In a perfect world, one word such as "sustainable" would encompass the agricultural and forestry practices that we follow. But the real world is more complex, and here's your chance to make sense of the world we share with nature.
“I'm curious on type of cork you use for the Half Mile. I used my Coravin and it did not seal the needle hole well.”
We use a high-grade one piece natural cork for all of our wines, and avoid multipiece, colmated (glued together), and synthetic corks. We believe that a natural closure like cork is better for the environment than synthetic closures, and also is superior for aging purposes as it provides the right level of oxygen into the wine over time. For our reserve wines like Half Mile we use a very select, higher grade natural cork for the closure which also tends to be longer. While this is useful information, the answer to your question may be rooted in the fact that cork, being natural, expands and contracts differently under various environments and conditions and may not always play well with a Coravin. Our best advice would be to gather some friends and drink the whole bottle immediately!
“I understand that 80 to 100-year old barrels are used to make your oak barrels. How do you ensure the sustainability of your barrels and the health of your source forests?”
Central Europe is home to some of the longest managed forests in Europe as well as the longest traditions of sustainability traceable to at least to Empress Maria Theresa’s 1769 Forestry Code (Sylvarum Conservadarum et Lignicidii Ordo.) The original forest code issued by Emperor Maximilian II as a “forest policy” (Constitutio Maximilian) in 1565 was a landmark in the history of regulating woodcutting and other forest activities. Its adoption marked the beginning of forestry as a controlled activity and helped to stabilize forests and forestry practices. The Code comprised 30 articles regulating various forestry activities, including cutting under supervision of experienced masters, felling practices, the storage of wood during the winter season, leaving seed trees, etc. Our cooperage pays the highest prices for older tight-grained oak, supporting a critical local economy and therefore creating the incentive for forest management over the very long term.
“I have a bottle of your 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, but am confused by the label - "Cellared and Bottled by Obsidian Ridge, Napa CA." Nowhere on your website does it mention Napa. Your tasting room is in Sonoma County. The vineyard is in Lake County?”
We love this question. Yes it’s confusing, even for us. The answer can be found in a confounding corner of the regulatory agency known as the TTB (aka Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau), in an attempt to provide consumer clarity in wine labeling (haha!). If you are familiar with our wines, you know that we make our own barrels, grow all of our own grapes, and make all of our own wines within the four walls of our own winery (since 2011). However, over the years, the TTB has required us to say “Produced & Bottled, Sonoma, CA” and “Cellared & Bottled, Napa, CA”, and everything in between. The distinction is due to where we bottled the wine. It used to be that you had to own a bottling line, but today only the largest wineries do. For us smaller folk, we have two primary options: 1) a mobile bottling truck bottles the vintage at our winery in Sonoma, or 2) we transport the wine to a bottling facility for final bottling. For the last few years (including the 2017 vintage), we picked option #2 and it just so happens that the bottling facility is in Napa, CA. The provenance of the wine (where it was grown) is related to its appellation such as Carneros Napa Valley or Red Hills Lake County, not the “Cellared & Bottled” designation. This is – not surprisingly – confusing for consumers, and even taken advantage of by unscrupulous producers who ship wine into Napa just to have it bottled there. So it’s an example of regulations not quite keeping us with changes in the craft. As it is, between the wines we grow in Napa such as Poseidon Estate, Obsidian Ridge in Red Hills Lake County, and the winery and tasting room in Sonoma, we are spread across three counties. And within this, lays the real answer: it’s not the political boundaries that makes the difference, but rather the climate, soil, and elevation. That’s how we choose to see the world…
“How does elevation affect the use of pesticides and herbicides?”
Obsidian Ridge rests sits between 2,350’ – 2,875’ making it the highest vineyard in the Mayacamas Range and the North Coast of California. In short, the winter is colder and the growing season is drier and shorter than vineyards located on the valley floors (about 90% of all vineyards in the North Coast). As a result our appellation boasts the lowest pesticide and herbicide use of any region of California. For more information, you can dig into the data in this article from Practical Winery & Vineyard Management.
“I have heard that California doesn’t have enough water and therefore vineyards should be dry-farmed, rather than irrigated?”
The main issue with water in California is not how much of it is available, but rather where it is located. On average, our vineyards receive about 36 inches of rainwater per year. At Obsidian Ridge, this translates to approximately 235 million gallons of water that falls onto the vineyard and drains into the volcanic fissured aquifers below, each and every year. Our drop irrigation system extracts about one quarter of this water and drips it directly back into the earth, creating a sustainable loop of water use.