with high phenolic content.

Here our clone Clone 4 Cabernet Sauvignon picks up warm sun all day then enjoys the cool nights to produce a deep flavored cab for our Bordeaux Blends that our club members love so much.

Just a little further north to a hot valley floor for the Frisky Riesling vineyard located in the Kelsey Bench appellation.

Originally a pyroclastic lava flow, the Bench is a transition between volcanic mountains and the alluvial flood plain. It has a largely northeastern exposure with rich, red volcanic soils. The evolving watershed has eroded into the fertile blocks of clay and loam soils resulting in swaths of gravel deposits and well-drained soils.

One of the few remaining old Riesling vineyards we acted quickly to obtain this excellent vineyard from which we make our Frisky Alsace-style Riesling.

Lake County AVA