High atop the Santa Cruz Mountains there’s a vineyard that thrives in nothing but near-100-percent sandy soil. That vineyard is Bald Mountain, and is owned and farmed by Jim Beauregard of Beauregard Vineyards.
Located a few miles from the winery’s tasting room in Bonny Doon, California, Bald Mountain Vineyard was planted by Jim in 1990. Today, the Estate vineyard consists of 33 acres of Chardonnay and 7 acres of Pinot Noir. The 40-acre site sits at an elevation of 920 to 1,050 feet on a southwest-facing slope in the Ben Lomond Mountain Appellation, a tiny AVA in the Santa Cruz Mountains region that sports a cool climate. It is this climate—which is influenced by the Monterey Bay and white sandy soil of the AVA—that enables the grapes to achieve optimum phenolic ripeness, resulting in balanced, flavorful wines with noticeable minerals and racy acidity.
On a recent group outing, hosted by winemaker Ryan Beauregard and his father Jim, I (and a number of other cool cats) was treated to glass after glass of the 2012 Chardonnay from this vineyard, while walking among the vines, learning about the site. The soils here, known as the Zayante Series, contain more than 90 percent sand particles, and thus drain rapidly. These soils are mainly unsuitable for most crops, but a conversion of this habitat some time ago made it possible for the planting of vineyards, which can tolerate the well-drained soils.
While most vineyards are planted with vines that have been grafted onto phylloxera-resistant American rootstock, the vines at Bald Mountain were not—they were planted on their own roots. You see, phylloxera—that pesky root louse responsible for the Great French Wine Blight of the mid-19th century—does not do well in sandy soil.
Speaking of which, I have a bit of arthritis and thus welcomed the rather warm October day while stretched out on the vineyard floor, basking in the warmth of this unique sand. On occasion, however, I had to dodge Bacchus, the family German Shepherd, who tirelessly tried to coax me into playing fetch. Seriously…fetch? Did he not notice the difference in our species?
To see a map of the Ben Lomond AVA, click here.
Beauregard Vineyards tasting room is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Their address is 10 Pine Flat Road, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, 831-425-7777,