He who finds the best grapes wins. This is true if you believe that a wine is defined by what happens in the vineyard, and then refined by what happens in the cellar.

This is true if you believe in the power of terroir and do everything short of tie your hands behind your back to let the fruit win out in the bottle. And this is also true if you have skillful winemaker who can take these first two ideas and craft what is popularly termed these days as a “natural” wine.

You have to be clear about your vision from the start, you have to find the vines and climatic situation that support that view, and you have to follow it through every step of the way by hook and not crook.

Shane McManigle had his eye on those best grapes- a block of Pinot vines in the Corda vineyard being farmed by the legendary Mark Pasternak of Devils Gulch Ranch. Tucked into the Petaluma Gap of California’s North Coast (AKA West Marin), the grapes felt the heat of the sun, but were cooled at night by salty Pacific sea breezes and blanketed by fog most evenings and mornings.

Shane had an idea of what a California Pinot Noir could be if the perfect cool climate presented itself. What it should be— restrained without losing complexity, elegant and subtle while still waving its Pinot fruit flag.

Elegance is lost when hot days are followed by warm nights and sugar levels run ahead of physiological ripeness. Restraint is lost when the juice is then manipulated by added yeasts and muscled with too much oak.

The climate of the Petaluma Gap allows for the grapes to reach the right peak of ripeness while keeping those sugar levels in balance, and so the same balance must honored with the cellar practices.

This idea of what a wine should be was shared by his compatriots, Emily and Stephan Schindler of Winemonger, who make their living by supporting and importing the Old World style of wine.

And so it was that after years of nagging Mark to get at some of those Gap vines, Mark finally relented and Shane brought the project to the Schindlers. They in turn found more like-minded folks willing to get the trucks rolling, and so it began.

Alfred Derby Easkoot 1890 - Courtesy of Anne T. Kent California Room