We recently had the opportunity to visit our Durell Vineyard Estate and catch up with Rob Harris, General Manager of Durell Vineyards and Price Family Vineyards. Coincidentally, our tour was the very first day that our crews were able get into the vines following temperate, late-spring rains. Our new viticulturalist, Jackie Mancuso, also joined us to see how the vines were developing, and get a behind the scenes look at our estate that, at its very essence is a working ranch, has never been open to the public.

To share some perspective, our Durell Vineyard Estate is situated on 400-acres (200-acres planted to vineyards) and bisects the Sonoma Valley, Sonoma Coast and Carneros AVAs. The Pacific Ocean lies thirty miles west, while the northern stretches of the San Francisco Bay are just 10 miles to the south.

To the immediate north, the Mayacamas Mountain range rises up 2,400-foot from sloping foothills, partially sheltering the vineyards from the region’s daily maritime winds. The expansive estate covers a much-varied topography and sits on myriad of soil types, with each vineyard block meticulously planned and implemented to optimize the interaction of soil, climate and vine.

This unique configuration of mountain, bay, ocean, wind and soils combine to create a cool-climate site ideal for cultivating ultra-premium wines, most notably Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. On the day we visited, the late-morning weather was classic Durell – warm and breezy with stunning views for miles. The vineyard team was working a ridge-top line where Three Sticks sources much of its grapes for our Durell Pinot Noir.

“Our farming practices are meticulous,” says Rob, as he takes us in for a close look at the rows of vines. “Right now, as the grape clusters are forming and canes rapidly growing, we inspect every vine. In spring, the crews are focused on hand thinning suckers and shoots for proper vine architecture. This allows just the right amount of light exposure and air movement for the grape clusters.”

Rob’s specialty is intertwining new technologies, science, and sustainable winegrowing in his management practices. “This is a very exciting time of year. What happens now with the weather and how we manage the vineyards will greatly impact the final outcome at harvest,” says Rob.

When we asked Rob to share his initial thoughts on how he saw the vines developing, and what that might mean for 2012, he became reticent. “I’ve learned over the years to keep my mouth shut. It’s best not to think that you can predict what Mother Nature will deliver — you do the best with what she gives you. And that’s the beauty of working with Three Sticks Wines. The philosophy here is to allow each vintage to express itself, which in the end is the best way to allow Durell to deliver its very best fruit each year to winemaker Don Van Staaveren.”

We invite you to view the video below to give you even more insight into what makes Durell Vineyard so exceptional.