Nestled in the southwest corner of the Walla Walla AVA, Rock Bottom Vineyard is only about a quarter mile north of Cougar Hills Vineyard. On a 19 acre block of land that is fairly flat, the surface of the land is rounded and is a little higher along the back. As you walk the vineyard it feels like you are going slightly downhill as you walk from the back to the front. The average elevation here is 815 feet, very similar to the flat part of Cougar Hills. Looking west from here there are no more vineyards, and the sunsets are beautiful to behold.
We have planted a variety of grapes on this vineyard. There are the Bordeaux varietals Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. We also have the Rhone varietal Syrah. And just because we thought it would be interesting, we put in 6 rows of the Spanish varietal Albarino. The first vintage of this vineyard was in 2012, four years after the first block was planted. We have discovered that we love Albarino wine.
The soil at Rock Bottom is much sandier and less water retentive than Cougar Hills’ silt loam. It’s as if the Bretz Floods left the loam at Cougar Hills and dropped the sand at Rock Bottom. There is an old hand dug well on the property from the 1800’s. With a flashlight it was possible to see the soil profile down 20 feet before darkness took over. Sure enough there is river rock down there at the bottom of the sandy layers, hence the name Rock Bottom. These sandy soils create a taste profile in the grapes that is noticeably different from the grapes grown in the loam at Cougar Hills. We are thrilled with the blending options that this new vineyard has given us.
We have followed the north-south vine orientation and vertical shoot positioning of our other vineyards. This is a very sensible way to grow grapes because if there is a harsh winter that freezes the vine, this trellising method is the quickest to reestablish and get back in grape production.
GROUND COVER AND IRRIGATION.
The ground cover and irrigation here also follow suit with our other vineyards. The sandy, well-draining soils dry out much more quickly than at Cougar Hills and require more frequent watering in the hot months of July and August.
We are fortunate to have two wind machines on this property, and in the springtime we can also use the irrigation to provide extra protection. Dave has begun putting automatic start computers on the wind machines. This helps save fuel and makes sure that the machine comes on when the critical temperature is reached. Likewise the machine will turn off if the temperature warms up, thereby saving fuel and protecting the crop. Someone (Dave that is) still has to be there to check oil pressure on the motors and make sure the wind is not blowing too hard.
Our commitment to future generations and the long term health of this land means that we follow through on the methods and materials used on our other vineyards for this vineyard as well.