ROCKPILE GRAPE GROWERS

In the early 1990s a new wave of farmers and ranchers ushered in the modern-era of premium grape growing in the Rockpile region, reviving a history of farming that dates back to the 1860s. Within a decade, grapes originating from this northern-most area of Dry Creek Valley, were so highly regarded that a new American Viticulture Area was established for Rockpile.

Truly a "growers' AVA," Rockpile is unique in that there are no wineries within the borders of the AVA. Whether rooting from the original Zinfandel clone or experiementing with a traditional Porto varietals, Rockpile wine grape growers are pushing the paradigm of ultra-premium hilltop fruit. Discover more about Rockpile growers and their vineyards by clicking on the grower profiles at right.

Rockpile Grape Growers Association:
Sharing best practices in the field


The Rockpile Grape Growers Association (RGGA) was formed to support our region's grape growers through shared best practices, as well as to educate wine connoisseurs about the stellar grape growing conditions inherent in the geology and climate of the Rockpile region. Although there are no wineries to visit in our AVA, we welcome your inqueries and can point you in the direction of some outstanding Rockpile wines! Please contact us at info@rockpileappellation.com.

LEARN MORE ABOUT ROCKPILE HISTORY >>
LEARN MORE ABOUT ROCKPILE VITICULTURE >>


For more information:
Rockpile Grape Growers Association
P.O. Box 787,
Geyserville, CA 95441
info@rockpileappellation.com

Download the ROCKPILE brochure
Botticelli Vineyard
Pritchett Peaks in the background
Botticelli Vineyard
Total acres: 60
Planted acres: 10, planted at 1000ft elevation
Varietals planted: Zinfandel, Petite Sirah
Wineries featuring this vineyard: Seghesio Family Vineyards, Valdez Family Wines
Owner(s): Arthur & Susan Biedermann
Contact: (650) 326-6788
The Botticelli Vineyard provides Zinfandel and Petite Sirah fruit to Seghesio Family Vineyards and Valdez Family Wines, both in Healdsburg. The vineyard consists of 10 planted acres at an elevation of 1000 feet.
Gary Branham's Rockpile Vineyard
Branham Rockpile Vineyard
Total acres: 411
Planted acres: 11
Varietals planted: Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah; first vines planted in 1994
Wineries featuring this vineyard: Branham Wines
Owner(s): Gary Branham
Contact: Gary Branham, 707-738-0577
Planted in 1994:
  • Zinfandel
  • Wiese Clone on 110R
  • Century Clone on 110R
  • Century Clone on St. George
  • Head Trained; Spur Pruned
  • Non-irrigated
Planted Six New Acres in 2004: Zinfandel, and Petite Sirah
View to Sofie's Vineyard
JD Ranch: Sofie's Vineyard
Total acres: 90.5
Planted acres: 2.7
Plant date: August 2006 110R rootstock.
Budding: August 2007 to Syrah and Zinfandel.
Elevation: avg. 1100 ft. above sea level.
Wineries featuring this vineyard: Davenport & Co.
Owners: Dr. Kristen L. Johnson, M.D.
Margaret Davenport, Davenport & Co. Wines
Contact: Margaret Davenport 707-849-3743 or via www.davenportwines.com
The story begins with two friends on a Sunday drive in the country during the Fall of 1998. Both came from families with strong agricultural backgrounds. Kristen’s paternal grandparents immigrated from Sweden to Minnesota in 1897. Nils Johnson established the Johnson Produce Company in Kocato, which later became Green Giant. Margaret’s maternal grandparents immigrated from the Ukraine to Lind, Washington, where grandfather John Fritchle ran the local wheat elevator.

Driving along Rockpile Road, in awe of the magnificent vistas of Lake Sonoma and Pritchart’s Peaks, the two women spotted a realtor’s sign. Several months later, they owned the land with its two building sites and a well. In July 2002, the house was built and they moved in (see Sunset Magazine, June, 2007). Then came landscaping and, finally, “Sofie’s Vineyard” was planted (named after their daughter).

Margaret has been making wine in Sonoma County since 1980, having begun her career as a harvest intern at Simi Winery. She makes Russian River Pinot Noir under her own label and works as a consulting wine maker for Passalacqua Winery in Dry Creek Valley, Merriam Vineyards, Tom Simoneau Wines, and the Abbe Family. But her greatest thrill as a wine maker will be to make wine from the outstanding fruit from her own vineyard on Rockpile Road.
Gloeckner Turner Cabernet
Gloeckner Turner Merlot
Westphall zinfandel
Gloeckner Turner Ranch, Westphall Vineyards
Total acres: 3000
Planted acres: 24
Varietals planted: Cabernet, Merlot and Zinfandel; first vines planted in 1994
Wineries featuring this vineyard: Mauritson, Seghesio, Luna and Atelier
Owner(s): Robert and Alice Gloeckner and Dr. Jean Turner
Contact: Bob Gloeckner (707) 696-4897
The families of Robert and Alice Gloeckner and Dr. Jean Turner have owned property at two locations along Rockpile Rd. for many years, all the while enjoying the abundant wildlife and breathtaking views. Historically both of the ranches were former sheep ranches. At one time, 1,300 head of sheep grazed on this land. Today, cattle graze most of the Gloeckner Ranch. Westphall Vineyards is named after Shorty and Florence Westphall who were old family friends of the Gloeckner Family. The Gloeckner-Turner ranch has been in the Gloeckner Family for over 40 years. As the production of sheep became uneconomical grapes were planted to provide a sustainable source of income thereby allowing the family ranch to remain undeveloped and under family ownership, all the while enjoying the abundant wildlife and breathtaking views.

Today the main ranch, Gloeckner-Turner Ranch, is home to beef cattle and the production of quality wine grapes. The Gloeckner-Turner Vineyards consists of an 8 acre Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard and a 3 acre Merlot vineyard. The elevation of these two vineyards is 1,300 feet. The fruit off both of these vineyards is sold to Mauritson Winery. Westphall Ridge Vineyard is located on the smaller ranch at an elevation of 1250 feet. 13 acres of prime Zinfandel are grown there. The vines are planted in red volcanic basaltic shale soil on 5 to 20 degree slopes with excellent southern exposure, producing powerful, stressed and intense fruit. The Zinfandel wine grapes grown on this ranch are sold to Mauritson Winery, Seghesio Winery, Luna Winery and Atelier Winery.

Our families remain committed to growing the highest quality wine grapes that will produce world-class wines over the long term.
caption
caption
caption
Rocky Ridge Vineyards
Total acres: 140
Planted acres: 10
Varietals planted: Zinfandel
Wineries featuring this vineyard: Robert Biale Vineyards, Bella Vineyards, Bruliam Wines
Owner(s): Chris and Marge Mauritson
Contact: Chris or Marge, 707-433-6417, 1627 Chiquita Road, Healdsburg, Ca 95448
Chris and Marge Mauritson were graced with the opportunity of growing up in the beautiful farming community of the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County. Here, at the northern end of the valley, where Rockpile ridge rises out of the valley floor to split Warm Springs Creek and Dry Creek, Chris was raised on a ranch originally settled by his ancestors in the 1800's.

It was on this ranch, that Chris at a very young age was taught the value of good work ethics in the vineyards, the responsibilities of caring for livestock, and the sharing of time helping out friends and neighbors during harvest and round up. In the late 1960's the Army Corps of Engineers acquired the majority of the ranch for the development of Lake Sonoma Recreational Area but leaving the family over 500 acres on top of Rockpile.

Chris and Marge met in the early 70's, started a family by the end of the decade (daughters Jessica and Tatiana, now grown), and in 1981 purchased a home near Healdsburg, where they planted a few acres of grapes. As the twentieth century came to a close, and having spent careers in the lumber and winery business, they decided to develop more vineyards in the unique setting of Rockpile ridge. In the spring of 2001, 10 acres of Zinfandel were planted at the north end of 140 acres on the original homestead. The first harvest came in the fall of 2004 and each harvest thereafter is awaited with anticipation to see what Mother Nature and this wonderful terroir will develop for the finished wines from Rocky Ridge Vineyards.
Madrone Spring Vineyard
Cemetery Vineyard
Jacks Cabin and Lower Pond
Mauritson Rockpile Ridge Vineyards
Total acres: 550
Planted acres: 34
Vineyard Blocks: Buck Pasture, Cemetery, Independence, Jack's Cabin, Lower Pond, Madrone Spring, Upper Pond, Water Trough
Varietals planted: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Malbec, Petite Sirah, Petite Verdot, Syrah, Tinta Cão, Touriga Nacional, Sousão, Tinta Madeira, Tannat
Wineries featuring this vineyard: Mauritson's Rockpile Winery
Owner(s): the Thom Mauritson family
Contact: Clay Mauritson (707) 431-0804
Our great-great-great grandfather S.P. Hallengren first planted vines on the Rockpile valley floor in 1884, shipping every ounce of his wine back to Sweden. Our family's Rockpile homestead and ranch grew to 4,000 acres by the early 1960s when all but 700 ridgetop acres was aquired by the Army Corps of Engineers in order to develop Lake Sonoma. The remaining steep hillsides and rocky terrain seemed mainly suitable for sheep grazing and wild pig hunting until the mid 1990s when we planted 34 acres to vineyard, discovering that the terroir held great potential for ultra premium hillside fruit.

Jacks Cabin
Located between 1,000 and 1,300 ft elevation and with sweeping sun exposures from South to Southwest, this block is ideally suited for BDX varietals. The thin gravely loam provides the perfect balance of stress and sustainability. The stressed environment gives us extremely small yields with incredibly concentrated fruit, yet there is a richness and soft round tannins that comes from the soil and increased sun. With a slope up to 30 degrees, we never have to worry about too much water retention in this soil. The resulting wines have amazing intricacy.

Cemetery
Comprised of serpentine and shale, this block straddles the Rogers Creek fault, one of the more active earthquake faults in Northern California. With a southwestern sun exposure, 15 to 20 degree slope, and the previous mentioned soil, the wine is everything you might expect; intense, powerful, and complex. Year after year the Cemetery yields Zinfandel with amazing black fruit and unbelievable tannins.

Independence
In 1999 when we started planting our Rockpile vineyards, I seized the opportunity to fulfill one of my lifelong wine dreams: to make a true vintage port, using the authentic Portuguese varieties. We planted four of the “Big Five” varieties that make up port: Tinta Cão, Touriga Nacional, Sousão, Tinta Madeira as well as taking some creative liberty in planting Tannat.

Jacks Cabin
Named after one of the original inhabitants of this area, Jack Ireland lived in Rockpile in the early 1800’s. Jack was known as a crazy old hermit. There are plenty of colorful stories about “Crazy Jack,” many of which involve moonshine, guns, jail, an insane asylum, and public nudity. Well, when my dad, and his father before him, was growing up on the property all that was left of Jack was the remnants of his cabin. It was widely believed that the cabin and this area of the ranch was haunted by none other than Jack. Jacks Cabin vineyard may be the most unique of our Rockpile vineyards. Containing primarily loam soils, the vineyard has a southern sun exposure and is planted at roughly 10-15 degrees slope. Relatively hidden from the costal breezes that howl through Rockpile, this vineyard is definitely the least stressed of all the blocks.

Lower Pond
As the name suggests, this block is located directly below the pond. It actually is the convergence of two other Rockpile blocks: Jacks Cabin and Water Trough. The rows bend around the pond, giving this vineyard two very different sun orientations. Half of the rows run westward, while the other half bends toward the North. One of the heartiest of the Rockpile vineyards, it has the advantage of spanning a small trough. What little water there is collects in the low spot, giving the vines great vitality. One of the last blocks harvested, the strong vines yield surprisingly supple fruit.

Madrone Spring
The Madrone Spring block is so named for the year round fresh water spring that runs out of the roots of the most beautiful Madrone tree that you have ever seen.

This block is the most diverse of all the Rockpile blocks. It has three distinctly different sun exposures, a menagerie of soil compositions, and is planted to three different varietals. In the upper portion of the vineyard, at nearly 1,500 ft elevation, it is not uncommon to have sustained winds of 20-30 miles per hour, while the lower portion is completely shielded from the coastal breezes. Within this block we have planted:

ZINFANDEL — The zinfandel is planted at a Northwestern sun exposure with primarily red loam soils. One of the steepest blocks on the property, the slope often exceeds 30%. The steep slopes force the roots deeper to find water which is reflected in the great mineral characteristics.

PETITE SIRAH — The Petite Sirah is planted with a Southeastern sun exposure with soils ranging from chalk to loam to serpentine. The varied soil types provide an array of flavors in the fruit. Protected form the fierce winds, and planted at a relatively slight degree of slope, this block has proven to be one of the most consistent producers. This vineyards average yield is less than 2.5 tons to the acre, ensuring that each bunch of fruit is as perfectly ripened as the next.

SYRAH — The Syrah has the most uniform environment of all the varietals grown in the Madrone Spring, having an Eastern sun exposure with red shale and serpentine soils. We planted this block specifically because of the minimal sun exposure. It is the last block that we pick off of Rockpile and it shows in the complexity of flavor.

Upper Pond
The smallest of all of our Rockpile vineyards, this block of zinfandel is less than 200 vines. Affectionately named for the small pond that it overlooks, we had no choice but to make it a separate block. This vineyard exemplifies the diversity of terrior and swiftness with which it changes in Rockpile. With its Northwestern sun exposure, and steep slope, it was just too unique to be included in the lower pond block. One of the only blocks not planted to the St Peters Church zinfandel clone, the DuPratt clone has done extremely well here.

Water Trough
The original, 100 year old, claw foot bath tub still serves as a water trough for the livestock in Rockpile. Before there were pumps and automated water lines, there were natural springs. One would channel the water from the spring to a collection point, and that was your watering hole, or in our case, water trough. The bath tub is still fed by the original spring that has been used by Mauritson livestock for generations.

The Water Trough block is the lowest in elevation of all of our Rockpile vineyards. Sitting at 890 ft, it is only 30 yards above the fog line. Not extreme by Rockpile standards, this vineyard still produces fruit that only comes from stressed vines. The typically full Southwestern sun exposure is tempered by the low elevation, large surrounding oak trees, and gentle slopes.

Ramsey caption
Ramsey
Total acres: xx
Planted acres: xx
Varietals planted: xx
Wineries featuring this vineyard: xx
Owner(s): xxx
Contact: xxxx
The grower has not yet provided a description of the property.
Late spring
Dormant season
Reminder of the past
Rockpile Ranch
Total acres: 28
Planted acres: 28
Varietals planted: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Petite Verdot, Petite Sirah
Wineries featuring this vineyard: Carol Shelton Wines, JC Cellars, Paradise Ridge, St. Francis, Stryker Sonoma
Owner(s): Rod and Cathy Park
Contact: Rod Park at 707-272-5329
Rockpile Vineyard is located on the historic Rockpile Ranch established by Tennessee Bishop in 1865. According to various historic records, homesteader Bishop had a mature vineyard here in 1872 but allowed it to go fallow. During the next century the ranch served mainly for sheep and cattle ranching and, for a very brief time, was owned by the cast of the Bonanza television series.

In 1992, after 120 years, Rod and Cathy Park once again farmed wine grapes on the ranch. Rootstock was planted in the spring of '92, and budded to Cabernet Sauvignon (2 clones), Merlot, and Petit Verdot (2 clones). Subsequently 4 clones of Syrah were planted. Rockpile Vineyard extends in elevation from 1875' to 2010'and it receives an average rainfall of 50-73" (2002–2007).

The Parks are both retired from the University of California at Berkeley and spend full time working on the vineyard. They are often asked how their university careers prepared them to grow grapes. For Rod, growing grapes has a rhythm and challenge that requires the successful farmer to listen to nature in the same way that a professor listens to his students.

Vintage 2007 Awards
2007 Carol Shelton Rockpile Reserve Petite Sirah
  • Gold Medal – 2009 Orange County Fair Wine Competition
  • Gold Medal – 2009 Long Beach Grand Cru Wine Competition
2007 Carol Shelton Rockpile Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Gold Medal – 2010 Sonoma County Harvest Fair Wine Competition

Vintage 2006 Awards
2006 Carol Shelton Rocky Reserve Zin
  • **92 points – Connoisseurs’ Guide to CA Wines, January 2009
  • 91 points – Wine Spectator, June 2009
  • 91 points/Very Highly Recommended – California Grapevine, April 2009
  • 90 points – Wine & Spirits Magazine, February 2010
  • Gold Medal – 2010 Los Angeles County Fair Wine Competition
  • Gold Medal – 2009 San Diego International Wine Competition
  • Gold Medal/94pts – 2009 California State Fair Wine Competition
  • Gold Medal – 2009 Long Beach Grand Cru Wine Competition
  • Gold Medal – 2009 Pacific Rim International Wine Competition
  • Gold Medal – 2009 North of the Gate Wine Competition
2006 Mauritson Winery, Syrah Madrone Rockpile Spring Vineyard
    89 pts Wine Spectator
2006 Paradise Ridge Winery, Zinfandel Rocky Ridge Vineyard
  • Gold Orange County Wine Fair Competition
  • 1 Puff Connoiseur’s Guide
2006 JC Cellars, Syrah Rockpile Vineyard – Haley Reserve
  • 95 pts Wine Spectator
  • 93 pts Wine Advocate
Vintage 2005 Awards
2005 Branham Rockpile Vineyard, Hobo Rockpile Zinfandel
    90 pts Wine Enthusiast
2005 Carol Shelton Rocky Reserve Zin
  • **91 points – Connoisseurs’ Guide to CA Wines, January 2008
  • Gold Medal – 2008 Los Angeles County Fair Wine Competition
  • Gold Medal – 2008 Long Beach Grand Cru Wine Competition
2005 JC Cellars, Syrah Rockpile Vineyard
  • 92 pts Robert Parker
  • 93 pts James Laube Wine Spectator
  • 94 Connoiseur’s Guide
2005 JC Cellars, Buffalo Hill Syrah Rockpile Vineyard
    96 pts Robert Parker
2005 Mauritson Winery, Zinfandel Cemetery Vineyard
    90 pts Wine Advocate
2005 Mauritson Winery, Zinfandel Ridge Vineyard
  • 91 pts Wine Advocate
  • 93 pts Connoiseur’s Guide
2005 Paradise Ridge Winery, Cabernet Rockpile Vineyard
  • Gold Sonoma County Harvest Fair
  • Best of class LA Int. Wine Competition
2005 Stryker Sonoma, Cabernet Rockpile Vineyard
  • Silver SF Chronicle Wine Competition
  • Silver Sonoma County Harvest Fair
Vintage 2004 Awards
2004 Carol Shelton Rocky Reserve
  • 90 points – Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, June 30, 2006
  • 1 Puff / 90pts – Connoisseur’s Guide, January 2007
  • 88 points – Wine Spectator, June 30, 2006
  • Gold – 2006 Orange County Fair Wine Competition
2004 JC Cellars, Syrah Rockpile Vineyard
  • Gold Medal Long Beach Grand Cru
  • 93+ pts Robert Parker
  • 93 pts Connoiseur’s Guide
2004 Stryker Sonoma, Merlot Rockpile Vineyard
  • Gold Sonoma County Harvest Fair
  • Silver SF Chronicle Wine Competition
2004 Stryker Sonoma, Petit Verdot Rockpile Vineyard
    Best In Class Sonoma County Harvest Fair
2004 Stryker Sonoma, Cabernet Rockpile Vineyard
  • Double Gold SF Chronicle Wine Competition
  • Gold Sonoma County Harvest Fair
  • Best of Class 2008 Pacific Rim Intl. Wine Group
Vintage 2003 Awards
2003 Carol Shelton Rocky Reserve
  • points – 2005 Wine Spectator
  • Puff/89 points – Jan 2006 Connoisseurs Guide
  • Gold/ Best of Class – 2005 West Coast Wine Competition
2003 JC Cellars, Rockpile Vineyard Syrah
  • 93+ pts Robert Parker
  • 92 pts James Laube Wine Spectator
  • 91 pts Connosseur’s Guide
2003 Paradise Ridge Winery, Merlot Rockpile Vineyard
    Gold Medal Sonoma County Harvest Fair

Vintage 2002 Awards
2002 Carol Shelton Rocky Reserve Zin
  • Best of Show Red and Gold/Best of Class 2004 Savor Magazine’s North of the Gate
  • Gold – 2004 Orange County Fair
  • Gold – 2004 New World International
  • Gold – 2004 Grand Harvest Awards

Vintage 2001 Awards
2001 Carol Shelton Rocky Reserve Zin
  • Gold – 2003 New World International
  • Gold – 2003 Riverside International
  • Gold – 2003 Orange County Fair
  • 91 points – Wine Enthusiast, November 2003
  • 93 points/ 2 Puffs – Connoisseur–s Guide, January 2004

Vintage 2000 Awards
2000 Carol Shelton Rocky Reserve Zin
  • 5-Star Gold – 2001 Orange County Fair
  • Gold – 2002 Orange County Fair
  • Gold – 2002 North of the Gate Wine Competition
  • 5.5 STARS – NY Times On-Line, December 2001
  • "Exceptional" – Dan Berger–s Vintage Experiences, June 2002

Accolades
2006 Branham Rockpile Vineyard – Hobo Rockpile Zinfandel
Chronicle Website “Dry-farmed at the high elevation Rockpile appellation ... long on the palate with a clean feel .. austere.. uncluttered by oak.” Read the full review>