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We like to say that soils are the ingredients behind our wines, as our estate Margarita Vineyard is home to a rare diversity of soil types that ebb, flow and intermingle from one block to the next. These soil types include shale, sedimentary, granitic, volcanic and ancient sea bed.
In some blocks, the base soil composition is obvious, such as at Oyster Ridge, where the ancient sea bed soil is literally percolating up to the surface in the form of ancient oyster fossils.
In other blocks, however, the nature of the soil isn’t plainly evident. Have a look at the exposed soil pit pictured above in one of our Zinfandel blocks. As you walk along the surface of this block, your boots get covered in young soil that is dark, fine and fluffy.
But as you can see, just 18 inches beneath that young soil layer is a solid foundation of stratified shale rock. It’s a stark and sudden shift that speaks to the true nature of the growing conditions in this block.
Here, the vine roots tend to grow laterally once they hit the hard rocky soil, seeking an easier way to acquire moisture. Consequently, the vines in this block have limited vigor and produce small, intensely flavored berries. In other words, the soil sets the tone for the fruit—and ultimately the character of the resulting wine.
And when the soils are as diverse as they are at Margarita Vineyard, it gives us that many more ingredients to create wines with natural depth and complexity.
Our estate Margarita Vineyard occupies one of the Paso Robles region’s coolest growing environments, but it sure didn’t feel that way over the past weekend during a heat wave that swept across the West Coast.
Temperatures reached 105 degrees at Margarita Vineyard. In other areas of the region, temperatures reached 111 degrees. Thankfully, things are now starting to cool back down.
As we always do when extreme heat is predicted, we took preemptive action to minimize potential damage. Four days before the high temperatures arrived, we started irrigating more steadily to ensure sufficient vine hydration. We also ceased all leaf removal activities to ensure that the fruit wasn’t overly exposed to hot direct sunlight.
As a result, we avoided sunburn of the grape skins, as evident in the accompanying photo taken yesterday of a young Zinfandel cluster. Even our vulnerable new Merlot plantings (pictured below) are still sitting pretty without any leaf burn.
It helps that this heat wave came relatively early in the growing season. When the grapes are small and green, the skins are thicker and tougher. High heat can be more problematic later in the season, when the fruit is ripe and skins are more delicate.
It’s hard to fathom that exactly one month earlier we were experiencing freezing morning temperatures at Margarita Vineyard. Such is the adventure of agriculture, and whether it’s hot or cold or in between, we always need to be on our game and keep our cool.
We present our Oyster Ridge red blend as the crowning achievement of each vintage. While the blend varies from year to year, it is based upon Cabernet Sauvignon, which typically ranges from 55 to 70 percent of the total blend.
And when we tell people that all of Oyster Ridge’s Cabernet Sauvignon is aged in 100-percent new French oak barrels (including those by Taransaud, pictured here), it often elicits the question: doesn’t that “over oak” the wine? In fact, it doesn’t…
Assistant Winemaker Stewart Cameron says that there are two key factors that enable us to age our Oyster Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon lots in 100-percent new French oak: (1) tight wood grain; (2) fruit quality.
Stewart explains that there are a dozen different identifiable flavor and aroma compounds that come from oak. Because the chosen barrels are “tightly grained,” they allow for a slow release of these compounds over an extended period of time—ideal for a wine like Oyster Ridge, which is aged for a full two years prior to bottling.
“The tighter grain of the Taransaud barrels is respectful of the fruit and character of the wine,” Stewart says. “So we get the complexity benefits of new oak without the oak influence getting too aggressive or out of balance.”
Fruit quality is the other factor. The Oyster Ridge blend is assembled around the finest Cabernet Sauvignon blocks at our estate Margarita Vineyard. The fruit from these blocks exhibits exceptional depth and structure, allowing it to gracefully handle the new oak.
“Someone once said that there’s no such thing as an over-oaked wine—just an ‘under-vineyard’ wine,” Stewart says. “That may be an exaggeration, but there’s a grain of truth to it, too.”
This isn't just another vineyard tour, but rather an immersive experience that you won't forget.
We personally guide you out to our estate Margarita Vineyard for an up-close look at growing wine from ground to glass on the historic Santa Margarita Ranch.
Along the way, you learn about our sustainable practices, remarkable climate, uniquely diverse soils and other viticultural insights that will enhance your wine appreciation.
Click here for more information and reservations.
Our new release 2011 Zinfandel comes from three blocks spanning three distinct soil types at our estate Margarita Vineyard.
We recently staged a tasting of barrel samples from our various Zinfandel blocks, and our guests were astonished at the profound differences in aroma and flavor—even though all of these Zinfandel lots came from the same vineyard, and several were of the same clonal selection.
Of course, these differences are also shaped by the weather exposure of a particular block and other factors. But there is no doubt that the rare diversity of soils at Margarita Vineyard enhances the distinctions between our Zinfandel components.
So what does this mean to the wine? It essentially gives Winemaker Mike Sinor and Assistant Winemaker Stewart Cameron more colors to paint with, allowing them to naturally build nuance, depth and complexity into a single estate grown Zinfandel.
We are confident that you will taste these qualities in our 2011 Zinfandel, which is now available in our tasting room.
It's flowering time at our estate Margarita Vineyard, whereby the baby clusters self-pollinate to set the crop for the upcoming vintage.
As our Assistant Winemaker Stewart Cameron explains in this video, the flowering process begins when the cap over the petals is shed, liberating the pollen and allowing for crop set.
This is the beginning of the fruit's life cycle, which will continue from now through the 2013 harvest. Stay tuned!
When you think of eco-friendly practices, big machinery isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.
But at our estate Margarita Vineyard, a couple of iron giants—specifically modern multi-function, multi-row tractors—have become an integral part of our sustainable winegrowing program.
Our two multi-row tractors, including the French-made Pellenc pictured here, have taken the place of six traditional tractors.
Because they serve multiple rows at a time and offer simultaneous function for mowing, trimming, pre-pruning and other uses, they have reduced our tractor passes (ie: travel up and down the vine rows) by more than 80 percent. This, in turn, has minimized soil compaction while cutting diesel fuel consumption.
Tractors are a necessary part of farming, but tractor passes cause soil compaction over time. Compaction results in stormwater runoff, which wastes precious water while exacerbating soil erosion. When the compaction becomes too great, the soil must be ripped—which requires more tractor passes and fuel consumption.
So ironically enough, these big machines have significantly lightened our environmental footprint at Margarita Vineyard. They were a huge investment for us, but also a wise one in the long run.
Are you ready for an epic evening of library wines and incredible food while soaking up panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean?
If so, you are invited to join Winemaker Mike Sinor and Chef Meagan Loring of Lido Restaurant in the cozy penthouse suite at Dolphin Bay Resort in Shell Beach on June 21.
Throughout the evening, Mike will share rare and library wines from Ancient Peaks Ancient Peaks Winery and Sinor-LaVallee Wine Company—all paired with Chef Meagan' inspired dishes. You can expect some tasty surprises along the way, too.
This is one wine dinner you’ll never forget! The cost is $100 per person, and space is limited. For more information, and to RSVP, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (805) 365-7045.
Roll on over to our tasting room in old town Santa Margarita and roll out with your own half oak wine barrel to use as a planter, dog bed, fountain or other creation as we celebrate SLO Wine Country’s Roll Out The Barrels weekend on June 22-23.
Indeed, we are offering complimentary half barrels to take home with the purchase of a case or more (one per person, while supplies last). We will also be providing appetizers with our wine tastings throughout the weekend. Visit SLOWine.com for full schedule of local events, including the Barrels in The Plaza grand tasting in downtown San Luis Obispo.
This is how a new vintage is born...After winter dormancy, the little buds on the vines break open every spring, a development that is known as "bud break."
From the buds comes the first new growth of the vintage, including young shoots and baby clusters. Soon, the baby clusters will "flower" and self-pollinate to set the crop, and within a few months the young shoots will turn into robust vine branches (called canes) and the clusters will swell in size.
Our estate Margarita Vineyard is the southernmost vineyard in the Paso Robles AVA, and occupies one of the region's coolest locations, which makes for a long growing season. In other words, these new clusters are going to take their own sweet time to reach full ripening, but they are officially on their way!