What makes Panther Ridge so Special?

A perfect combination of soils, climate, and winemaking — all of which allow the grapes to express their personality in the resulting wine. As we gain more knowledge of the various microclimates on this 7-acre gem, we will be able to divine combinations to suit various palates and tastes.

The soils of Panther Ridge Vineyard are very dark brown loam mixed with 10-20% gravel and rock in the first foot of soil, and clay and loam with more gravel and rock – up to 50 or 60% — as you dig deeper. There is a lot of volcanic rock throughout, as well as basalt and other sedimentary rock. These are the types of soils that are beneficial to growing superior wine, allowing the vines to penetrate deeper into the soil.

When we developed the vineyard, we dug up so very many rocks in the process! They were all piled on a hillside that was too steep to plant. Just the sheer number of huge boulders (about the size of a football field) is a testament to the hard work that went into planting vines into this extraordinary spot.

The rule with rocks was that if you could pick it up with one hand, you left it in place. If it took two hands, you put it in the vine row. If it took more than that, it went into the front loader and off to the pile on the hillside.

Panther Ridge experiences the typical weather patterns of the Petaluma Gap AVA, but our 1,000-foot elevation also makes us cooler than many other vineyards in the Gap. Temperatures in the day are typically 10 degrees cooler than the valley below.

We rarely have a frost problem as the frosty temps tend to settle in the valley. The lowest temperature recorded on our hillside was 29 degrees, but even then, for only a few hours. The daytime breezes cool the grapes but also promote a thicker skin, making for a more intense color and flavor in the wines.

Treating the grapes carefully during the winemaking process can produce an elegant wine – not necessarily one that is overpowering with fruit or tannin. Even though the grapes are toughened by the wind, they are still a typically delicate Pinot Noir, and hence care is taken in the winemaking process to preserve their unique character and flavor.

In the 2020 vintage, we are exploring a variety of techniques including whole cluster fermentation in addition to de-stemmed grapes.

All the wine was carefully gravity fed into barrels for aging, and only a light press was used for the separately aged press wine that will later be used in blending.

In 2020 we used two new French oak barrels – one from François Frères (VTG, 2 yr aging, medium toast) like last year, but also a DAMY (Tronçais Forest, 2Y, LL++ toast) along with neutral oak barrels to balance out the rest of the blend.

Adrian likes to say he tries to manipulate the wine as little as possible – to let the vineyard speak for itself. This year we will start to see what the different blocks and varietals have to say in their conversation with the soils and the weather of Panther Ridge.