Pietra Santa Winery
Pietra Santa Winery is located in the town of Hollister in the Cienega Valley AVA. The winery is owned by John and Phyllis Blackburn as well as their son Cortlandt.
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The Blackburn Family owns the winery and specializes in Italian varietals. They have about 450 acres containing 130 acres of planted vines.
Pietra Winery’s property has been planted with grapes since the 1850s. Theophile Vache originally owned the land along with what is now DeRose’s estate vineyard. In 1880, he sold the property to German born William Palmtag. After several years of excellent wine production, the land fell into disrepair with the onset of Prohibition. It was not until 1989 that the vines were revitalized.
In that year, Joseph Gimelli bought the property and began making investments to return the vineyard to its past glory. He restored some of the old vines and also planted 30 new acres. In 1998, Gimelli hired Alessio Carli to help establish the vineyard and plant an olive grove. The beautiful tasting room and updated winemaking facilities were also completed around that time. The Blackburns purchased the property from Gimelli a few years ago.
Carli was born in Siena, Italy and worked for Badia a Coltibuono in Chianti before moving to the United States. He initially worked for Viansa Winery before coming on board at Pietra Winery. Carli ferments small lots separately and is careful not to overpower his wines by oak. His palate is extremely sensitive, and he is an expert at blending.
The vineyards are planted in limestone and granite soils. This terrain is characteristic of the Cienega Valley west of the San Andreas Fault. Land to the east of the fault has less limestone and more sandstone. Many of these vines were salvaged from Almaden’s old vineyard. Others have been planted more recently.
Pietra Santa Winery is blessed by its unique soil. High in calcium, limestone has a high pH and induces acidity to develop in grapes. In a warm climate like the Cienega Valley, sugar and flavor development is not an issue. Retaining acidity counters high alcohol and strong flavors and balances a wine’s flavor profile.
The winery bottles wine under three labels. These include Pietra Santa, Vache, and Sacred Stone. The Pietra Santa wines include Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, Dolcetto, Rosato, Chardonnay, and Pinot Grigio. There are also three excellent blends made under the Pietra Santa label.
The Vache wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. This label is named after Theophile Vache who established vines on the property. All of these wines are made in limited quantities. Sacred Stone is a red blend that is made with Sangiovese, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache, and Carignane. This is full bodied, spicy wine with a distinctive earthy flavor.
Pietra Santa currently makes about 25,000 cases a year, but intends to make over 60,000 in the future. They also make an excellent olive oil called Oliveta.