Thursday, September 24, 2015

Hand-holding the Grapes at Shake Ridge Vineyard, Amador County

It’s a family endeavor at Shake Ridge Vineyards in Amador County.  When we visited, we met a slew of family members who come to help with all the tasks, and so it was nice to hear from Susan Kraemer, sister of Ann Kraemer, that the Butte Fire left them relatively unscathed.

“We feel so fortunate here at Shake Ridge. Our hearts go out to all those who've lost their homes and businesses.” Susan wrote. “The winds were in our favor and the vineyard was in no danger from the fire itself. However we were inundated with smoke and many of the winemakers to whom we supply grapes were anxious to have us bring in their grapes as soon as possible.”

The grapes from Shake Ridge are well taken care of. Each vine on the 46 acres of grapes she nurtures gets “visited by hand” at least 12 times during the year—from pruning until it’s time to pick.  “You can’t get bored in this business,” is the way Ann Kraemer explains the appeal of her role as the vineyard manager and public face of the family-owned Yorba Wines.

Just a bit about the history of this remarkable vineyard.  Ann Kraemer spent 20 years scouring wine-growing regions for the right spot, finally, in 2001, settling on 220 acres off Shake Ridge Road, about five miles up the hill from the town of Sutter Creek. Mulling over why it took such a long time, she lists her challenging search criteria: “It had to be a place I wanted to live in, where I could grow good grapes, and—the big caveat--something I could afford.”

Without neighbors to provide helpful tips on growing conditions, Ann carefully assessed each of the myriad microclimates herself before making “educated guesses” about how and what to plant. The varietals she wanted to keep cool went in on north and eastern slopes; others that can handle heat, like Mourvèdre, were planted in the warmer blocks facing west and south. After a year of soil preparation, terracing, and the installation of irrigation systems, the vineyards were planted in the spring of 2003. First harvest occurred in 2005.

These well-tended vineyards provide many tons of fruit to prestigious winemakers.  Yorba wines are made from Shake Ridge grapes too, and today 2000 cases are produced.

Yorba Wines Tasting Room
51 Hanford Street, Sutter Creek CA 95685
     209 267 8190   

(You can read more about this winery and meet the family at a special meal that photographer Johan Martin photographed for my forthcoming book...sign up to get updates/alert on publication date ...

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