Fermented whole cluster in a wood tank and macerated for sixteen days. The wine was then pressed and aged in old (500-liter) puncheons.
Raj Parr, famed Sommelier, author, winemaker and partner at Domaine de la Côte and Sandhi in California and Evening Land in Oregon, set out to do something rather different in 2020: farm. Increasingly convinced that the most fundamental part of winemaking takes place in the vineyard, he traded a partially nomadic lifestyle of traveling, consulting, and wine educating for a more rooted mode of living in Cambria, a secluded town of rocky cliffs, pine forests, and cool climates on California's Central Coast. He had been drawn north from Santa Barbara by a few acres of vines nestled between the mountains and the Pacific: Phelan Farm.
The roots of Phelan Farm stretch back to the 1850s when the Phelan family founded a homestead on Steiner Creek. They worked the land, planting a variety of crops and raising animals. In 2007, Greg Phelan planted four plots of own-rooted Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in areas cooled by Pacific winds. Since 2019, Raj Parr has leased the entire farm and grafted the own-rooted vines to a large variety of different grape varieties that are suited to the area’s cold climate. Working with famed producers in France’s Jura and Savoie and in Galicia, he has sourced cuttings of Trousseau, Poulsard, Savagnin, Mencia, and other varieties. The vines are farmed regeneratively, with close attention to the larger ecosystem and an emphasis on the interconnection between the vineyard and uncultivated nature.
Raj Parr cites accomplished farmer-winemakers Thierry Allemand, Jean-Louis Chave, and Stéphane Tissot as some of the main inspirations for this project. For the first time, he is directing the whole process - from vine to cellar to bottle - of wine production. The wines that he produces are made with a light hand in the cellar, without fining or filtering, largely without sulfur, and with low levels of alcohol due to Cambria’s maritime climate. Perhaps most importantly, they are made with grapes that are farmed with great attention to regenerative and biodynamic practices, infusing into the wines both the natural and the cultivated environment of Phelan Farm, a magical piece of land a stone’s throw from the Pacific.
- Jose Pastor Selections
We continually strengthen the vineyard through various means aimed at diversifying its microbial life. To increase organic matter levels, we add compost from our sheep and chickens, who also roam the vines, acting as natural lawnmowers and weeders. These helpful animals are lovingly defended by our two Maremma dogs, Fleurie and Leroy.
We create ferments to spray on the vines from a panoply of native plants—nettles, willow bark, oak bark, milk thistle, Lupin, Honey, Thyme, and horsetail. These treatments also may include (some foraged and others purchased locally) kelp, seaweed, Pacific Ocean water, fish bone emulsion, and milk from a local cattle farmer. By applying these homemade treatments throughout the season, we strive to create a healthy ecosystem for the vines, which fortifies the equivalent of the plant’s immune systems. A complex and diverse microbial population is the best defense against problematic fungal populations. Instead of working with hindsight to ‘fix’ a problem, we rather focus on the farm as an entity, working holistically to provide support for its overall health. No sulfur or copper is used on our property.
Since it was planted in 2007, the vineyard has been managed according to a no-till philosophy. By leaving the soils unopened and by eschewing synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and fungicides, we ensure that the complex mycelium living beneath the soil is undisturbed. This ‘world wide web’ of the fungi kingdom is crucial to the overall health of the site, ensuring that the vine roots symbiotically coexist with their subterranean neighbors. While the vine roots feed the fungi precious carbon from the air, the fungi in turn make soil nutrients available to the vines. By leaving our soils untilled, we also aim to do our bit in sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.
All wines are made with natural yeast. The Phelan Farm Wines do not see any sulfur (in the vineyard or cellar). All the wines are aged in older oak barrels of all sizes. The wines are hand-bottled without any fining or filtration.
- Phelan Farm
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