20 Jun Why does Joseph Jewell produce wines from Humboldt County grapes?
Mostly because Adrian was born and raised in Humboldt County and has a great love for the area. The beautiful rugged landscape, redwood trees, the Lost Coast.
There are only 150 acres of grapes planted in the whole county. The main reason for this is the rugged mountains do not have lots of shelves and benches to plant on, and where they do, giant trees grow.
Adrian noticed at a young age that there are several different climates throughout the county, which is similar to the home of JJW–Sonoma County. There is a persistent fog that enshrouds the Humboldt Bay in the summer, which is quite similar to what we see here in Bodega Bay. That fog is rolls slowly up the broad banks of the Eel River each day, and it winds it’s way 30 to 40 miles inland from Humboldt Bay. This fog is the key to why redwood trees do so well in Humboldt, but it is absolutely essential in the growing of premium Pinot Noir grapes in the area.
One thing to note about Humboldt County is that it sits at the southern edge of the Pacific Northwest. It receives substantial rainfall during the winter months. The grow season is much shorter than Sonoma and Napa, and bud break is typically 2-3 weeks later. This pushes the ripening and harvest dates into October, which is why we think it is a fantastic place to grow Pinot Noir. The short days and cooler day time temps in October help enhance flavor development and slows sugar accumulation, which allows us to harvest at lower sugar levels with proper phenolic ripeness and flavor profiles for the style we feel is our signature.
Alderpoint Vineyard is located in the small town of the same name—Alderpoint. It is a little up river from the Elk Prairie Vineyard (another of our fruit sources for single- vineyard Pinot Noir) on the middle fork of the Eel. While Adrian was skeptical at first to work with this vineyard due to it being a little bit of a warmer site for Humboldt, the 40-50 degree diurnal temperature swing in late summer and early fall and the daily cool of the afternoon breeze convinced him that it had great potential.
The owner of the property has been a longtime friend of Adrian’s, and they spoke in 2012 about working together. At that point in time, JJW did not have any extra capacity, so plans for an Alderpoint wine would have to wait.
In the spring of 2013, Adrian made the 3-hour trek up Highway 101 to a town called Garberville before directing his drive another 35 minutes up Alderpoint Road—a windy, narrow passage that is in dire need of repair. This drive certainly tests the commitment to one’s desire to source fruit from the far reaches of Humboldt County.
Adrian’s first visit was to do some fact finding, so he brought a tape measure, shovel and a note pad. The vines were planted at a spacing of 6 feet between vines and 8 feet between rows. He counted the rows and the total vines and came up with ~1800 total vines, which put the acreage at just under 2 acres. He had been told that the vines were planted in 1992 to the Martini clone. The red volcanic appearance of the soil at the surface was speckled with a few round river rocks, lending itself to proper planting of Pinot Noir. The vineyard is about 100 feet above the middle fork of the Eel River, so it stands to reason that this land was once part of an expansive riverbed. The large round rocks may have been remnants from Native American homesteads, bringing some local history to this plot. Adrian was also curious about who was farming the site. Was the owner farming or was there a hired vineyard manager? Humboldt County is light on farm workers, and this creates issues with farming vineyards, as Adrian has learned over the years. Adrian was pleases to learn that Rey Sanchez, who is a professional vineyard manager in Sonoma County, was consistently making the journey up to Alderpoint on the weekends to manage the site. At this point in mid-2013, Adrian felt that this was a great opportunity for Joseph Jewell and they agreed to move forward with the relationship and set out to make great wines.