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Winemaking

Handcrafted Wines

At La Mesa we handcraft all our wines. All of our grapes are directly sourced from our own estate vineyards whenever possible. There is simply no better way to make wine than to walk the vineyards, control growing conditions and taste the ripening grapes to best determine when they are absolutely perfect for harvest. By growing our own grapes, we control from vine to bottle to give you the best wine tasting experience.
Our high-altitude vineyards are on steep terraced hillsides at 2,000 foot elevation where we grow Rhône and Italian varietals (9 total) that thrive in the rich red volcanic granitic soil. The special rootstock we selected goes deep to tap Sierra water, with over 35 inches falling annually here, essentially allowing us to dry farm and extract exceptional flavor from this gold country terroir. Temperatures fluctuate up to 40 degrees with the heat from the central valley and cool nightly breezes from the mountains, most closely resembling the climates of Northern Rhône, France, and Mediterranean climates in Puglia, Italy.

Primitivo

This "Italian Zinfandel" is our oldest estate vine.

Primitivo

Our Primitivo was originally planted in 2003 at a time when it was new to California. This "Italian Zinfandel" is lighter, less dense and ripens more evenly in our local climate. It grows head-trained on our lower hillside block, dry farmed on deep rooted special rootstock to extract maximum flavors and minerality from this terroir. We make award-winning red Primitivo, Rosé, sparkling Aria, Primabera and Seta blends from these grapes.

Grenache

The “Alban” clone from a pioneer of Rhône varietals in California.

Grenache

One of the grapes on our estate is the Grenache “Alban” clone - John Alban, one of the famous “Rhône Rangers” was the pioneer of Rhône varietals in California, establishing his vineyard in Edna Valley of San Luis Obispo. We chose this clone for its small berry size and intense aroma and flavor, not to mention Alban’s award-winning wines. It is planted on the top block of our upper hillside on trellis wires in soil that is characterized as slightly acidic, clay and decomposed granite, low limestone and good exposure to heat – ideal growing conditions for this grape.

Barbera

From an area that is renown for its annual Barbera festival celebrating the best-growing region in California.

Barbera

Barbera is celebrated for its deep color, low tannins, high acid and intense aroma and flavor. Our Barbera grows on the mid-block of our upper hillside vineyard on trellis. The vines benefit the most on this hillside from cool nights and warm days. The soil is comprised of mineral-rich, slightly acidic clay and decomposed granite soil with a reddish tint from its iron content. We make our red and Barbera Blanc from this grape along with our La Notte port and Primabera blend.

Petite Sirah

Yes, the grapes really are smaller.

Petite Sirah

We planted Petite Sirah as we absolutely loved the wine made by one of our neighboring vineyard winemakers (and mentor) Harvey Linebarier. It is best known for its extraordinary deep color, high levels of anthocyanins and full-bodied flavors of blueberry, chocolate, plums and black pepper. Our Petite Sirah is planted on the lower block of our upper hillside vineyard on trellis where it gets plenty of sun and cooler nights.

Viognier

A delicate, floral beauty straight from the Rhône Valley.

Viognier

Viognier is far and away our favorite white wine and we decided to plant a small block on our upper vineyard with similar characteristics as found in the Rhône Valley – steep, shallow granitic soils, cooler nights – grown on vigorous 110R rootstock. We also use our Viognier in our Soleil Rhône-style blend.

Roussanne

Winter sunshine in a glass.

Roussanne

After working for several years with fruit from a neighboring vineyard, we were convinced we could graft Roussanne onto our lower vineyard where it grows at higher altitude in cooler conditions on trellis. While our Viognier wine is comparable to summer sunshine, we characterize our Roussanne wine as winter sunshine – warm, soft, happy. It is a terrific wine on its own and in our Soleil blend.

Syrah

Big, dark and brooding.

Syrah

Always a crowd pleaser, we decided to graft Syrah French clone 877 to our lower vineyard where it thrives after experienting with several clones of Syrah from neighbor vineyards. We chose this clone because it is the richest of them all, with rich dark flavors, deep aromatics and a plush mouth that pairs extremely well with food.

Mourvedre

"mohr-VED-dra" - sing it with us.

Mourvedre

Mourvedre clone 520 (a high-quality clone originally from France) was grafted onto some of our older original vines on the lower vineyard, down by the tasting room. We chose this clone for making wines that pair exceptionally well with food. It makes a highly aromatic but softer red wine with a characteristic flavor note of black pepper.

Gamay Noir

Our highly sought-after exclusive in the region.

Gamay Noir

We grafted Gamay cuttings from a premiere vineyard in El Dorado county onto 20-year old rootstock on a cooler lower east facing hillside of our estate. There are less than 25 acres of Gamay growing in El Dorado county, with a long waitlist to obtain grapes, and La Mesa is the only grower of Gamay in Amador county. The soil conditions here are very similar to those found in the Northern part of Beaujolais and Northern Rhône.

Pruning

All 8,500 of our vines are meticulously pruned, ensuring consistency and high quality. (That's 250,000 cutting decisions every season.)

Grafting

We actively use grafting techniques to add new varietals without removing old rootstock. In our 2020 season we added Gamay, Roussanne, Mourvedre and Syrah.

Harvest

We hand-pick our grapes and use smaller-scale winemaking equipment to bring out the best of the grapes from our Sierra terroir.

Punch-downs

Routine manual punch-downs and monitoring allows the full extraction of rich colors and complex flavors.

Fermentation

Careful monitoring of fermentation conditions and progress allows us to decide when to proceed to next steps.

Gentle Pressing

Special bladder and pneumatic presses allow us to make highly complex and technical small-batch wines such as our Barbera Blanc, Sparkling Primitivo Rosé and Gamay (pictured).

Bottling

The final step is a crucial one in making a quality finished product that is ready for consumption. Special bottling equipment allows for final filtering, filling, corking, capsuling, labeling and casing.

Sterility

Often what separates good wines great ones is the (often thankless!) work that goes into making sure every tool, tank and container that touches our wine is free from contaminants. Many long hours are spent making sure the equipment we use is immaculate and performing optimally.

Environment

Extreme weather, wildfires and droughts all pose serious risks to wine production. At La Mesa we follow this emerging science working with other vintners in the community to share successful practices and follow training at leading viticulture institutions.

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