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Our Vineyard

At this time, Shale Canyon Wines produces predominantly single vineyard wines from select vineyards located in Paicines (Pedregal Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petite Syrah), Monterey (Chardonnay) and Arroyo Seco (Chardonnay, Syrah and Merlot).

However, in a few short months we will be bottling Estate wines from our vineyard in Arroyo Seco.  Our vines had their first real production in 2011.

If Wine Thieves cannot reach us for a private tour, you can at least check out our site on Google Earth, search for  “Grandmas Flat” and you will be directly overhead our vineyard and winery. 

Every small vineyard is unique, and ours is no exception.  Located in the upper portion of the Arroyo Seco Canyon, the warmer climate is best suited for growing Bordeaux style and other warm climate grapes.  The geology of the site is best exemplified by the bluffs on our label, a huge section of seafloor, heaved up over 600 million years ago, creating the greater canyon and the topography that make our vineyard location one of a kind.

Our vineyard soils are predominately Lockwood Shaley Loam with the upgrade areas being predominately Santa Lucia formation soils, the latter being shallow with rock outcroppings.  The Lockwood Shaley Loam has 18-30 inches of developed topsoil on the surface, and below lie additional layers interspersed with cobbles and shale which are the leftovers of an ocean bottom deposit.  Lockwood Shaley Loam has minimal organic matter, which promotes root formation as the vines hunt for the nutrients they need. The soil has good moisture retention due to the calcium in the shale, yet good drainage due to the cobbles and shale. This allows increased control of vigor by irrigation management.  The upgrade Santa Lucia soils, with rock outcroppings help “direct” abundant water to the Lockwood soils and the vines despite the generally low volume of rainfall.

Many rootstocks are suitable for our soils type.  However, soils sampling and water quality analysis led the labs to recommend 1103P.  This recommendation was augmented by lots of advice from other growers in the area.  1103P is a vigorous rootstock, drought tolerant yet able to withstand “wet feet” when the soil becomes saturated, as it does, from time to time.  It is well suited to a combination of controlling fruit quantity and quality with a combination of canopy management and deficit irrigation practices.

While we cannot control the weather, knowing what it is doing “real time” makes a big difference in vineyard management and grape quality.  With a small vineyard, we can be much more precise.  We have a small weather station on our site with data logging for tracking real time temperature, humidity, wind speed, solar radiation, humidity, soil moisture and temperature, leaf temperature, evapo-transpiration data, and other variables that help us know how to best work within the constraints nature dictates.

Aside from the Santa Lucia soils in the upgrade areas, the vineyard is located below the outlet of a drainage locals refer to as Shale Canyon (hence the name!).  The vineyard is located in a mostly enclosed flat with gentle breezes and high summer temperatures particularly suited for our varietals.  Seasonal rains drain from the mountains via Shale Canyon and from the hillsides through and around our vineyard to the Arroyo Seco River.

Our vineyard is farmed following rigorous sustainable principles with minimal supplements applied the soils and vines.

The energy of the sun not only creates the conditions to grow our selected varietals, it provides the energy for all onsite operations via our 100% off grid photovoltaic power system.  Our water is pumped and our building electrical needs are all sustained by the system.  All irrigation and domestic water is supplied via gravity flow.  We use a combination of catalyzed water/Clearwater treatments to reduce formation of salts in the soil, help maintain soil porosity, and allow the vineyard soil to produce grapes with virtually no impact on the soils.  This will sustain the unique characteristics created by nature while leaving as little a footprint as possible.


When fully mature, we expect to produce up to 1500 cases per year from current plantings while maintaining production of our other single vineyard wines.

We did not get our vineyard started without some help…aside from extensive reading and research, viticulture classes at UC Davis, a lot of dumb questions and a lot of good luck; we have had help from many of the premier growers/vineyard managers in the appellation and Monterey County including Steve McIntyre of Monterey Pacific, Jason Smith of Paraiso, and, more than anyone else, Robbie Madsen and Dennis Kuchta.  Robbie and Dennis are two of the principals in Arroyo Seco Canyon Vineyard and Sycamore Cellars estate wines, located just off Arroyo Seco Road and less than a mile across the river above our site.  Robbie, Dennis and their extended families have an established 60 acre vineyard and recently opened their own winery and tasting room.  Robbie has prepared thousands of acres throughout Central and Northern California for planting.  He is a walking text book full of common sense coupled with a deep intuitive understanding of the land.

Robbie and Dennis have hand held us through the front end of establishing and maintaining our vineyard and have been a treasure trove of information and hands on help…and they produce some remarkably good wine!


Initial plantings were in May 2009. These consisted of potted bench grafts and dormant field finished bench grafts. The following is the approximate breakdown (and clones) planted:

1,000 Cabernet Sauvignon CTPS 337 - Bordeaux, France
1,000 Merlot FPS 15 CTPS 181 - Gironde
1,000 Cabernet Franc FPS 09 VCR 10 - Passirano
500 Mourvedre TCVS B - France
500 Zinfandel Dupratt - California

In May/June of 2010 we added a bit more than 1500 additional vines:

400 Zinfandel Bisordi Lane – California

630 Tempranillo FPS 02 – Spain

530 Mourvedre TCVS A – France

The vineyard is laid out with 5x8 plant/row spacing, fairly typical of smaller vineyards in the area.  A contiguous area is partly prepared for additional plantings of 2500-3000 vines.

While a “headache for many growers with mature vineyards, the early and substantial rains of 2009/10 could not have been more of a blessing for our young vineyard.  Beginning with heavy October storms that caused shale flows nearly reaching the planting area, and several winter storms that resulted in a long wet winter with rainfall exceed twice normal, our plantings had abundant available water to promote root growth during dormancy.  The results began to be evident in the spring but the real evidence came this summer as the growth in our young vines exploded.  Even though we two budded the plants early on, the trunks have thickened and become woody and the vines are growing with a vengeance.  New growth is deep red primary growth with an explosion of green growth up and into the young cordons that surprised not only us, but far more seasoned growers in the area.  We think this bodes well for the health and vigor of our vineyard and will help us manage the yields to insure Kenny can work his magic in the winery with fruit from consistently strong, vibrant vines responsive to the delicate adjustments made by the vineyard manager in consultation with the winemaker in the field

Grapes we use in our current offering come from larger, well established vineyards whose farming practices are exemplary in the industry and whose fruit is second to none.  In our vineyard, we have the added advantage of dealing with very small blocks, very consistent soils, and the ability to give hands on attention to conditions throughout our “estate”.  For that reason, our customers should expect even more quality and consistency in our wines year after year.

Copyright © 2019 Shale Canyon Wines.