Wine Women Radio goes to ZAP! We had the pleasure of sitting down with some of the best viticulturists and vineyard managers who oversee the farming and care of 1000s of acres of zinfandel vines throughout California. On this show we meet Brenae Royal, vineyard manager of the famed and historic Monte Rosso, above Sonoma Valley in the Moon Mountain District, and Brennan Stover, vineyard manager at Turley Wine Cellars in Paso Robles, overseeing ancient vines in challenging growing conditions.
Wise beyond her years (hint: she’s only been at Monte Rosso for a few years since graduating from Cal. State-Chico), Brenae Royal sat down with us to discuss her journey, from wondering if she wanted to take on management of Monte Rosso, to becoming one of its ardent champions and its leader of viticulture development. With the hosts, Brenae discusses the challenges of learning her way around this 130+ year old, 250+ acre estate and understanding its unique characteristics, including its 64 blocks and 105 sub-blocks (none with any signage). As vineyard manager, Brenae landed in the position with owner E. & J. Gallo while some of her staff have worked there for decades. Learn how she faced and succeeded in this management challenge.
Zinfandel makes up about 85 acres of Monte Rosso, where ten varieties are planted and managed by Brenae, some of which are more than 125 year-old vines. Couple the challenges of growing very old vines with an elevation range of 690 to 1300 feet and you can begin to get a sense of what she contends with day in and day out. As Brenae puts it: “You’re literally drinking history,” when you enjoy a wine made from Monte Rosso grapes.
Brennan Stover been an intrinsic part of Turley Wine Cellars in Paso Robles since 2001. Brennan also has been the only employee of a Kansas winery, which was so small he did everything himself: winemaking, vineyard management, lab work, even sales. Eventually tiring of working only with hybrids in the harsh continental climate, he sent his resume out to California with sunshine and Vitis Vinifera in his sights. Turley snatched him up nearly 20 years ago and he hasn’t looked back.
One of Brennan’s main caretaking properties is the Ueberroth vineyard in the Willow Creek sub AVA of Paso Robles. It’s a look back in time 130 years. Bushy Zinfandel vines dot the stark white limestone slopes, where he insists on hand-hoeing the deceivingly steep hillsides. Tune in to hear Brennan’s insights into organic farming along the central coast and how his vines behave given the climate conditions.
As a bonus, Brennan shared his personal project with us behind his Turley duties: Quench and Temper. Brennan planted his Bas Vineyard in the Adelaida District of Paso Robles during the drought in 2013. Dry farmed and with 45 degree slopes (!), his labor of love is a wine to behold. No fining. No filtering and only native yeasts. (Seek. This. Wine. Out!)
Listen in to hear this series of podcasts (3 more) from the Palace Hotel in San Francisco where the hosts caught up with these Zinfandel Experience discussion panelists to learn how Zinfandel farming has evolved and where they think it’s headed in the future. (Tip: Its preferred growing conditions are perfect for our evolving climate conditions!)