who we are
"a little history" by Tracy Nielsen
La Pitchoune means “the little one,” a reference to a small family property in the South of France. The name speaks to small production, small lots, and the idea that our small size is our greatest asset. At La Pitchoune, we prize the special care we can apply to our craft. By combining passion, art, and science, we ensure that each blend is expressed to its fullest potential.
In 2011, inspired by the wines from Burgundy, we set out to make the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Sonoma County focusing on West Sonoma County. Our first vintage was 2012. We currently make our wines in Santa Rosa - the hub of winemaking for West Sonoma County. We live in Sonoma County. We believe in Sonoma wines.
how we got here
My husband and I met in San Francisco and decided to move to the Bay Area almost 12 years ago. We soon discovered wine country and quickly fell in love with Sonoma County – especially Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.
One of the winemakers that had me sitting up and paying attention, was Andrew Berge. He had been working with Bill Hunter at Chausseur, and I quickly discovered that Andrew was a winemaker to watch. Later, I had the fortunate opportunity to meet Andrew at a party through a mutual friend. We found we had many things in common when it came to Pinot Noir – we thought it should be balanced, it should have nuance, it should represent the vineyard site where it came from, but something that we also both enjoyed were wines with age. We decided to continue our discussion the next day over a beer at the Underwood in Graton, (where most brilliant ideas are born) and I soon discovered that he was looking to make a change and get out of what he was doing, and I was determined to try to find a way in. We decided to partner together, and started out with five tons of Pinot Noir and a dream. Today we are producing over 20 tons of world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the most distinctive vineyards of West Sonoma County.
I recently read an article that said, “does the world really need another bottle of $45 Pinot?” I made it my mission to go out there and actually ask the question myself. I have spoken with many winemakers, industry experts, and consumers, and the answer I have been getting has been a resounding YES! Small producers like us are doing something special. Are we making a wine that is terroir-driven and balanced? Of course. But that’s just part of the story. What makes us different, is that the wines we are making have the potential to age. We have received some fantastic press, and the consistent statement has always been – I can’t wait to taste this in five years. Seven years. Ten years. Ageablility in wine is just not something we are seeing that often in California. And we are doing our part to change that right here in Sonoma County.
from drought to deluge
Many people have been asking us about the impact of all of this rain and flooding on the vineyards.
In general, flooding during the dormant phase has no real long-term effect on the vines. They originally evolved in and around seasonal creeks, so it is not unusual for them to take on some water. Occasional flooding can actually be beneficial as it deposits nutrients into the vineyard that have been depleted.
During the growth phase however, they typically do not do well with their roots under the water table. Oxygen in the root zone is critical for water and nutrient absorption. It is also important for beneficial microorganism metabolism and respiration. Microbial activity such as organic matter decomposition and nitrification require the presence of oxygen in the soil.
With the amount of rain we have received and with no end in sight, the real concern becomes erosion and mudslides. The soils are saturated so most of the rain we continue to receive will not soak into the soil. This leads to overland flow, which increases the risk of erosion and mudslides. In the worst situations, portions of vineyards can be washed away. But we are assuming that the vineyards will survive the rain, and it shouldn’t have an affect on the upcoming vintage.
In April, we will be bottling our first vintage of Chenin Blanc. And we are so excited, because it tastes amazing in the barrel right now. Something in particular we like about Chenin, is it’s aging potential. (are you seeing a theme here?) France produces white wines with some of the longest aging potential in the world. And they happen to be some of our favorites to drink.
Something else that grabbed our attention, is the history that Chenin Blanc has in California. In the 1960s and 70s, Chenin Blanc represented about 60% of all white grapes planted in the state. Its ability to produce large yields started the White Burgundy jug wine and wine cooler craze. They also referred to it as the ‘Chardonnay extender.’ We hope to be on the side of history that changes that image.
andrew berge - Master Winemaker
An artist, scientist, farmer, gourmet chef, mountain climber and winemaker is what best describes the person behind the La Pitchoune wines. What makes Andrew so special is his understanding of the geography, soil, vines and the fruit that end up being the foundation of the wines created. With a Masters degree in Agriculture, Andrew is more than a winemaker. His ability to comprehend, care and tend for the fruit as it matures on the vines allows him to have full control of the grapes long before they arrive at the winery and the actual winemaking begins. This is what makes him stand head and shoulders above the rest. Balance and terroir are words that are too often thrown around for the sake of marketing, but for Andrew they are part of his quest to change the perception of California wines. La Pitchoune is his vehicle and the sharp end of the stick intended to demonstrate what a hand-crafted terroir-driven California wine can be.
tracy nielsen - co-founder & assistant Winemaker
Originating from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Tracy’s adventurous spirit and infectious personality is ever-present in everything she does. Growing up as a raft-guide on the fiercest rivers of Colorado, she is not one to ever back down from a challenge. No or impossible are simply not words in her vocabulary and they serve as the inspiration and foundation for the creation of La Pitchoune.
After five-years of trying to break into the wine industry and repeatedly being told no, Tracy decided to make her vision a reality by starting La Pitchoune. It’s this very spirit that now guides everything we do at La Pitchoune. Nothing is impossible and dreams are always welcome here.
peter nielsen - Co-Founder & Chief Strategist
A Swede, a Canadian, a serial entrepreneur, a DJ, a racecar driver, a visionary, and a dreamer is what best describes the man behind the overall business strategy of La Pitchoune. Just like Tracy, he is strongly driven and operates under the assumption that nothing is impossible.
A perfect day is filled with fast cars and ends with soul-shaking house music originating from vinyl sitting on a couple of 1200’s. A good evening is always accompanied by a beautiful bottle of wine from Burgundy or La Pitchoune.
george - The Winery Dog
George (full name: King George of Green Valley) is the La Pitchoune winery dog. He was born on July 21st, 2014 in West Sonoma County, surrounded by pastures, vineyards and wineries. George was destined to roam the vineyards and cool barrel rooms of La Pitchoune. In his spare time George likes to sleep, eat, chew corks, eat, play with his girlfriend Lu, and greet our visitors. His favorite foods include carrots, apples and bananas. At only 3 months old, George started his own Instagram account. You can follow him and his adventures at instagram.com/georgethewinerydog.
We source grapes from several of the best and most forward-thinking vineyards in Sonoma County. This allows us to carefully select which pinot noir and chardonnay grapes we’d like to include in our winemaking program. All of the vineyards are sustainable, and most of the growers live on the property. We work closely together throughout the year, and are very involved in the decision-making process. From farming practices to harvest timelines, we ensure that only the best grapes are selected and included.
CHENOWETH VINEYARD: Located in the redwoods of western Sonoma County, the Chenoweth vineyard is a partnership between three all-stars of the California wine industry; Charlie Chenoweth, Michael Browne, and Ted Elliot. Positioned at about 700 feet in elevation, the hillside vineyard sits above the fog but is still close enough to the coast that cool maritime air moderates daytime highs. This allows for long and slow ripening. The Goldridge soils, prized for their great drainage and low fertility, control vigor of the low yielding Wente-Hyde selection of Chardonnay vines that produce the concentrated and flavorful wines from this site.
DEVOTO VINEYARD: Situated three ridges in from the Pacific Ocean in western Sonoma County, Devoto Vineyard is a 20-acre family farm that was founded in 1976 by Susan and Stan Devoto. The farm started out as one of the North Bay’s original micro-green growers, and slowly evolved in biodiversity. Together with their three daughters, the family grows over 50 varieties of heirloom apples, specialty cut flowers, and pinot noir grapes. They draw their inspiration from a true passion for slow food, sustainability, beauty, and the preservation of heirloom varieties such as the local Gravenstein apple.
ENGLISH HILL VINEYARD: Planted in 2005 by Kurt Beitler on an old dairy farm, English Hill Vineyard is located southwest of Sebastopol. Since it is only 9.2 miles from the Pacific Ocean, this site is the epitome of a true Sonoma Coast vineyard. At an elevation of 650 feet about sea level, the canopy is engulfed with marine fog in the morning and bashed by steady afternoon wind. The vines struggle to keep their roots in the sandy-loam soils. Comprised of 9 Pinot Noir blocks, we source fruit from three blocks harvested over a period of two weeks. Equal parts of Dijon clones 115 and 667, along with a selection of Vosne Romanee, rounds out the blend for our English Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir.
HOLDER VINEYARD: Planted in 2000 by Bruce Holder & Mary Ann Wheeler shortly after they purchased a neglected apple orchard atop the ridge looking down on Occidental. Located in the “banana-belt” section of western Sonoma County, the climate is defined by warm days and cool nights. Typically, this is the first Pinot Noir vineyard we harvest. Based on daily observation and hands on involvement, Bruce and Mary Ann work the property together to manage the ever-changing demands of the vineyard. The result is a grower-winery relationship with the common goal to enhance the quality of each vintage.
PRATT VINEYARD: This vineyard, owned by the renowned vineyard manager Jim Pratt, is located on the left bank of the Laguna de Santa Rosa just north of Sebastopol. Surrounded by famed vineyards from Kistler, Dehlinger, and the Duttons, it produces world-class wines of distinction. With over 30 years of experience nurturing grape vines, Jim’s attention to detail and quality of fruit delivered to the winery is matched by few. Planted with Robert Young and Mt. Eden heritage chardonnay clones, the Pratt Vineyard enjoys warm days and is cooled in the evenings by cold air draining into the Laguna de Santa Rosa.
VAN DER KAMP VINEYARD: On the eastern flank of Sonoma Mountain, at the headwaters of Sonoma Creek is the van der Kamp vineyard. One of the oldest homesteads on the mountain, it has been farmed continually for over one hundred years with the crops not much different over time and always planted to some variety of grapevine. At an elevation of 1250 to 1500 feet, they sit above the frost line. Two fog banks move up on opposite sides of the vineyard - one from the Petaluma gap that winds up the Russian River and the other that comes in from the bay.
La Pitchoune Winery is an ultra-premium winery producing distinctive, handcrafted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast.
TASTINGS: Tastings available by appointment, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
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