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Sonoma Vineyard Launches Captûre Wines

New Tin Cross vineyard hires winemakers from Château Latour

by Paul Franson
Capture Winery
From left, Captûre winemakers May-Britt Malbec and Denis Malbec with vineyard manager Dave Komar.
Cloverdale, Calif. -- The new owners of a historic vineyard property in northern Sonoma County have engaged a team of winemakers from famed Château Latour in Bordeaux to produce a new premium Bordeaux-blend brand, Captûre Wines.

Fruit from the Tin Cross vineyard near Cloverdale in the proposed Pine Mountain-Mayacmas [sic] American Viticultural Area has been sold to upscale producers in the past, but proprietors Carol and Michael Foster are diverting part of the grapes to the new project. The fruit had previously gone to Imagery Winery for a Tin Cross designated wine.

The first wines to be introduced will be a 2008 Sauvignon Blanc from purchased fruit. It will be launched in the summer of 2009. This fall, Captûre will also release a rosé. The brand's primary products will be two ultra-premium Bordeaux-style reds to be released in the fall of 2010. Captûre plans to produce approximately 1,000 cases of wine annually.

Formerly known as Ash Creek

The Fosters, who bought the 240-acre property then called Ash Creek in 2008, compare Tin Cross Vineyard's climate pattern and soil composition to that of the Oakville AVA in Napa Valley though Tin Cross is far higher in altitude.

Pine Mountain

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They say that Pine Mountain's distinctive terroir -- including red clay loam and yellow brown shale -- and weather patterns dissimilar to those of the Alexander Valley floor are ideal for producing the smaller, tighter berries that produce more finely-tuned, concentrated wines.

Little known among wine enthusiasts, Pine Mountain lies on the western edge of the Mayacamas Mountains. Pine Mountain rises high above Alexander Valley while overlooking Cloverdale to the west and Hopland to the distant north. The peak of Pine Mountain itself is in Mendocino County, and Tin Cross Vineyards straddle Sonoma and Mendocino counties, as does the proposed Pine Mountain-Mayacmas American Viticultural Area. The Sonoma vineyards are also in the Alexander Valley AVA.

Pine Mountain was originally farmed by pioneers who nurtured it in rugged isolation, cultivating its hillsides when more fertile lands lay below. Pine Mountain was included in Thomas Jefferson's Land Ordinance Act, and was granted to a Black Hawk War veteran for his service during the 1832 conflict. In the late 1800s, the land served as a hideout for Black Bart who was infamous for robbing Wells Fargo stagecoaches.

First planted in 1855

Tin Cross was planted to vineyard in 1855, making it one of the oldest vineyard properties in Sonoma County as well as one of the highest in California's coastal regions. The vineyards lie at 1,600 to 2,450 feet elevation.

In the last 150 years, the vineyard has grown to about 35 acres and is now planted primarily to Bordeaux varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. The Crosses are planting Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Part of the fruit is sold, including Chardonnay to Newton Vineyards in St. Helena. Tin Cross Vineyards employs organic farming practices. The vineyard managers are Glenn Alexander and Dave Komar.

The 4-acre Tin Cross vineyard block contains approximately 2,200 Cabernet Sauvignon clone 7 vines on 5C rootstock planted in 1991 at 2,200 feet. This south-facing, never-before planted, gentle slope was cleared, soil amended with gypsum and 20 truck loads of grape pomace. It was deep ripped four ways, fumigated, laid out in 6 x 11 spacing, drip irrigated and fertigated with two emitters per vine 15 inches on each side of the trunk, trained up the stake and onto fruiting wires in an "S" pattern. The vines are trellised on an open-U (Lyre) system at 42 inches above the ground, 36 inches at fruiting wire and expanding to 48 inches at the top.

Captûre's winemakers are husband and wife team May-Britt and Denis Malbec, who were previously at Château Latour in Bordeaux and have also worked at other North Coast wineries. They have their own brand, Notre Vin.

They intend to marry tradition and discovery, adapting classic Bordeaux winegrowing methods and customs to Pine Mountain conditions.

Light without heat

Denis Malbec says he and May-Britt were attracted to the area partly because of its climate, which is cooler than most North Coast Cabernet vineyards. "It's important to have a cooler climate, but Pine Mountain also doesn't suffer from fog like the Alexander Valley floor. It gets lots of light without heat." He compares it to Howell Mountain.

Denis Malbec says that he has learned here to work against the sun, "We do need the sun, as it can be cold, but we need to protect the fruit from excessive sunlight with suitable trellising, positioning and less leafing."

The Malbecs espouse traditional winemaking, but do appreciate the opportunity to experiment. "At Latour, you did everything the same way every year," said Denis Malbec. They are now producing the wine at another winery but hope to eventually build a winery on the site.

The winery's president is Benjamin Sharp, formerly with Kendall-Jackson, and his wife Tara S harp, who was previously with Jess Jackson's Vérité and Lokoya, is vice president of marketing. They intend to sell the Captûre wines directly to consumers. "We expect to allocate the small amount of wine," said Tara Sharp. "We already have reasonably good demand from the mailing list we've assembled based on our previous relationships."

For more information on Captûre, visit the Web site at
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