Belle Glos showcases, under one label, the distinctive Pinot Noirs we produce from top growing areas in California. My family made Pinot Noir from Napa Valley grapes from 1972 until 1990. Those were good wines, but they were not what we were looking for in Pinot Noir. So we began a search for cool, coastal locations more suited to growing this subtle, elegant grape.
I was still in middle school when we began to develop a ten-acre vineyard near Occidental on the Sonoma Coast, clearing trees and rocks from this previously unplanted land and laying out the vine rows. From the 2002 vintage, eight years later, I had the pleasure of making the first Belle Glos vineyard-designated wines from this Taylor Lane Vineyard and from another site we farm, Clark & Telephone Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley. By the 2004 vintage, we had added a third single-vineyard wine from our Las Alturas Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands. And, in 2011 we released Dairyman from our vineyard in the cool, foggy Russian River Valley appellation of Sonoma County.
At first glance, our vineyard locations seem similar because they can all be described as coastal. But within this definition, the climate differences are significant, depending on the amount of fog, wind and sunlight at each site. The soil types also differ, so even if we were to plant the same rootstock and clone at every location, the wines would vary greatly. To take full advantage of each vineyard’s character, we decide, site by site, which rootstock and clone to plant; what trellis system to install; how, when or even if we irrigate the vines; how we prune; when we thin the clusters; and finally, when we harvest the fruit.
In the winery, we make ongoing decisions about each small wine lot, based upon tasting each lot over and over to see what it requires: cold soak versus no cold soak, one yeast strain versus another, punch-down versus pump-over during fermentation, and the type of French oak barrel to use for aging. We can emphasize different characteristics in a wine based on these decisions.
When it is time to make the final blend, each barrel of wine has its own identity. Integrating these layers of flavors in each single-vineyard wine—created by choices made over a number of years in the vineyard and months in the winery—is a job I’m proud to do.
– Joseph Wagner, Owner/Winemaker