O’Connell Family Estate Vineyard Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley
“The complexly unique terroir of O’Connell Family Vineyard imparts a flavor into the Cabernet Sauvignon that is dramatically site specific.”
-Gabrielle Leonhard OConnell, Vintner and Director of Winemaking
Gabrielle Leonhard O’Connell & Wayne O’Connell
Consulting Winemaker: Mitch Cozentino
The TerroirTHE APPELLATION: Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley LOCATION: Located at the southern end of Napa Valley about 5 miles from the San Francisco Bay, at the base of Mount Veeder and on the bank of Dry Creek. CLIMATE: The vineyard enjoys cool fog in the evening hours through early morning. The summer days average in the upper 80’s, allowing perfect ripening of the seeds and skins- a key attribute of beautiful, expressive Cabernet Sauvignon. Harvest is usually in October, allowing a slow ripening period over a long growing season, resulting in a graceful wine, finely grained and integrated tannins, good acidity and varietal expression. SOILS: The vineyard was created over millennium by the layers of forces from regional geological events that created complex layered soils: Creek Bank Deposits: Dry Creek, a major tributary o to the Napa River, frequently flooded the vineyard site, leaving behind sand & gravel. Parts of the vineyard were once an ancient creek bed. This causes the vines to struggle for nutrients, creating small berry size, which increases grape flavor density. Volcanic Action: The Vaca Mountain volcanic eruptions on the eastern slope flowed to the vineyard. Decomposed volcanic soil layer with alluvial soils. The San Francisco Bay once extended into Napa Valley making deep layers of the vineyard part of a prehistoric ocean bottom. Erosion of alluvial soil: The vineyard is at the foot of Mt Veeder’s western slope. Erosion has created deep loamy soil with good moisture content and the ability to minimally irrigate this block. As the grapes penetrate these diverse soils resulting from the convergence of Mt Veeder alluvial soils, Dry Creek gravel & loam deposits, ancient ocean bottom and decomposed volcanic soil, they encounter layers of influences creating the wine’s enormous complexity. “I knew something special was going on beneath the ground of our estate gardens. When planting large trees and shrubs they often languished for a few years before they had a huge growth spurt. When we excavated a 20’ deep drainage trench, we discovered alternating striates of gravel, 12” cobble and loam. Now I understood- the roots had to forge through this complex structure. But when they did they, they flourished! And so was with our vineyard. The result: very small concentrated fruit growing next to vigorously vines. They each demanded their own water, pruning and fruit management program. But this offers us excitingly varied grape flavors, which you will discover in our unique wine.”
-Wayne O’Connell, Vintner
Certified Organic • Sustainable Head Pruned • 3’x6′ Close Spacing • Hand-harvest • Hand-PrunedBefore planting the vineyards in 2000, Vintner Gabrielle Leonhard, created a horticultural plan to enrich the growing environment to create the biodiversity needed to keep the estate vineyard and gardens naturally healthy and grow fruit that is the ultimate varietal and terroir expression. The result is an opulently delicious wine! Plants that attract beneficial insects, birds & bees were planted in the gardens to benefit the vineyard. Then they were harvested to create Gabrielle’s GC products from the estate olive grove, lavender field, herb garden, citrus & fruit orchard. It is an extension of artful wine country living and a complement to the O’Connell Family Wines. Bordering on Dry Creek, an additional responsibility arose to help maintain the health of the Creek and its population and use only practices that are sustaining to its habitat. The vineyard is irrigated minimally, and partially dry-farmed. Separate irrigation lines control that only the plants needing water during summer heat spikes, receive it; assuring small berry size and concentration plus water conservation. The head pruning technique is used in premium vineyards in California and France. It requires skill on the part of the vineyard workers to select the canes to produce the best fruit. The clusters grow close to the truck, so receive nutrients evenly with other clusters, increasing quality. The close spacing of the vines on a 3’x 6′ grid stresses the vines and produces smaller berries with an excellent juice to skin ratio, which lends concentrated flavors to the wine. This does require hand-work in the vineyard, but is worth the effort! All our vineyard practices are done to reach for highest quality and expression of the terroir.
Sustainable and Organic PracticesIn 2000, Gabrielle made the decision to take the final step in adopting organic and sustainable farming and lifestyle practices. She attended seminars, hired consultants to assure that all aspects of this decision would be correctly implemented. After over 25 years in the horticulture industry already using g non-pesticide practices, she wanted to incorporate the universality of sustainable practices, which include the land, workers, business practices and the environment. “The entire estate functions as an integrated community: the grapes provide delicious wine, which pairs with fruits, vegetables, herbs and honey cultivated from the gardens, then gardens give health back to the vineyard. All benefit!”
ORGANIC PRACTICESThe vineyard and entire garden is certified organic. BIO-DIVERSITYThe soil attributes are accented by the bio-diversity of surrounding herb gardens, fruit trees and mature Eucalyptus trees. We believe that this diversity has maintained the excellent health in the vineyard- we have not had disease or insect pressure since planting in 2000- the entire estate transitioned to organic and sustainable practices that year.
MINIMAL USE OF SULFURThe vineyard only receives only minimal sulfur treatment. Minimal sulfur is added to barreled wine- just enough to keep the wine free of damaging organisms. The result is less environmental impact and less exposure to those who have sulfur intolerance.
STEWARDSHIPThe estate borders Dry Creek, a tributary into the Napa River, a major water source of the San Francisco Bay. We are a member of Fish Friendly Farming and are very vigorous with our stewardship of the creek, exceeding organic regulations, taking into consideration the environment as a whole.