Stone Corral Vineyard – a Celebration of Collaboration
The Stone Corral Vineyard is a 28 acre vineyard located in the Edna Valley which was planted entirely to Pinot Noir in 2001. Just four miles from the ocean, it’s unique for two very distinct reasons: First, the soils of the vineyard are far sandier than anything else we farm. Second, it’s the only vineyard in our region that was established and is managed on a collaborative basis. Every year, three bottlings of Stone Corral Vineyard Pinot Noir are produced by Talley Vineyards, Stephen Ross and Kynsi, each of whom has a long term lease for 1/3 of the vineyard.
The soil type of the vineyard is classified as Arnold Sandy Clay Loam which is composed of weathered sandstone, exists predominantly in the coastal ranges of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties and is considered to be “excessively well drained.” Consequently, the vineyard dries out quickly and requires more frequent irrigation than the calcareous clays we farm in most other sites. This soil tends to produce a distinctly dark yet plush style of Pinot Noir relative to our Arroyo Grande Valley vineyard sites.
The idea to plant a collaborative vineyard came to me in the late 1990s. I had listened to winemakers complain that they couldn’t find any smaller vineyard parcels to develop as “estate” vineyards and that traditional tonnage contracts incentivized growers to produce large crops (undesirable for premium quality Pinot Noir).
Meanwhile, growers complained that winemakers insisted on unsustainably small production that wouldn’t cover the farming cost. I wanted to create a structure where the risk of the crop resided with the winemaker, who would receive the reward of making and selling highly acclaimed wine.
I explained this idea to my dad, and we settled on a lease structure wherein wineries would participate in the cost to plant the vineyard and pay the cost to farm their designated area, plus a rental fee. In return, they would receive the crop from that area and would control farming practices, crop yield, harvest decisions and other critical winegrowing choices.
Now that we had a business structure in place, the question became who to approach about this concept.
An obvious candidate was Kynsi winery, owned by Don and Gwen Othman, because they leased winery space from us adjacent to the site of the vineyard. As I thought about other candidates, I realized that Steve and Paula Dooley, owners of the Stephen Ross winery, could be good partners. Steve had an extensive background as a winemaker and had served in that role at the Edna Valley Vineyard. Paula had strong business chops as an executive with American Airlines. I’ll never forget approaching them at a family picnic in the late 90s and their immediate enthusiasm for the idea.
Before I new it, leases were signed, vines were ordered and the Stone Corral Vineyard was planted in 2001. Gwen Othman came up with the name, the English translation of Corral de Piedra, the historic land grant that underlay the site. Since that time, Stone Corral has emerged as the most highly acclaimed Pinot Noir vineyard in the Edna Valley. I appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with winemakers who share Talley Vineyards’ commitment to excellence and focus on capturing the special character of this unique vineyard site. Cheers to our 20 year partnership!