Deciding What Grapes to Plant


In Europe, vineyard owners are under government regulations that only allow certain grapes varietals to be planted in each region. Here in California, we can plant whatever we want – and many growers do. Their decision might be influenced by their personal taste or what is popular at the time. How is Folded Hills different?

Before wine ever came into the picture, we were motivated to grow the best according to the land. That guided decisions when it came to pastured animals, fruit tree varieties, native plants, and the decision to farm everything organically. The same principle applied when it came to planting grapes. Even though people kept telling us, “Don’t plant this, don’t plant that, those wines just aren’t doing well in the market.” Or, “You just have to plant what you love to drink!” And so we did just that. We happen to love drinking wine made from grapes that thrive to their fullest potential, and express this unique sense of place. So after much testing, comparing our soil and weather to other regions, and weighing up the advice of local experts in the industry, we decided to plant Rhone varietals of Grenache and Syrah.

Vineyard Trellis Planting Rhones

Beyond the varieties, decisions had to be made about what sort of rootstock we would use to plant the vines, what sort of trellis style, clones, direction, number of acres and farming practices. Although vines planted on their own roots, comes with risk – they are more vulnerable to certain types of pests and the reason Europe’s vineyards were decimated in the 1800s – we were lured by the idea that planting a vine on its own roots could give us the most transparent and natural expression of the wine from our site possible. One of our goals is to create wines with purity. So, we’ve decided to plant half of our acreage with vines established on their own roots.

Vineyard Trellis at Folded Hills

Like our varieties, and our choice of how to plant them, our trellis style is not the most common. But our team has instilled confidence that it is the best for our varieties and our climate. Over the years, our viticulturist Ruben has seen the results of Grenache grown closely together with trellises trained in alternating direction while maintaining an open canopy. It’s a unique trellis style he developed here in the Santa Ynez Valley and locally has come to be known as “The Ruben Method.” Ruben’s experience with vineyards through the region, and most especially Rhone varieties, is legendary. The trellis beautifully complements the grapes that need a leafy canopy and adequate shelter to prevent from too much sun exposure. Therefore, we will follow his guidance to plant our two Southwestern facing blocks of Grenache in this way. The remaining Grenache block starts at the highest point, then drops down the backside of the hill facing southerly. That side is naturally protected from the wind and has amazing potential for ripening. We’ve decided to plant this block, which may end up being the pride of our vineyard, in an old world, head trained method of natural bush style vines. It includes a single stake that the vine will cling to, and then grow out in all directions. We can’t wait to see how the vines develop.


A few weeks ago, Pete Stolpman introduced us to a potential winemaker. We met Angela Osborne and could tell within minutes she was meant to be the winemaker. Not only does she understand the values of Folded Hills, she lives them. Seeing that we were in a deep deliberation on clones, she jumped right in, suggesting to plant more of the 362 clone which in her experience results in wines with more lifted, floral aromatics and overall elegance. It’s a style that perfectly suits her approach to winemaking. That day, Ruben rallied his team to gather thousands of Grenache 362 cuttings from Boa Vista vineyard and had them overnighted them to our nursery allowing just enough time for them to start grafting and growing our future plants. All of the efforts, planning and deliberating will culminate in a few weeks for our first vineyard planting. The entire team is excited to dig in.

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  1. Pingback: Folded Hills | What is Rhone? A Region, a Grape or a Wine?

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