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PR: It gave him confidence.
BB: And it's the same thing with many of these vineyards in Burgundy — Richebourg and Romanée-Conti — they're all so close to each other and tiny. And that's why he never wanted to expand or have more vineyards. He wanted to to remain at the small size that he was.
NM: The fact that three vastly different types of soil converge here on one single site is really quite striking!
BB: But we didn't know this when we bought the property. Which makes it even more intriguing.
PR: And it wasn't just the soil diversity that worked unexpectedly in our favor. It was also the location and climate. In the summer we don't get a lot of fog up here, at 800-1000 feet, so we're ripening the grapes in the morning. But then in the afternoon, we get cool breezes from off the Russian River corridor, which, when they meet the heat coming from down in the valley, create a circulation of air above all our vineyards. So we don't have a frost problem. Plus, the vines are already starting to cool down in the afternoon, while the valley floor is still warming up. And that cooling effect, of course, retains the grapes' acidity. But these are all things we discovered over the years about this site.
"Al got a lot of flak for what he was doing — no one understood it! Retailers would kick him out their stores! They were convinced he was trying to trick them into getting three spots on their retail shelves!"
NM: Given that this location has so many qualities playing to its favor in growing fruit of exceptional quality, it was actually quite fortuitous that Al chose it, knowing actually very little about its real potential. It was almost as if he was destined to have chosen what ultimately turned out to be such a superb site!
PR: Yes, that's right, that's correct. It's quite amazing. Now, as far as the different soils themselves, because Al already knew about the importance of soils in Burgundy and that there were world-class wines being made with the same varietal from very small vineyards only a few feet from each other, it gave him the confidence to feel that he could do the same thing here, although using a Bordeaux varietal. I do think he saw [his discovery of the very different soils] as an fortuitous opportunity. And I seriously doubt that at that point in history, anybody other than Al who might have purchased this property with the intention of planting vineyards would have seen the value of having different soil types. He recognized the importance of that, and felt confident he could manifest differences in the wines based on those soils, again because he knew it was already working in Burgundy. So, from the beginning, he kept the wines in separate barrels for two years to see if there would be any significant differences in them. In the cellar, he marked them accordingly, although he hadn't yet established names for the vineyards. Once he found that there were, in fact, differences among them, he felt he could really start educating Americans on the importance of terroir by bottling and selling these wines separately — because if it had been in France, there's no doubt that the wines would have been bottled and sold separately.
NM: This was revolutionary — history in the making, really.
PR: It was, at the time. But he got a lot of flak for what he was doing — no one understood it! He would go to a retailer and he'd say, "Hi, I'm Al Brounstein of Diamond Creek Vineyards." (nobody heard of him, of course ) "And I have these three wines, three Cabernets from very small vineyards." But retailers would kick him out their stores! They were convinced he was trying to trick them into getting three spots on their retail shelves!
BB: And he would never let them taste — "If you want to taste, you have to buy" — because he didn't have very much of the wine. To this day, we've kept letters from top retailers who are still in business, telling Al exactly what Philip just said: "You have your nerve to expect us to give you three spaces [on our shelves]! You owe it to consumers to just blend the wines together from twenty acres!" And Al never called on those people again. This was the '70s.