The Soil, Terrain and Geology of Cienega Valley
The Impact of Soil & Terrain on Cienega Valley Grape Growing
The Cienega Valley floor is located about 1,000 feet above sea level. Most of the vines are planted on surrounding ridgelines at a slightly higher elevation. The region is located near the Gabilan Mountain Range. The Gabilans contain a lot of limestone which is responsible for the soil of Mount Harlan and Chalone. Burgundian varietals thrive in this terrain.
Because there is so little clay in the AVA’s soil, the ground drains extremely well. There are very few subsoil levels that retain water. The soil is very porous and aerated from water percolating through it over the millennia. These conditions are very favorable to many varietals, especially certain Bordeaux and Rhone grapes.
There is a significant amount of calcium in the soil of Cienega Valley. This basic element induces the grapes to have more acidity ; a critical component of high alcohol wines with a lot of flavor concentration like Zinfandel. De Rose Vineyards makes an excellent Zin with vines planted in calcium rich soils during the 1890s.
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