Terroirs

With his personal connections to some of California’s most
sought-after vineyards,Julien’s wines are, in the winemaker’s
own words, “a pure expression from each site.”

Sleeping Lady

Yountville

38.375087533264896°N, -122.35363810218641°E

Sloping gently west towards the foothills of the Mayacamas Range in southern Napa Valley, Sleeping Lady is the type of vineyard Julien likes to describe as “a diamond in the rough,” among other potentially great sites that haven’t yet been developed. The picturesque property in the Yountville AVA is certainly a jewel in the viticultural crown of the western bench, a stretch that includes some of the Valley’s most ideally situated vineyard land.

An alluvial fan of degraded rocks and pebbles— formed over millennia by rain and runoff from the nearby hills—comprises the deeply layered soil typical of this benchland. Meanwhile, the vines’ eastern exposure helps mitigate effects of the hot afternoon sun, while cooling winds flow unobstructed through the vineyard and across the valley floor. And Yountville’s proximity to the San Pablo Bay, just south of Napa Valley, further contributes to the gentle growing conditions, resulting in a fresher aromatic and flavor profile in the Cabernet Sauvignon Julien produces from Sleeping Lady’s vines.

“For me, it's a modern expression of Napa Valley because there's a lot of finesse in the fruit and a lot of freshness, but still there's power and depth from the hillside,” Julien says of the vines he’s worked with now for a decade. “Sleeping Lady is one of the newest additions to the stellar vineyards of Napa Valley.”

Martinez

Pritchard Hill

38.4642933892755, -122.35313601233159

The vineyards of Pritchard Hill, which fall under the Napa Valley AVA, tend to contradict the notion of more traditional Napa sites, located, as they are, high above the valley floor. Martinez is one such vineyard. To Julien, who has produced a dozen vintages from this amazing site, it’s a standout example of how a warm and early-ripening location can work just as well as a cooler spot. Both the sun and the ridge-hugging breezes play important parts in the growing season for Martinez Cabernet Sauvignon. But it’s really all about the soil.

The elevated site is situated on Pritchard Hill, high above Oakville on the east side of Napa Valley. The altitude places Martinez Vineyard in the middle of an inversion layer, where the interplay of a regular flow of warm air and cooling breezes creates balancing conditions for Cabernet Sauvignon. The expertly tended vines grow in a mix of iron, clay, and sand, studded with large rocks and boulders. The un-fragmented nature of the vineyard’s soil means that, between the massive stones, there’s quite a bit of depth in the ground—“big cracks,” as Julien likes to point out, “for the vines to explore.” He notes with appreciation for this excellent site that the red soil mix of clay and iron allows for the rich flavors and textures of Pritchard Hill to shine through in his wine.

McGah Family Vineyard

Rutherford

38.467248218954786, -122.38252134778614

As much as any site he works with, Julien maximizes the potential for greatness in the spare, rocky soils of McGah Vineyard in Rutherford. The McGah family’s 40-acre property sits adjacent to Beckstoffer George III vineyard, a stone’s throw from the Silverado Trail on Napa Valley’s east side. Essentially, the Sauvignon Blanc vines are situated in a riverbed, planted three decades ago in the highly eroded soil of the Napa River. Over time, a thin layer of topsoil has deposited across this area from the hillsides to the east, blanketing the larger substrata of bedrock. In between this hard rock and the surface lies the key to Julien’s success.

“The McGah soil is not really suited for red wine, but it works very well for white,” Julien explains. This is because the ground beneath the old vines holds a layer of white chalky rock, a form of decomposed ash that, according to the winemaker, is a perfect soil match for Sauvignon Blanc. Julien uses a preferred To-Kalon clone selection of the variety to coax complex aromas and flavors from the vines. And he emphasizes that, at thirty years old, “the age of the vines does count for a lot of the richness that we get from these grapes.”

Platt Vineyard

Sonoma Coast

38.37148893300718, -122.95217663960972

The rolling, fog-covered hills just inland from Bodega Bay provide an ideal counterpoint to Julien’s Napa Valley-centric winemaking. As an equally serious producer of Pinot Noir, this narrow section of the large Sonoma Coast AVA offers him the opportunity to work with fruit from Platt Vineyard, one of California’s top Pinot sites. The vineyard is planted with incredibly low-yielding vines at a hillside location between the historic bay and the West Sonoma County town of Sebastopol.

The Pacific Ocean influence on Platt’s microclimate is the driving factor for Julien’s fresh, complex style of wine. After four vintages, he’s learned to expect a very long growing season, with the sunlight that bathes this part of Sonoma’s coastline tempered by the marine weather and a very mild climate. It’s an ideally situated location for Pinot Noir, a slow-ripening site where, as Julien describes it, “the climate and the way the Pinot parcel is laid out there are what make it special.”