Photo: Sara Matthews
Our Viticultural Footprint
Bouchaine Vineyards is located on 104 rolling acres in the southernmost part of Napa Valley’s Carneros region. The vineyards includes two terraced outcroppings named the Garetto Hills, after Johnny Garetto, who founded the original winery in the late 1920s. Both hills rise about 200 feet above sea level. To the south, marshlands fall away to San Pablo Bay, the northern part of San Francisco Bay. On a clear day, the city of San Francisco is visible 40 miles to the south, as are the Bay Area’s two highest peaks: Mount Diablo and Mount Tamalpais.
The Carneros region is perceptibly cooler than upper Napa Valley appellations. Because of Bouchaine’s diverse topography and proximity to San Pablo Bay, the vineyard encompasses almost 20 distinct microclimates. On most afternoons, the Carneros winds sweep across the hills, and on most evenings, fog rolls in off the Bay. These weather influences create wide temperature fluctuations – from 50ºF in cool evenings to 85ºF on sunny days – which contribute to the bright acidity and structure of our wines.
The shallow, clay loam soils of Bouchaine are perfectly suited for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Of Bouchaine’s 87 planted acres, 42 are devoted to Chardonnay, 40 to Pinot Noir, and the remaining 5 to Pinot Meunier and Pinot Gris. Vineyards are planted northeast to southwest, optimizing air circulation and sun exposure, while reducing the risk of mold and rot from harvest-time rains. The use of both cordon and cane pruning ensures diversity in the ripening process and provides crop protection against adverse weather.
Bouchaine focuses on deficit, or minimal irrigation, to achieve the intensity of flavor often associated with “dry” farming. Rather than the customary 100 gallons of water per plant per year, Bouchaine uses closer to six or seven gallons. Actual water uptake in the individual plants is monitored closely to maintain just the right level of stress. This approach not only conserves water but also encourages deep roots and self-sustaining vines.
Our vineyards are farmed using sustainable practices, leaving a gentle imprint on the land. Bouchaine is fortunate to be one of the first wineries to participate in the Napa Green Farm Certification program. We worked closely with the Napa County Resource Conservation District, the Department of Fish and Game, and the National Marine Fisheries Service to develop a long-term farm plan that conserves our natural resources and protects the surrounding waterways.
Here are some examples of our sustainable farming methods:
- Cover Crops such as barley, peas, vetch and rye are used to prevent soil erosion and to add nutrients back to the soil. Planted every fall, they add organic matter and reduce erosion.
- Composting is a part of our nutritional management program, and we often use organic compost as it offers a more diverse set of nutrients for the soil. We support restaurant recycling by purchasing organic compost made from restaurant leftovers that diverts waste from landfills.
- Integrated Pest Management consists of bird boxes stationed throughout the vineyards that attract bluebirds, hawks and owls to feed on pest populations.
- Natural Waterways have been established to maximize conservation and improve water flow. In the lowest lying areas of the property, natural drainage has been restored by replacing grapevines with grasses. The way Bouchaine handles water run-off contributes to the health of waterways and local fish populations, and has earned the winery both the Napa Valley Green and Fish-Friendly Farming certifications.
- Deficit Irrigation is used to minimize water use and to restrict vine growth in order to produce low-yielding, intensely flavored fruit.
PRODUCTION AND WINEMAKING STYLE
Healthy grapes at harvest are a significant element in the quality of our wines at Bouchaine. The entire vineyard is hand-picked and the grapes are sorted immediately in the field. The vineyard’s individual blocks ripen at different times, and the fruit from each block is kept separate during harvest and fermentation. These protocols accomplish three objectives: learning more about the distinctive recurring traits of fruit from individual blocks; assessing relative quality of lots; and intercepting rot or green fruit.
Winemaker Michael Richmond often uses a human analogy to describe the dramatic difference between making Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. “Making Chardonnay is like raising kids back in the 50s, with a lot of parental control and the expectation that the next generation will conform to that training. Making Pinot is the more “modern way” of raising children, where the parents just set the boundaries and try to keep them out of jail. With Chardonnay, we hope to be delighted by and proud of the result of our supervision; with Pinot, we hope to be delighted and relieved by the outcome. It’s the difference between shaping the Chardonnay and allowing the Pinot to manifest itself. Pinot is the most precocious and capricious of all grape varieties.”
Greg Gauthier, Vice President of Wine Production & Sales, adds a musical comparison. “Making Chardonnay is like composing an orchestral work. Making Pinot Noir is like listening to a waterfall.”
Mustard blooming along Bouchaine's Vineyard Walk path.