Santa Rita Hills Roundtable – Part 1


Established in 2001, the Santa Rita Hills AVA is a unique growing area located in the westernmost section of the Santa Ynez Valley. The AVA covers approximately 40,000 acres (about 2,000 planted) extending from four miles west of Highway 101 at Buellton to two miles east of Lompoc on both sides of the Santa Ynez River. The northern boundaries are formed by the south-facing slopes of the Purisima Hills and the southern boundaries are formed by the north-facing slopes of the Santa Rosa Hills

The extreme nature of the Santa Rita Hills, in particular, the cold, windy climate lead to the low yields that create Pinot Noirs of great density of color, and overall intense flavor characteristics.

Our guests for this five part roundtable include 3 of the region’s most well known “vignerons”: Rick Longoria, Peter Cargassachi, and Wes Hagen. Today: how the AVA was formed, its youth, climate and topography.

Links to todays guests:

Santa Rita Hills Wine Growers Alliance:

Rick Longoria, Longoria Wines:
Wes Hagen, Clos Pepe Vineyards:
Peter Cargassachi, Point Concepción Wines:

Sponsor: The Beaches of South Walton:

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Show #98
(34:48 min 16 MB)

Click Here: Richard Longoria Winery

14 Responses to “Santa Rita Hills Roundtable – Part 1”

  1. 1 Blake Olson Jul 25th, 2006 at 5:32 pm

    The talk about microclimates and the assertion that individual vines have a separate climate is silly. It is only pertinent if the grapes from a single vine are going to be vinified separately.
    They can’t possibly believe that the grapes from a single vine are going to be separated out for individualized treatment.


  2. 2 Peter C. Jul 25th, 2006 at 9:06 pm

    But that’s not the point. We look to the microclimate of the vines within a block to make sure there is homogeneity. The point is to have the same microclimate for each vine within the same block.

    If each vine had a different microclimate the fruit from each vine would be different and the vines would ripen at different times, and make plonk if picked simultaneously.

    Microclimate can vary across the same vineyard and within a block based on effects of the soils on vine vigor, this can also be the result of slope direction, air flow, drainage, amount of rock in soil, thermal properties of the soils, etc.

    The point is to homogenize the microclimate and effects within a block. Ideally plant small enough blocks that the vines grow similarly within those blocks if the same cultural practices are applied throughout.

    Part of the point was to raise the issue that most people misuse the term microclimate. The definition is visible in the root – micro. It is the climate on the smallest scale, instead most people use the term microclimate when what they are actually referring to the mesoclimate or even the macroclimate.

    If you were skiing Mauna Kea in Hawaii while talking to your friend in Tokyo, would you tell them that it was cold in Hawaii or tell them it was cold at the top of Mauna Kea? Which is more accurate?

  3. 3 Gwendolyn Jul 25th, 2006 at 9:07 pm

    I enjoyed learning more about the Santa Rita Hills. I am looking forward to listening to part 2 and better yet, would like to plan a trip up to the area to “see” it for myself. I enjoy pinots and never put two and two together but most of my favorites are from SR Hills! Keep up the great work!

  4. 4 GrapeRadio Bunch Jul 26th, 2006 at 4:41 am

    Peter, it is still hard for me to accept the idea that there could be an identifiable (measurable) microclimate between blocks of vines within such close proximity. Is block size a standardized? How small of a vineyard block can you identify and still be unique from the adjacent block?

  5. 5 Wes Hagen Jul 26th, 2006 at 7:55 am

    Peter explains it very well.

    If you don’t believe that the climate where the fruit hangs in each vine is important to the final quality of the wine, we can’t go much further in this conversation.

  6. 6 Bob Berman Jul 26th, 2006 at 10:10 am

    Thanks for putting together such a detailed show. I appreciate the respect you afford your listeners, whether they are neophytes or afficianados.

    I’m curious why you limit the shows to approximately 30 minutes per podcast, however, especially when you must then divide such a detailed program into 5 parts? While it is easier to listen over the course of 5 days (rather than several weeks as experienced during the Pinot Showdown), it seems a rather arbitrary duration, perhaps based upon radio programming?

    Nevertheless, very informative.

  7. 7 Ryan P Jul 26th, 2006 at 12:54 pm

    Great shows. I like the format of getting shorter (

  8. 8 Ryan P Jul 26th, 2006 at 1:04 pm

    I guess it didn’t like my “less than” sign that I had in the post…

    Anyways, I was saying that I like seeing more shows at or around 30 min vs. longer ones that are less frequent. Just my preference…

    I also had a question about the definition of a block that was similar to the one above. Does a vineyard manager have complete free range over what they call a “block”. Can it be as little as a row or as many as 100 (or more)? What considerations are usually taken into account when defining a block?


  9. 9 Peter C. Jul 26th, 2006 at 10:15 pm

    The vineyard is a complex system. Microclimate is just the tip of the ice burg.

    The microclimate in a block should be uniform. All aspects of the block should be uniform to achieve uniform ripeness.

    There is no standard block size. Within practicable limits the ideal block size is however big a uniform section of soil is that produces uniform vine development. One of the most important aspects of determining an ideal block is looking at the soil type and depth. Although the surface may be uniform, frequently there are different lenses of soil beneath, of varying depths and thickness. You find that different processes frequently worked across what looks like a uniform field of soil. In the past the soil may have been subject to erosive processes that during a scouring flood event may have created drainages or gulleys. Later deposition processes may have filled the drainages with material from upslope. You can look across many vineyards and despite the fact that the vineyard is of uniform grade, these formerly dissected areas that were subsequently refilled with different material are clearly visible and apparent as sections of non uniform leaf color, growth and vigor. Where the subsoils are not uniform some vines may be rooted in gravel sediments while others may be in sand or clay. Even in non dissected soils you can dig down and find variable lenses of soil, ie. layers of sand, gravel, clay, or silt all of different thickness ranging across a field, and which change how the vines above grow. This occurs because soil that were deposited during flood events vary depending on the size of the event and parent material.

    Vine microclimates are dramatically different in these areas because the amount of leaves shading the fruit varies depending on vigor. In those sections where vigor is low and canopies are smaller more solar radiation strikes the ground and warms it. The thermal properties of the soil also varies depending on its constituents, how it absorbs solar radiation, conducts it, reflects it, how quickly it loses moisture, etc. Think of the difference the change of soil mass as the result of wetting or drying has on the soils thermal properties. This has visible and dramatic effects on vine growth.

    You want each block to be uniform in soil type and depth so the vines grow uniformly. Another big aspect of the uniformity is water holding capacity. You want soils that are of similar water holding ability. Imagine a block that one area is sand with (low water holding capacity) and one side that is clay (with much higher holding capacity.) If they are on the same water system if you applied the correct water for the sandy vines the clay rooted vines would be too vigorous. If you applied the correct water for the clay vines, the sand rooted vines would not have enough because sand has very low water holding capacity.

    For uniform ripeness in a block you need uniform soils, uniform microclimate, similar aspect, (orientation to sun,) etc. etc. etc…. You don’t want to manipulate individual vines, you want to manipulate the blocks with uniform vines. It is not practicable to manipulate indvidual vines that are each behaving differently.

    Most agree/believe that the key to great wine is uniform ripeness. This helps create intense pure flavors. That means that when you pick, all the berries are perfectly ripe rather than some being underipe, some being ripe, and some being over ripe but on average achieve…? When you check sugar, check phenolic development, sample flavor, etc., whatever parameter you are tracking, the ideal is uniformity. Ie. if you pick at 25 brix sugar, the grapes should be no lower than 24.5 and no higher than 25.5 brix. (Ideally within .1 or .2 across a block.) If because of lack of uniformity of soils, microclimate, etc., the grapes consiste of a range between 22 and 28, then you are making wine from green grapes and overripe grapes…

  10. 10 GrapeRadio Bunch Jul 27th, 2006 at 2:39 am

    Bob, you are the 1st to ask that question about show length. The 30 minute show length is somewhat arbitrary. However, here are some of the factors that went into that decision. We wanted to keep the file size reasonable for downloads. A 30 minute show is just under 15 mb. Not everyone connection speed is equal, so we did not want huge files that would take forever to download. Of course, 15 mb Vs say 18 mb was arbitrary.

    A much more important number was the national average communte time (just under 30 minutes). Many people like to listen to our show while going to/from work. We were trying to keep the show within that window.

    It should be noted that breaking up the file is a real pain in the butt. The post production work that goes into each show is HUGE. Breaking up a show into parts makes it even worse.


  11. 11 Wes Hagen Jul 28th, 2006 at 8:35 am

    Yes, blocks are defined by the vineyard manager and are usually dileneated by:

    1) Cultivar and rootstcok combo: Blocxk 1: Pommard4/5C

    2) Irrigation sets. (which vines are watered when you open a valve)

    3) Acreage. (2 acres of the westernmost 115.)

    4) Grape contracts.

    5) Row numbers.

  12. 12 Ted Erfer Aug 2nd, 2006 at 11:58 pm

    Or 30 minutes is 3 or 4 miles jogging at my “slow” clip. If you made them longer, I would probably go a bit farther – but maybe not – gotta stop for a sip of wine:)

    Wow – these guys are going to make vineyard managers out of all of us. This is like an on-line course now. Thanks to the trio for answering these questions in great detail. Hey Wes – do the blocks have zip codes too? You could do Zip plus four…….

  13. 13 John LaBeda Feb 21st, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    Is it possible to purchase the taps of these discussions?

  14. 14 GrapeRadio Bunch Feb 22nd, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    John, Contact me at

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