Howell Mountain Soil & Terrain
The Role of Howell Mountain Terrain and Soil on Wine Grape Growing
Much of the Howell Mountain AVA is too steep and is logistically inaccessible for grape growing. The wine region’s elevation ranges between 1,400 and 2,200 feet above sea level. Most vineyards are grown at around 1,800 feet.
The soils on Howell Mountain are unfertile and well drained. The nutrient poor top soil is primarily made of decomposed volcanic ash, volcanic rock and iron rich clay. These conditions produce stressed vines and remarkably flavorful grapes.
In contrast, much of the soil on the valley floor is alluvial and relatively fertile. Some of these vineyards have to be thinned to uphold fruit quality. This is rarely an issue on Howell Mountain.
The red Bordeaux varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petite Verdot, dominate these vineyards. There is also quite a bit of Zinfandel as well as some interesting, relatively new plantings of Petite Sirah. These grapes make inky, tannic wines.
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