The story of grapegrowing at Circle R Ranch is as much about un-realized potential as it is about vines already in the ground, and for two very good reasons: wildlife and watersheds. 89 of the ranch’s approved vineyard acres are part of a 246-acre conservation easement to help protect the many wild animals that use the ranch as a corridor to the Vaca Mountains. Those acres, now never to be developed, were selected for the benefit of also helping to protect the quality of nearby Milliken Creek that feeds the Milliken Reservoir and is a clean water source for the southern part of Napa Valley.
The remaining 200-plus approved vineyard acres represent one of Napa Valley’s most ideally situated viticultural sites. Located high above Napa, Foss Valley sits at roughly 1500 feet elevation, at the foot of 2663’ Atlas Peak. The climate at this elevation stays slightly cooler, helping avoid the heat spikes that commonly occur on the valley floor. This allows for more consistent sugar development and phenolic ripeness, yielding bright acidity, complex aromas, and intense flavors in wines produced from Circle R fruit.
The ranch is also an area with an abundant supply of groundwater—a hugely unique advantage from a farming standpoint, especially as climate change pressures build on the floor of Napa Valley. As of 2023, just 75 acres will have been planted to ultra-premium Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay vines, carefully placed along Circle R’s sun-drenched slopes. As it affects Cabernet, in particular, the ranch’s rugged terroir contributes to the production of exceptionally complex and age-worthy wines.
Since the initial purchase of the ranch, all 50 additionally developed acres selected for vines were decided upon through basic vineyard criteria of slope, sun-orientation, and soil and rock composition. But it’s important to note that the potential for new and improved wildlife and habitat corridors is a constant consideration on the ranch.