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The DIRT on AP - a winery blog

Ancient Peaks
 
May 21, 2015 | Ancient Peaks

Grapes? Not Yet, But Soon...


It’s reasonable to assume that what you see in the photo above is a little grape cluster, but there’s more than meets the eye. 

Yes, it’s a cluster—but not yet a grape cluster. Before it becomes a true grape cluster, it must undergo a process known as “flowering,” which typically takes place in later May through early June.

During flowering, the young clusters shed their hard green caps, revealing blooms underneath. These blooms are designed to self-pollinate. Once fertilization occurs, that’s when you actually have grapes to grow. 

This photo was taken a few days ago at our estate Margarita Vineyard, specifically in Block 7, which is planted to Merlot. So what you see here aren’t baby grapes, the rather the hard caps that will soon be shed to reveal the blooms and begin flowering to create new Merlot grapes. 

Flowering can be a delicate process. Harsh winds or extreme temperatures can disrupt the pollination process. So during flowering, you hope for steady, mild weather. This fosters a thorough grape “set” for a full, healthy crop. 

We invite you to join one of our Paso Robles vineyard tours every Saturday for a close-up look at flowering and other growing phases at our estate Margarita Vineyard.

Time Posted: May 21, 2015 at 8:16 AM
Ancient Peaks
 
May 6, 2015 | Ancient Peaks

94 Points for Oyster Ridge

It’s always nice when one of your wines racks up a towering score of 94 points in a major wine magazine—and even nicer when the accompanying review does poetic justice to what’s in the bottle.

So we are excited to share that we are the happy recipients of one such review as our 2011 Oyster Ridge cuvée racks up 94 points in the latest issue of Wine & Spirits Magazine.

In their words: “From the Margarita Vineyard at the relatively cool, marine-influenced southern edge of Paso Robles, this wine is named for a ridge of pale, sandy soil mixed with prehistoric oyster shells…It’s a wine that channels Paso’s abundant sunlight toward precision and purity rather than richness and concentration…Its bright, compact structure is poised to gain complexity with another eight to ten years in the bottle. Still, it’s already pretty.”

In that short span, the magazine pretty much nailed what sets our estate Margarita Vineyard apart while articulating exactly what we are aiming to achieve with our Oyster Ridge. It’s one thing for us to say it, but quite another to hear a prestigious reviewer echo the sentiments.

Each year, we craft the Oyster Ridge cuvée to honor the rare array of soil types found across Margarita Vineyard. Select blocks are meticulously farmed to meet the standards of the Oyster Ridge program, and the final blend is assembled from only those barrels that exhibit exemplary complexity, structure and aging potential.

We like to say that Oyster Ridge is our finest winemaking effort—and this latest review suggests that we have hit the mark. 

Time Posted: May 6, 2015 at 6:58 AM
Ancient Peaks
 
April 24, 2015 | Ancient Peaks

Benefit Concert on May 17

Get ready to rock for a good cause as Ancient Peaks and must! charities team up to host a benefit concert on May 17 at the historic Santa Margarita Ranch, in tandem with the Paso Robles Wine Festival weekend. 

This concert is all about having a good time for a great cause, and it offers a relaxing conclusion to an action-packed weekend.

The concert will be headlined by The JD Project, known for their upbeat original songs and classic rock sounds. The Haute Skillet food truck will be on hand to provide scrumptious fare for purchase, while we will offer our estate wines by the glass and bottle. 

The concert takes place from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The entry cost is a minimum donation of $5. The setting will be the ranch’s beautiful Estrada Gardens, which features broad lawn seating. You are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets. 

Net proceeds will benefit must! charities, a local nonprofit dedicated to improving quality of life in San Luis Obispo’s North County by offering hope, compassion, and resources to those in need. 

Click here for more details, we hope to see you there!

Time Posted: Apr 24, 2015 at 1:43 PM
Ancient Peaks
 
April 10, 2015 | Ancient Peaks

New Places for Familiar Faces


If you are at all familiar with our winery, you will likely recognize Kristin Muhly (above left) and Nina Leschinsky as two longtime members of the Ancient Peaks family who have been instrumental in our growth and success. 

We are now excited to share that Kristin and Nina have been promoted to new positions with expanded responsibilities. Below is the lowdown on what they will be up to...Join us as we raise a toast to them!

Kristin Muhly – National Brand Manager

Kristin transitions from sales and marketing manager to the new position of national brand manager. In this role, she will work more extensively with the winery’s national distributors to grow the winery’s market coverage and penetration. She will also manage distributor goals, develop new sales programs and field numerous related national sales responsibilities.

Kristin is a graduate of Cal Poly with 11 years of hospitality and sales experience in the wine industry. She has been with Ancient Peaks since 2011. “I’m excited about our direction and growth, and I love working for a family-owned winery with such a distinctive sense of place,” she said. “I look forward to getting our wines and message out to more markets across the nation.”

Nina Leschinsky – Director of Consumer Sales

Nina transitions from direct-to-consumer sales manager to the position of director of consumer sales. Her role grows in tandem with a current expansion of the Ancient Peaks tasting room in Santa Margarita. She will oversee the new on-site food program, added visitor space, expanded direct-to-consumer events, hiring and management of direct-to-consumer team employees, and other hospitality efforts.

Nina studied at Cal Poly and started working in the wine industry 14 years ago. She has been with Ancient Peaks since 2008. “It’s been exciting to see the continued growth at Ancient Peaks,” she said. “We have a strong and cohesive team, and it’s great to be a part of it.”

Ancient Peaks
 
March 26, 2015 | Ancient Peaks

A New Look for Ancient Peaks

We are excited to roll out a bold new look for Ancient Peaks wines, starting this spring with our 2014 Sauvignon Blanc.

As you may know, the name Ancient Peaks is a tribute to the majestic Santa Lucia Mountains that shape pronounced marine climate and rare soil diversity of our estate Margarita Vineyard, which stands alone as the southernmost vineyard in the Paso Robles region. This strong sense of place is what drives the spirit and style of our wines.

In contrast to our original label, we felt that it was time to bring these peaks to the forefront with a new design that depicts both the grandeur of the surrounding mountains and the varied soil strata that distinguish the land.

In essence, we wanted our label to give you the sense of actually being here. We hope you agree that we hit the mark.

P.S. Click here for a more detailed look at the imagery and information depicted on our new label.

Ancient Peaks
 
March 19, 2015 | Ancient Peaks

LA Times Shines on AP Events

The Los Angeles Times just took note of two upcoming wine events right in our backyard, and included two mentions of Ancient Peaks along the way.

In a piece titled “Three Spring Wine Events,” noted wine writer S. Irene Virbila showcases both the Vintage Paso: Zinfandel Weekend in Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo (SLO) Wine Country’s Roll Out the Barrels monthlong celebration in April.

Along the way, Virbila spotlights two related happenings here at Ancient Peaks, specifically our tri-tip sandwich offerings during Zinfandel Weekend, and our Sauvignon Blanc and oyster pairings for Roll Out The Barrels. Here's the lowdown on both:

Zinfandel Weekend in Paso Robles

Come enjoy two local classics—Zinfandel and Santa Maria Style BBQ—as we pair our latest vintage with tri-tip beef sandwiches from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on March 21-22. At our estate Margarita Vineyard, the Zinfandel grape achieves a rare balance of robust flavors and elegant structure—making it a perfect pairing for the juicy, spicy goodness of Santa Maria tri-tip. Bring your appetite and we’ll see you here. No RSVP required, just come on by. 

Roll Out the Barrels in SLO Wine Country

Celebrate our local marine influence on April 11 by enjoying our new release 2014 Sauvignon Blanc paired with local oysters on the half shell from Dorn's in Morro Bay. No RSVP required, cost is $2 per oyster, just come on by between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

We hope that you can come out for one or both of these region-wide events and enjoy our delicious happenings along the way!

Time Posted: Mar 19, 2015 at 1:17 PM
Ancient Peaks
 
February 25, 2015 | Ancient Peaks

The Ballet of Bottling


In the world of wine, it’s easy to take the act of bottling for granted. Everyone likes to see vineyards and barrels, and to taste the finished product. But who goes out of their way to think about bottling?

Yet for those willing to take a closer look, bottling is, in fact, a fascinating ballet of moving parts. As we get set to bottle our 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, here’s a breakdown of what it takes:

First, cases of empty bottles are emptied onto a conveyer. From there, each bottle is sparged with inert nitrogen gas. Since nitrogen is heavier than air, it displaces any oxygen in the bottle.

Next, each bottle is filled along a wheel of 18 individual nozzles for simultaneous and continuous filling. At full speed, it can fill up to 60 bottles per minute, or one every second. And remember that nitrogen? Since it displaced the air from the bottles, the wine doesn’t come into contact with any potentially problematic oxygen as it fills the bottle.

At this point, the process for our Sauvignon Blanc and other screw-capped wines deviates from our corked wines. As the filled Sauvignon Blanc bottles continue down the conveyer, a laser detects each bottle, triggering a drop of liquid nitrogen into the top of the bottle, where it immediately turns into inert gas. That last drop of nitrogen is crucial, because screw-capped bottles have larger head space in the neck compared to corked bottles. The gas ensures an air-free environment to keep the wine fresh and vibrant.

Next, a screw cap is applied, and then crimped onto the bottle. From there, the bottles are labeled under the watchful eyes of quality control staff, who remove any bottles with crooked labels or other defects.

When things are really humming at 60 bottles per minute, our mobile bottling line can produce up to 300 cases per hour. So while bottling may not be the sexiest part of winemaking, it’s certainly action packed, and it’s the final step on the wine’s journey from ground to glass.

Ancient Peaks
 
February 10, 2015 | Ancient Peaks

AP Named Sunset Travel Awards Finalist

We are excited to share that Sunset magazine has named Ancient Peaks Winery as one of just four finalists in the category of “Best Vineyard / Brewery Experience” as part of its inaugural 2015 Sunset Travel Awards.

This honor is a resounding affirmation of our mission to offer one of the wine industry’s most distinctive and immersive tour experiences.

According to the magazine, “Sunset... introduced the Sunset Travel Awards to honor excellence and innovation in the tourism industry across the 13 Western states, British Columbia, and Alberta. The awards recognize achievement in lodging, dining, cultural tourism, outdoor adventure, environmental stewardship, and other categories.”

The “Best Vineyard / Brewery Experience” category aims to honor “a Western brewery or winery experience that offers beer or wine lovers and novices an immersion into the brewer’s or winemaker’s arts that is both educational and fun and is underscored by an opportunity to sample excellent beers or wines at the completion.”

This is exactly the type of tour experience that we’ve been developing and honing for several years now. In fact, we now offer two distinct yet compatible immersion experiences at our estate Margarita Vineyard on the historic Santa Margarita Ranch.

First, we offer intimate guided vineyard and food pairing tours every Saturday starting at 11:30 a.m. at our tasting room in Santa Margarita. Our hospitality staff personally drives you out to Margarita Vineyard for an intimate look at growing wine from ground to glass. Afterward, you return to our private tasting room annex for a wine and food pairing experience.

We also offer zipline canopy tours through our affiliated Margarita Adventures, including the 1,800-foot Pinot Express zipline that soars over a block of Pinot Noir. The tours conclude with an optional wine tasting at the Ancient Peaks tasting room in the quaint town of Santa Margarita.

With both of these tours, our aim is to provide a uniquely memorable perspective on winegrowing, sustainability, geology, history and the surrounding wildlife.

We hope that you will join us on a tour soon to see and taste why we are a proud 2015 Sunset Travel Award finalist. 

Ancient Peaks
 
January 31, 2015 | Ancient Peaks

The Renegade Spirit

Four years ago, we introduced a new wine with an iconoclastic twist. We called it Renegade, and it bucked tradition by merging a signature Rhône variety (Syrah) with two classic Bordeaux grapes (Petit Verdot and Malbec).

We wondered: How would the market react? You just never know when you release a new wine, let alone one that is inherently unconventional. But the 2009 Renegade was immediately embraced, and the reception even exceeded our expectations. Today, Renegade is still going strong with the recent release of the 2012 vintage.

Our experience with Renegade is partly a sign of the times. There was a time when California wineries almost unanimously toed the European line. Rhône grapes were blended with Rhône grapes, Bordeaux with Bordeaux, Italian with Italian, etc.

The European model is proven and definitely has its place. In fact, we belong to the Paso Robles Cab Collective, which is dedicated solely to advancing the cause of local Bordeaux varieties and blends.

But there is a rebellious streak that is also gaining ground in the wine industry, and particularly here in Paso Robles. Winemakers are pushing the envelope and exploring blends not based on tradition, but on our local terroir and stylistic vision.

Which brings us to Renegade. The original winemaking vision of Renegade was to craft a rich, boldly flavored wine with structure and finesse. We knew that Syrah from our estate Margarita Vineyard could deliver the bold fruity character, but we found ourselves gravitating to Malbec and Petit Verdot to achieve the sense of structure and overall style we were seeking.

So that’s how Renegade was born, not by looking toward the past, but rather by exploring possibilities. In the world of wine, both have their place. 

Ancient Peaks
 
January 22, 2015 | Ancient Peaks

Sizing Up Sustainability

The irony of sustainability is that the more popular it becomes, the more it risks sounding like an empty buzzword.

But at our estate Margarita Vineyard, we can assure you that sustainability is not only real, but impactful.

It helps that our vineyard is Sustainability in Practice (SIP) certified. This certification program is one of the most stringent of its kind, and it lives up to its name by providing real definitions and parameters to the word sustainability.

Even then, however, one can be forgiven for wondering what it all means in the long run. On that note, we are increasing our efforts to quantify the results of our sustainable practices, in order to make them more understandable and relatable. Following are some key examples:

Compost Tea
We maintain raised worm beds to produce "vermicompost," a nutrient-rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner. We brew this compost into a liquid form called "compost tea," which is then delivered to our vines via our irrigation system. The vermicompost stimulates micro-organisms that break down micronutrients for plant uptake, resulting in healthier vines.  Reduction in Synthetic Fertilizer Use: 50%

Multifunction Tractors
Our two multi-function tractors serve multiple vine rows at a time and offer simultaneous mowing, trimming, pre-pruning and other uses, significantly reducing our tractor passes through the vineyard. This, in turn, has minimized soil compaction while cutting diesel fuel consumption. Reduction in tractor passes: 60%         

Pulse Emitters
The progressive pulse emitters installed at Margarita Vineyard are much more efficient than traditional overhead sprinklers when used for frost protection. These emitters generate a fine mist targeted directly onto the fruiting zone. Frost protection water savings: 65%

Bird Boxes, Wildlife Corridors and Wetlands Setbacks
Vineyard pests are managed naturally by promoting habitats for native predators, a program that includes bat boxes, owl boxes and raptor perches. Meanwhile, dedicated wildlife corridors enable animals to pass freely through and around the vineyard. We employ goat herds to provide a low-impact herbicide alternative for vegetation management. We also exceed all requirements for wetland setbacks.

These are just a few examples how sustainability isn’t a buzzword at Margarita Vineyard, but rather a real application that is making a difference.