We began the process about eleven years ago in the hay fields and pastures surrounding El Rancho Escondido. We tested the soils, studied the climate, secured county and coastal permits, and, finally, chose the appropriate varietals to plant. After extensive testing, our vineyard experts concluded that, with the exception of a lack of real frost, we had some of the finest Burgundian climates you could ask for. After studying the historical temperatures at and near El Rancho Escondido, the climate appears similar to some of the best Burgundian growing regions in California, including Santa Rita Hills and the Russian River Valley. With that established, the decision to develop an island-unique Chardonnay and an irresistibly elegant Pinot Noir was easy. Then the idea of another varietal hit us.
We learned that in the late 1800’s one of the owners of Santa Cruz (the largest of the Channel Islands) had planted grapevines there and produced wine until Prohibition intervened 40 years later. Ultimately, wine production ceased, and the vineyards were demolished. However, a few hardy vines managed to escape destruction and thrive in the hills, where (with the help of The Nature Conservancy, one of the island’s current owners) we were able to harvest some budwood and determine it to be Zinfandel.
It was only fitting to include this Santa Cruz Island Zinfandel as we resurrected the Channel Islands wine program on her sister island of Catalina. On March 16, 2007, the first vines of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel were planted, and the growing season kicked off.