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  • Our Winegrowing Philosophy

    Melville places great importance on being an “Estate” winery, meaning they work exclusively with fruit from vineyards that they own and tend to themselves, in addition to controlling all aspects of making and selling their wines.

    Their ultimate goal is to nurture the land, vines, and fruit in order to maintain the purest forms of each possible. As such, all of the most crucial work is done in the vineyard with a holistic approach.

    Farming aggressively, yet carefully, helps encourage the vines to produce small amounts of intensely concentrated fruit.

    Our Methods

    Irrigation

    Irrigation plays an important role in the development of the vineyard. Melville utilizes a drip irrigation method with half gallon emitters. Irrigation management practices include depriving the vine of water between fruit set and veraison. The rapidly draining sandy soil further aids this process. Depriving vines of water forces the vines to dig deep into the earth for nutrients, resulting in hardier vines, and therefore, more complex wines.

    Cover Crop

    Extensive research and testing is done on the soil every year in order to better understand its components. The results help to determine the most suitable ground cover for supporting beneficial nutrients for the vines. Additionally, crop cover hosts insects that naturally aid in the protection of the vines.

    Shoot-Thinning and Leafing

    Shoot-thinning and leafing are common practices in the months prior to harvest, as they serve to control ripening and yields. Meticulous vine management during this stage is critical. Beginning with diligent shoot-thinning to clear vines of surplus growth, the canopy is opened up to provide balance and order. Coupled with a vertical trellis system, aggressive leafing is then carried out in order to clear the ‘fruit zone’ and provide as much sun exposure to the clusters as possible.

    Pounds Per Vine

    Melville refers to vineyard yields in terms of “pounds per vine”, as opposed to the more conventionally used “tons per acre”. In recent years, tons per acre has become less relevant as more densely planted vineyards, such as those belonging to Melville, have come into production throughout premium growing areas.

    Traditionally, vineyard plantings in California using 12 foot rows and 8 foot spacing between vines yield approximately 500 vines per acre. Melville’s estate, which is planted 8 feet by 3 feet, yields over 1,800 vines per acre. While the majority of ultra-premium winegrowers are content with three to four tons per acre (500 vines per acre), Melville pushes their field to produce the same output, but with quadruple the amount of vines. Hence, less fruit per individual vine. By farming approximately three pounds per plant, Melville is confident that their vineyard site will be expressed to its fullest potential in the wines. Furthermore, dropping excess fruit several weeks prior to harvest also aids in yield control.

    High Density

    This is a French method of tightly-spaced, meter by meter planting with the goal of stressing the vines. In doing so, root systems must compete with each other for nutrients and water, and with the canopy for sun exposure. This approach inhibits rigorous growth, thereby naturally lowering yields and furthering the development of concentrated berries. Melville’s very limited high-density syrah is bottled separately and only available for purchase in the Tasting Room.

    Clonal and Rootstock

    Diversification is a vital element to making complete wines. Clonal diversity provides an enormous array of potential colors, aromatics, textures, and flavors in the wines. Melville’s eleven clones of pinot noir provide them with the opportunity to express this varietal in a multitude of unique ways.

    Harvesting

    Harvesting of the fruit is a very manual and complex process at Melville. During the month prior to picking, each block is randomly “cluster sampled” for sugar (brix) and ph levels every few days. This random sampling provides an overall snapshot of the block’s ripeness (or lack thereof). Grapes remain on the vines until samples reveal the desired ripeness and are picked only when ready, as opposed to being picked at will. Grapes are hand-picked, both to ensure gentle handling, as well as quality of the selection.

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