When did you start Chance Creek Vineyards?
I bought my vineyard property in 1979 and ripped out an abandoned Palomino (Sherry grapes) vineyard that had been let go for over 25 years and was full of young oak trees, too.
We built a pond and had a seasonal creek going through the middle of it all. Built a house from redwood that I had harvested and milled myself from Molino Creek.
Where did the name Chance Creek Vineyards come from?
Thomas McGuane is one of my favorite authors. The name Chance Creek came from one of his books on "sport" -Outside Chance, i.e., the luck of the draw is all important...You make the most of what you get.
What grapes do you grow?
Sauvignon Blanc and Sangiovese.
Our Sauvignon Blanc came with no pedigree from a Healdsburg nursery, but is actually a stellar clone and loves our rocky benchland soils. It has rewarded us with years of prize winning wines.
Old timer John Parducci always told me Redwood Valley was the best place in Mendocino County for Sauvignon Blanc.
The high acid soil and cool nights keep the fruit very bright in flavor profile and tight in structure for the wines. They live a long time in the bottle and always win awards.
We've gotten best Sauvignon Blanc in Mendocino County at the Crab and Wine festival in Fort Bragg two years in a row, along with numerous medals at the Mendocino County Fair in Boonville and in Orange County. Our wines always stand out in a crowd.
Our Sangiovese is from Il Poggione in Montalcino and had come via suitcase to Amador County where I discovered it with the help of a winemaking friend, Scott Harvey, up there. It is a very special clone which will age well over 20 years in the bottle and needs 4 to 5 years to start to round out.
What inspired you as a young man to get into wine grape growing?
Being a farmer was a dream as I grew up on my parents' and grandmother's small olive and almond orchards. We always had home grown food.
The lifestyle was enhanced as an idea after working at the student farm at U.C. Santa Cruz with the legendary Alan Chadwick, one of the foundational inspirations of the French biodynamic gardening methods. Many people who studied with him are farmers today. We were indeed fortunate.
Why are you organic?
Organic is really the only way for me to farm.
It allows the true nature of the terroir to come out in the wine, and I don't have to worry about dangerous chemicals around for my children and workers and friends.
I believe that the life of the soil is enhanced by my practices and the cover crops have evolved to being mostly clovers and rye grass and there is no erosion at all.
The stream of medals, (as Dennis Patton once said, "enough to rip the front of the shirt off a Mexican general) prove the point of quality grapes and the fine winemaking at our partner Parducci is consistent, efficient, and praiseworthy.
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