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Sierra Moon Vineyards

In September of 2000, EJ and Chiyo purchased 127 acres of farmland in Fair Play, California, located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, at an elevation of 2,300 ft. We cleared 30 acres, and immediately began laying out the vineyard on the property. To view additional photos of our vineyards please visit the Photo Gallery.

There are four seasons, with normally just a powder of snow during the winter. However, in January of 2007, the vineyard received 6 to 8 inches of snow which lasted for only 2 days. The annual rainy season extends from Oct.15th to May 15th, and averages 40 inches; consequently there is a need for drip irrigation during the summer months. Our wells are supplied by the snow melt from the mountains in the Lake Tahoe region.

The temperatures do reach 100 degrees in late July and August, however it is normal for the temperatures to drop as much as 35 degrees overnight, which is very beneficial for the grapes. Conversely, during the winter, there may be only one or two days where the temperature will drop below 32 degrees.

The soil is composed of decomposed granite, very similar to the Northern area of the Rhone Valley. This is reflected in the mineral content detected in the flavor of our wines.

In June of 2001, we planted 25 acres of vines, a total of 27,225 vines. The spacing of the vines was 5 ft, with 8 ft aisles. Since the soil was similar to the Rhone valley, French Rhone varietals were selected to plant. Initially, two French reds were selected: Petite Sirah and two varietals of Syrah: Noir and 877. Syrah Noir was selected for its complex structure and Syrah 877 was selected for its abundant fruity flavor. Later, in the winemaking process, these two are blended together to obtain the optimum flavor balance.

In addition, since the area is well known for its Zinfandel, Zinfandel was planted. There are Zinfandel vines in our local area, 150 years old, and still bearing fruit. Obviously, these vines produce a reduced tonnage per acre, but the "Old Vine Zin" makes a premium wine, at a premium price. We selected the Zinfandel Hambrecht clone for its unique flavors. In order to retain the integrity of this clone, any replants are grown from bud wood from our vineyard.

In 2006, due to projected market demand, 3.5 acres of Syrah 877 were grafted over to two French Rhone white varietals; Viognier and Rousanne. In 2008, an additional 1.3 acres of Syrah 877 were grafted over to another French white; Marsanne. The addition of the three (3) French Rhone white varietals brings the vineyard into better balance with the two (2) French Rhone reds. In addition, we still have the American varietal, Zinfandel. All of the three (3) French Rhone white varietals will be bottled as individual varietals. A small portion of the Rousanne will be added to the Syrah, (less than 10%), in the classic French style of making Syrah.

The trellis system selected was a Vertical Shoot Position, (VSP), and the cordons are run 5 ft in one direction.

A drip irrigation system was installed, fed by 4 wells and utilizing 3, five thousand gallon storage tanks. The irrigation system is divided into 11 zones, and is fully automated. Each vine is supplied with water through 2 emitters, each rated at 1/2 gallon per hour. The irrigation system also has the capability of having liquid fertilizer injected into the system, thereby providing each vine with the proper dosage of nutrients.

Since one year old green grafted plants were planted in 2001, we can now say in 2015, the vineyard is in its fifthteenth leaf. In order to maintain the finest quality and flavor, the following crop load per acre will be set for each varietal:

Rhone whites (Viognier,Rousanne, Marsanne) - 3 ton per acre - maximum production 960 cases
Rhone red (Syrah) - 5 ton per acre - maximum production 1389 cases
Rhone red (Petite Sirah) - 5 ton per acre - maximum production 1980 cases
Zinfandel - 5 ton per acre - maximum production 1500 cases

At harvest, our grapes are hand picked and sorted, to ensure that only the very best clusters are used in making our wine.

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