Gino and Joe come from a family particularly fond of wines that are big and red. They believe that to make great wine, one must have great grapes. Starting in 1972, they began a serious effort to locate an ideal vineyard site. Beginning as far north as Washington State and continuing all the way to Temecula, California, every area was personally visited by one of the brothers.
Looking for a climate with enough warmth to ripen big flavors, but cool enough to keep the wine balanced, California soon became the focal point. It had new areas outside Napa just beginning to receive attention, including Paso Robles. Historically home of intense Zinfandels, in the mid-1960's there were new plantings of French varietals, with Andrew Tchelistcheff consulting. This intrigued the Peratas, as it wasn't Zinfandel being planted, but Cabernet Sauvignon, Joe's favorite.
hunt was on. Paso Robles has many distinct microclimates and
the best area for premium grapes was a search the brothers undertook
great care. Scouting trips augmented by topographical maps began.
during the growing season were measured in areas east and west of
101. Every trip the net closed tighter around the sites deemed worthy.
The field rolled up in hills from Arbor Road, perfect for the cold air to run down and away from the young vines in Spring. It was in an air corridor that receives cooling afternoon breezes from the Pacific Ocean just 25 miles west. And to their father, it looked like their ancestral home near Genoa. The soil and microclimate were perfect for premium grapes. The 40 acre parcel was purchased in 1977 and was painstakingly cleared and surveyed. Planting began in 1980 with Zinfandel as the a focus. The initial planting was 25 acres, 520 vines per acre.
Using a one person auger, holes were dug 24" deep for bare root vines. With no other vineyards nearby (then!), vines were planted on their own roots. Each vine was planted by a family member, each grapestake was pounded into the rocky soil by Gino, every trellis wire and irrigation line carefully positioned by the Peratas. A fence was built to keep deer and rabbits out of the new planting
The hillside location of the vines was key. With less loamy topsoil, the vines work harder. With hillsides, excess rainfall runs away from the vines and the cold Spring air doesn't threaten tender emerging leaves. In the beginning, drip irrigation was needed for the young vines until the roots were established
The first harvest of grapes was delayed as the young vines were cultivated for deep roots. Deep roots make the vines less susceptible to the hot afternoon sun, so mature vines require little or no irrigation. Nature usually provides ample rainfall at this location. Extra watering leaves the grapes with a bigger berry size, but more flavor is developed with a higher skin to pulp ratio, as the flavor and color are not in the pulp, but in the skin. Just as a peach tree gives tasteless fruit when over watered, it is the same with grapes. Our family's long experience in farming tell us that more water is not always better!