Vineyard operations and winemaking are integrated concepts. All wine starts in the vineyard and ends in the bottle. The care and quality of the steps between these two end points are what makes great wine.
In 2008, the Burbanks started the vineyard by testing the soil and water to see if it would support healthy grape growing. They dug 16 back-hoe pits large enough to bury a car, and examined the soil to a depth of 10 feet. They then had aerial maps produced to examine the topography, slopes, and aspect ratios of the vineyard to determine optimal layout of blocks for sunlight exposure and drainage. Finally, they selected rootstocks and clones that would thrive in each block, and the ranch's climate.
In all, the ranch has 28 unique clone/root stock blocks. In these blocks there are 16 grape varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Grenache Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Mourvedre, Merlot, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Arneis, Petite Sirah, and Albariño. The Burbanks have more than one clone for several varieties because, during any one growing season, no one combination of clone/rootstock will always be the “best.” By having more than one clone, there is the opportunity for very high quality grapes somewhat independent of weather swings.
The plant and vine spacing was designed to allow each vine to develop one cluster per vertical shoot at seven foot row spacing and 3-4 foot vine spacing. The vine spacing was determined by the vigor of each clone/rootstock pair. Those vines of greater vigor were spaced at four feet with two cordons. Those with less vigor were spaced at three feet with a single cordon, thereby allowing each vine the optimal conditions to grow grapes with depth of character.
As each vine matured, it was trained to its final configuration. During each growing season, excess fruit is dropped to meet the vine burden requirement. With a single cluster per vertical shoot, each cluster receives optimal flow of plant energy. Additionally, in the fruit zone, leaves are thinned each year to allow air circulation and sunlight to fall on the maturing clusters.
At harvest, fruit is picked at the optimal balance of sugar development and seed/skin ripening. Some picking decisions are reached through chemical analyses, some through tasting. All fruit is gently hand-picked starting long before sunrise, just as light is bright enough to see. Fruit is immediately taken to the winery for hand sorting, crushing, and fermenting.