In 2002, after several years of negotiations, we were able to acquire one of the last and premier vineyard sites along Westside Road. Seven miles southwest of the town of Healdsburg and half a mile south of the Allen Vineyard, this 51 acre parcel has been our latest estate vineyard development. From the highest elevation, you have beautiful sweeping views of the Russian River and in the opposite direction, you look out across the valley towards Mt. St. Helena.
After the removal of more than 10,000 tons of rock (with another 5,000 to 10,000 remaining), we dug 32 soil sample pits. Much like the Drake vineyard, we were amazed at the quality of the soils. With our learnings from Drake, we initially planted 22 acres of this property, which eventually grew to just over 30 acres. We decided to use five different types of root stock to match the soil types. To give additional flavor diversity, we chose clones of Pommard, Swan, Calera, and Mt. Eden (UCD 37).
When planning the vineyard, great care was taken to maintain the hundred plus year-old oak trees and preserve pockets of natural habitats throughout the property. Carefully weaving around the acreage, the vines were positioned northeast to southwest to allow for even exposure to the summer sun. They were densely planted to five foot by seven foot rows (1245 vines per acre), and are slowly but surely growing into their vertical shoot positioned trellises.
We worked hard to acquire both of our Estate properties, and to develop their potentials over the years. We grow our grapes with the same persistent care devoted by our best growers. Agriculture requires patience and commitment. With the addition of our estate vineyards we can now control the grapes from our soil to your glass. We are totally involved in every step of the process and the results make us proud.
In 2009, the Wine Enthusiast Magazine awarded the 2007 Litton Estate (The Estate’s former name) Pinot Noir a perfect 100 points. This was the first time a major wine publication in America awarded a California Pinot Noir with a perfect score.
Block 10 – Mass Selection
We are also crafting several wines that are now winery-only wines. These are wines that we make just for tasting and sale at the winery, they are not currently being offered through the list. One of these wines is the Block 10 – Mass Selection, Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir.
This wine is made from a 3-acre site on the Williams Selyem Estate Vineyard and is extremely unique. How so? Well, in that every 18th vine in each row is a different clone or field selection intermixed throughout the block – all planted on 420A rootstock. The inter dispersion of these clones allows this homogeneous mixture to illustrate the true expression of this site. Planting vines in this way is reminiscent of the way things were done in Europe or Burgundy before we began exploring the genetics of our field selections.
The Block 10 – Mass Selection Pinot Noir represents a slight departure in winemaking for us at Williams Selyem. In addition to the Francois Frères barrels we traditionally use, we also used 50% Marcel Cadet (a water-bent barrel) from Dargaud et Jaegle. Furthermore, 35-38% whole cluster was used in the uninoculated fermentation to add additional complexity and purity of site. The wine is then aged in 50% new oak and 50% once used oak for 20-22 months. The true persona of this location is very much verbalized in this wine. We are crafting each of these vintages to hopefully mature in a decade or two. In the summer we will be offering tours of the Block 10 – Mass Selection vineyard for a chance to share more about the different clones planted to this site. We hope you will come experience this project, which has proved to be an insightful and tasty endeavor.