Robert Sinskey Vineyards is a family run ‘farming’ business which happens to create exceptional wines. Rob and Maria Sinskey run their winery to a sustainable and biodynamic model, which aims to work in partnership with its environment, rather than just ‘on’ it.
Maria and Rob exemplify sustainable principles, values shared by a number of the Pol Roger Portfolio agencies, and we are looking to share the reasons behind this outlook with you as part of our ‘Soil to Shelf’ campaign.
When asked how the most recent ‘vendange’ went, Maria Helm Sinskey’s commented “..pruning has begun, the reservoirs are filling up and we await the birth of the next crop of our lambs. The 2015 harvest was down 40% in volume (owing to the drought) but the quality is excellent – the berries were small with thick skins”. An account which highlights how disparate Napa/Sonoma can sometimes feel from its European cousins, in terms of climate. However, what is central to the Sinskey philosophy is the relationship to the earth and terroir, which is responsible for their livelihood and wellbeing.
Jeff Virnig (Winecrafter at Sinskey) talks of El Nino, weather patterns and seasons with a level of experience that belies frustration; it is the attitude of a winemaker who knows his land and his environment. February 2016 will see bottling of the Sinskey Rosé (new to Pol Roger UK for 2016) which promises to deliver aromatics and textures that are “through the roof”! Jeff comments “2015 was tiny but mighty…. After 4 years of drought and 3 above average sized vintages we were due for a smaller one”.
According to Virnig, Pinot Noir in 2015 was affected like all the other grapes, by drought and inclement weather at flowering – causing smaller and sparse clusters. Flavour and extraction however, were “great” and tannins “firm”; tasting out of barrel, the team are very happy with the quality from the vintage so far.
Exciting times lay ahead for the Sinskey family with a new ‘photovoltaic’ facility constructed to offset a recent expansion in the winery. The construction of this technology at the winery means 80% of their energy needs for the winemaking process can be supplied naturally and with no significant reliance on traditional sources.
Rob Sinskey’s message is clear “Our photovoltaic is part of a plan to reduce our footprint in our goal to achieve zero net energy use and to reuse/recycle as much as we can”. Efficiencies in lighting (conversion to LED everywhere, where possible) has also aided the winery’s intense draw on energy from the grid. “Not only does the photovoltaic generate the energy the winery uses, it also feeds the grid when our demand is not that great, further reducing our impact.”
Water is a well discussed topic in Napa/Sonoma (and in fact, throughout California) and something which weighs heavily on all winemakers shoulders. Consequently, Sinskey decided to engineer a series of wetlands, thus creating a system which aims to recycle all ‘production water’ at the winery. The wetlands have a number of water-loving plants which ‘remove yeast and other winery waste’ to ‘naturally’ clean the water. The ‘cleaned’ water is then stored in a 95,000 gallon tank & used to irrigate an ‘edible landscape of figs, apple, citrus, berries, herbs, lavender and a culinary garden’. If an extended drought occurs in the vineyards there is also the possibility of it being used to help the vines.
Debby Zygielbaum witnesses an abundance of flora and fauna working in the vineyards, as a result of the natural management of vines, bugs and viruses as well as sheep management,
“I’ve got a schedule to prune blocks based on location and variety and how long it should take to prune each (generally 22 hrs/acre). We try to prune the frost prone areas as late in the year as possible; this will retard bud break for a week or two, sometimes pushing it out of the frost season entirely. We also wait to prune until February/March to reduce the vines’ exposure to trunk diseases”.
“The sheep have been in the vineyards since mid-December. They are grazing at Vandal, Three Amigos Vineyard, and OSR Vineyard. We have plans to move more in at Scintilla Sonoma Vineyard (SSV). We do not graze at SLD Estate Vineyard because they are just too hard on the terraces – causing breakdowns and erosion. We use our RSV flock of 15 ewes at Capa Vineyard each year – they are grazing there now on the hillside; they are due to lamb around mid-March.
“We pruned all the olive trees and the various fruit trees in our orchards last week. I plan to use kaolin clay on the olive trees late this season as it did a bang-up job controlling Olive Fruit Fly last year. We will be pruning the new cider apples at the winery with Rose Roberts (to make sure we get it right!) the week of February 19th. We also installed a small cider apple orchard at Capa Vineyard (by the guest house) with the extra bare root trees we had left over from the SLD Estate Vineyard landscape planting – some of the cider apple varieties we planted date back to the Middle Ages!!”
The new wines from Robert Sinskey Vineyards arrive with Pol Roger Portfolio in late March and we are excited to try many of the new vintages. With such a commitment to sustainability and a natural outlook on life it is not surprising Sinskey see an exciting time ahead.