Yorkville Cellars Celebrates 25th Anniversary
Before: Late 1980s – small vineyard on a hill and a sheep pasture at the entrance
A 25-year journey: smooth sailing, bumps, and highlights. One of the most exhilarating parts of winemaking is that the product itself holds a diary of sorts of the adventure. It's akin to an archeological dig with each vintage unearthing its own record. There are vintages when we intervene to make them happen, and those plain sailing years when we just let them happen.
Certified organic growers since 1986
From the beginning, it was important for us to grow the grapes from which we would produce wine and to do so without chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Our hillside vineyard was planted throughout the ‘80s with Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.
Planting Started: Cinco de Mayo (May 5, 1990)
After staking out Rennie Vineyard and erecting our quadrilateral trellis, on Cinco de Mayo in 1990, we planted the five varietals that are the central focus of our production: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. Our vision at that time was to make one wine: a Bordeaux style blend. We soon did a U-turn and realized we wanted to bottle each of the five varietals separately. 1994 was our inaugural vintage of these five wines. The following year we produced a lineup that was to become our core: the five Bordeaux reds and two whites. Blends of each became our Royal pair, Richard the Lion-Heart, and Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Today: our mature vineyards, Randle Hill in the back with white grapes, and Rennie Vineyard in the front with red varietals.
As we learned and grew alongside the vines, we made many additions. Here is a brief look at the highlights:
1997: Our first vintage of Rosé de Franc. The dried herbs and savory quality of Cabernet Franc lent itself to a Rosé. The early wines were dark in color; we called them “Cab-Lite!” Now the grapes go straight to press, so recent vintages are a shimmering pale salmon pink.
Petit Verdot - Almost Unheard of in 1990
2003: We took a bold step and grafted (transplanted) a vineyard block in front of the tasting room to more Malbec and Petit Verdot, plus the elusive Carmenere. It was at this time that we created our unique split vine, grafting Malbec on the north facing cordon and Petit Verdot or Carmenere on the south.
2005: We picked our Carmenere and in 2007 we bottled it. As far as we know, we were the first to produce this varietal in California. This exotic and aromatic wine was an immediate hit.
The distinct crimson leaves of Carmenere grape vines.
2006: It was a bountiful year and the time was right to create a new blend crafted for easy drinking, and so the Hi-Rollr Red was born! It was the plentiful, juicy, big blackberry notes of Malbec that, also in 2006, inspired us to invent a new sweet wine, our Sweet Malbec. While sipping on the juice and testing the Brix (sugar levels) of the fruit, we decided to find a way to preserve that beautiful fresh fruit flavor. Arresting fermentation by chilling the wine traps not only natural grape sugars in the bottle, but a tiny touch of carbon dioxide left over from fermentation that adds a tingle to the sweetness.
2009: This marks the first Late Harvest Semillon wine from Yorkville Cellars. If ever there was a wine that reflected the microclimate of a vineyard, it is a late harvest wine. The noble rot that develops to concentrate both sugar and acidity thrives in cool damp conditions that tend to occur in the fall. But rain will encourage many less noble fungi to develop making perfect conditions rare.
2009 Late Harvest Semillon
2011: This was a challenging year and a bumpy ride for most vineyard owners. A cool and wet spring followed by cooler than usual summer temperatures and earlier October rains yielded a delayed growing season. The silver lining, however, is that the damp cool conditions were again just right for a late harvest wine, and we produced our second and last multi-award-winning late harvest Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blend. Accurate forecasting of a cool and foggy year prepared us for the production of our first sparkling wine. The grapes were picked early at low sugar levels and we selected from among all our grape varietals to produce two inaugural bubbles: Malbec for our first Sparkling Malbec; and 50% Semillon, 25% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon for our Brut Cuvée. The Brut was ready for release for our 20th anniversary in 2014.
2011 Sparkling Malbec
2013: If 2011 was a year for intervention, then this year was the opposite. A perfect and trouble-free year! This was an exceptional vintage, and we confidently set about producing four new wines. 1) Amber Folly is a skin contact Semillon, our first Orange wine. 2) A zingy, fresh Malbec Rosé, also known as Vin D'une Nuit. 3) In recognition of the exceptional vintage, we selected a few rows for our first Reserve Cabernet. 4) Our first vintage of MPV, a Malbec and Petit Verdot blend picked from the same singular vine we grafted together back in 2003.
Caps of Semillon skins are punched down to create our skin-contact “orange wine,” Amber Folly.
We have so enjoyed each twist and turn of this 25-year journey, and we are thankful to share it with so many Yorkville Cellars fans. We’d love to celebrate this milestone with you in the tasting room. We’ll see you soon!