“Vine-planting is like the beginning of mining for precious metals: the wine-grower also “prospects.” One corner of land after another is tried with one kind of grape after another…those lodes and pockets of earth, more precious than the precious ores that yield inimitable fragrance and soft fire, where the soil has sublimated under sun and stars to something finer, and the wine is bottled poetry.” – Robert Louis Stevenson, Napa Valley, 1883
We work with a handful of growers who make it possible to craft remarkable wines with “inimitable fragrance and soft fire”, as Robert Louis Stevenson so eloquently captured during his honeymoon visit to Napa Valley over a century ago. These growers are true pioneers, at times farming vineyards at the extreme edge of what climate, geography and nature permit. Dan leans on their wizardry in the vineyard to create magic in the cellar…and in every bottle of DANIEL wine.
Grand Vent Vineyard, Petaluma Gap, Sonoma County
Drew Buechley, Grower
Grand Vent Vineyard is located right in the middle of the Petaluma Gap American Viticulture Area (AVA), a wind gap in the coastal mountain range that funnels cooling breezes and fog east from the Pacific Ocean to San Pablo Bay. The persistent afternoon breeze causes lower grape yields and longer hang-time, enabling flavors and fruit characteristics to fully develop. It’s the perfect recipe for elegant, well-balanced wines of character and distinction. Wind and fog are the key to Petaluma Gap AVA, where vineyards are tucked into valleys and scattered on hillsides in perfect harmony with the area’s rural open space and rich agricultural history.
Drew Buechley eeks out a small crop of pinot noir and syrah in a small vale tucked between rolling hills, with just enough protection from the grand vent, the “great winds” that pummel the barren landscape above.
Gibson Ranch Vineyard, McDowell Valley, Mendocino
Scot Bilbro, Grower
In the tangled, woody, and almost trackless foothills just east of of the town of Hopland in Mendocino County, you’ll find one of the most remarkable vineyards in the United States—Gibson Ranch, nestled away in an upland valley. The Gibson Ranch grenache vineyard in Mendocino County was established in the early 1900’s and is the oldest documented example of the grenache wine grape in the US. The vineyard was planted before drip irrigation existed, and it continues to be dry farmed today. It has withstood more than thirty seasons of drought, innumerable arctic nights, and yet, it has remained resilient, defiant of the elements. Hundred-year-old vines are more than just a historical novelty, they are also capable of producing exceptional wine. These old vines yield fewer grapes with greater concentration of flavor, due in part to smaller grapes with thicker skins contributing to intense color and complex aromas. The roots can reach depths of 100 feet, drawing on layers upon layers of minerality and complexity inaccessible in more youthful vines.
Gamino Vineyard, Chalk Hill, Sonoma County
Juan Gamino, Grower
Juan Gamino, sold his grocery business to focus on his real passion – growing and cultivating wine grapes of great character. He planted cabernet franc on a western-facing hillside of the Mayacama range in the Chalk Hill AVA. The area takes its name from the chalky white soils of the region, however the soils themselves do not contain any chalk but rather are composed of a mixture of quartzite, abundant volcanic ash, sand and silty loam. Volcanic ash was emitted into the area by Mount St. Helena over the course of centuries, creating ideal vineyard soils that are not too fertile, restraining vigor in the vines and enabling grapes of unique character. Though Chalk Hill AVA is a sub-appellation of the Russian River Valley AVA, it’s somewhat warmer, with less cool fog and more moderating breezes.
Perli Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge, Mendocino
Steve Alden, Grower
Farming the Mendocino Ridge is not for the faint of heart. With ridges soaring from 1,200 feet to 3,000 feet in elevation, this rare gem of a winegrowing area is rugged, isolated and untamed, with steep hillsides, forbidding mountain terrain and an abundance of natural wildlife including bears, mountain lions, and wild boar – it is what Steve Alden refers to as the epitome of ‘farming in the wilderness.’ Ten miles up Fish Rock Road at 2,200 feet, Steve practices what he likes to call “viticulture on the edge.” His 30-acres of vineyards, divided into five little blocks spread amongst natural openings in the mountains, is named Perli after the original homesteaders Santos and Rosie Perli. “Back in the old days there was a family every 160 acres up here”.
His vineyard setting is unique, consisting of five cool, sun-soaked vineyard ‘islands’ in the sky, surrounded by a sea of forest, stretched out along three miles of mountainous terrain—like an archipelago— along Mendocino County’s southern flank. Each vineyard block has its own microclimate, exposure, elevation, soils, and weather patterns, and the rugged, steep terrain requires costly and extreme farming techniques. The result is low vigor vines that produce small-sized, loosely packed clusters with tiny berries, creating wines with extraordinarily unique character.
Santo Giordano Vineyard, Los Carneros, Sonoma County
Sue Smith, Grower
Our vernaccia is sourced from Santo Giordano Vineyard in the Los Carneros AVA in Sonoma County, a vineyard originally planted by Sue Smith’s father. He was passionate about Italian varieties and brought budwood back from Italy during the 1970s. Only sangiovese and vernaccia remain of the original blocks, thanks to their high adaptability to our climate and soil. Los Carneros benefits from the Petaluma Gap Effect, where cold, maritime air is pulled through a gap in the Sonoma Coast range and empties into the San Pablo Bay. This cold wind system creates a unique climate that provides a much cooler growing region across the affected area. The soils are ancient raised seabed and alluvial, rocky clays.
Totem Ridge Vineyard, Knights Valley, Sonoma County
Ken and Susan Piters, Growers
On the eastern edge of Sonoma County lies Knights Valley, a warm growing region nestled between the Mayacamas mountain range and the flanks of the imposing presence of Mount St. Helena. The valley’s mineral-rich volcanic soils and sunshine-filled days are ideal for producing cabernet sauvignon, the most prominent grape here, as well as merlot, zinfandel, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc. Totem Ridge Vineyard is located at the extreme eastern edge of Knights Valley, towards the Napa Valley town of Calistoga. Ken and Susan Piters farm this unique vineyard site that is planted directly over an ancient collapsed caldera, and it’s these volcanic soils that lend depth and complexity to the wines from their estate.
Albini Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma County
John Albini, Grower
Grower, John Albini is in his element working with nebbiolo, a relatively rare variety in the US. His family has been farming in Sonoma County since arriving from northern Italy in 1913. The Albini family has worked closely with the earth to produce the finest of her fruits. You can taste that labor of love in our 2021 Renaissance rosé, and our soon-to-be-released DANIEL Nebbiolo.