About Us, Winemaking & Blog

High-Tech, High-Touch: Pahlmeyer Waters Ranch Vineyard

By Winemaker Kale Anderson, July 24, 2014

Since taking the winemaking helm at Pahlmeyer in 2012, I have made it my mission to heighten our estate vineyard’s magnificent attributes, using whatever resources necessary. Our strategy is founded on a dynamic and minutely detailed plan that incorporates the newest vineyard technology with high-touch, labor-intensive tradition.

Pahlmeyer Waters Ranch Vineyard is comprised of 72 acres that rise 2,100 feet above the Napa Valley floor. Set in the Vaca Range flanking the east side of the valley, it is composed of Rock Outcrop, Bressa-Dibble (weathered shale and sandstone), and Forward Gravelly Loam (weathered Rhyolitic or volcanic tuff similar to granite) - all quick-draining soils. Jayson Pahlmeyer commissioned the notoriously meticulous David Abreu to develop the raw land in 1999. Much has changed in the past 15 years, and vineyards are living, breathing things that require constant attention.

Last July, I brought in David Wilson to oversee our vineyard as well as our long-term vineyard contracts (Rancho Chimiles, Stagecoach and Antica). Born and bred in Napa, David’s family owns the neighboring Rancho Chimiles Vineyard and has been an outstanding source for Pahlmeyer wines since the 1990s. With David’s degree in viticulture from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, a 2005 internship at our vineyard, work at other highly regarded Napa Valley wineries, and service as a Board member for the Napa Farm Bureau, we are making great progress.

Pahlmeyer Vineyard Manager David Wilson at Waters Ranch Estate

Pahlmeyer Vineyard Manager David Wilson envisions a bright future for our Waters Ranch Vineyard

We have begun farming three-quarters of our vineyard organically, made significant advances in vineyard data capture and communications, and employed new state-of-the-art equipment to help us promote just the right eco-system. And while we are moving in the organic direction we are maintaining the flexibility to use all the tools in our grower's toolbox to raise fruit quality and steward the land sustainability.

We have become farmers of everything that grows in the vineyard in order to ensure the site naturally produces the best possible fruit. That means carefully cultivating the right cover crops to build soil, keep dust to a minimum, and provide a habitat for beneficial insects such as lacewings and predatory wasps. The ideal cover crops stay low under the vines, impart the right nutrients, and compete for water and nitrogen at the right time of the season.

Pellenc "Sunflower" under-vine tractor implement at Waters Ranch

The Pellenc "Sunflower" at work in Pahlmeyer Waters Ranch Vineyard

Our new high-tech “Sunflower” (aka “Tournesol”) is a great ally. This double-headed under-vine hydraulically-operated tractor implement goes into the soil to cut out the roots of non-beneficial weeds while spreading the seeds of beneficial cover crops and carefully avoiding the trunks of the vines. The double head enables the Sunflower to cover two rows at a time for top energy efficiency. Introduced within the past two years, the amazing tool is from Pellenc, a French company known for developing some of the world’s most innovative vineyard equipment.

It would certainly be less expensive to spray unwanted weeds with herbicides, but our goal is entirely about doing what it takes to enable our vineyard to produce the highest quality fruit.

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Kale Anderson, Winemaker