Our Third Vintage (2022)
Updated: Mar 16
The summer was consistently warm, but we didn’t see extremes until September. A few early season rains did not affect the drought. Everything came in weeks earlier than expected. Some vineyards only produced a fourth of what we expected while others produced twice as much as the previous year.
Despite the unpredictability of our picks, we made twice as much wine with half the equipment. No pumps, no electronic means of moving or pressing wine–everything was done by hand or with simple machines. This was because we moved into our own space, two hours closer to home, in Redlands. We often did our work late at night after the boys were sleeping.
The space is comfortable: large with high ceilings and clean, white walls. The floors are even and smooth. Already, we’ve had wonderful guests spend time with us, taste the wines, and help out in the cellar. We’re slowly realizing the vision we had of being a part of a community.
About The Wines
Lopez Ranch Palomino
(Last year’s Lopez Blanco)
This is the second year we’ve made this wine. Rather than fermenting it on skins, we direct-pressed it and made a traditional white wine, which is clear and bright. It is both refreshing and compelling. We harvested twice on weekends in the company of friends and professional pickers. The field was hot, the sun intense, but we harvested quickly. You can see and constantly hear the sound of cars on the freeway that now stands where the northern blocks of this vineyard once did on the opposite side of a concrete culvert. The sand is loose and deep, and mysterious animal and machine tracks leave their indentations between the wide rows. The vines are small, except near the southern edge next to the road where they rise like monsters from the soil, drunk on a high spot in the aquifer.
Our friend Abe, who invited us to harvest from this vineyard, spent years trying to find it, only to discover it is right out in the open, beneath the power lines that electrify Fontana. It’s tempting to call it abandoned, but more accurately, it’s a remnant, like the last edge of a photograph whose remainder has been torn away and lost for good.
Lopez Ranch Zinfandel
(Last year’s Lopez Tinto)
This is our second year making this wine as well. It grows near the Palomino vineyard. Right out there in the open. Last year, our fruit came from beside some shaggy eucalyptus trees on the east side of what they call the Victoria Block. This year, however, our fruit came from the west side, even with the intersection of Cherry and Victoria. During a break, we drank Tecate with Red, the assistant winemaker at Galleano winery, who is as funny as he is insightful. Agustine, the foreman of the Galleano picking crew, drank with us and kept handing over beers until we held up our hands. The pick was hot again, but we got what we came for thanks to a professional crew under a consummate foreman.
The fruit itself was much riper than last year, despite the fact that we picked it a full two weeks before we did the previous year. Since the fruit was so ripe, we decided to focus on a single wine, fermented in upturned barrels and turned by hand a few times a day. The wine is starting out its life like a cavern–a wine you fall into.
Calandri Vineyard Zinfandel
(New this year)
This vineyard is in the desert, in the foothills above Palmdale: a place so named because some of the earliest white visitors to the area mistook the Joshua trees for Palm trees. It’s organically farmed by an American-Italian family who has cultivated many crops across the west for decades. The vineyard was planted to realize a dream of the Nonno, who missed looking over the vineyards of his home country. He died before he could see them leaf. The son who oversees the property speaks with what sounds like a midwest accent and drives a pickup slowly around the perimeter of the property. The sand is deep and similar to that of the Palomino and Zinfandel vineyards, but just on the other side of the San Gabriel Mountain Range.
This wine was picked very early with the purpose of making a white Zinfandel of bracing acidity. It achieves that.
Picks in the desert make you feel like you’ve entered a time vortex. You pick and pick and pick, and suddenly you look up and the day has passed by, but the bins are stubbornly half-full.
Calandri Vineyard Sangiovese
(New this year)
Taylor loves Sangiovese and was thrilled that we would have the chance to work with it. This fruit grows in rows right next to the Zinfandel. We made a red wine from it, simply and straightforwardly, without stems and with a relatively short skin contact. That we would find Sangiovese in California was exciting enough, but it was even more exciting that there was a variety of intrigue in the desert, much like the Cabernet Franc was last year. It is a light wine with a lot of resolution that has to happen, so this one will rest for a long time.
Sangiovese is a darling of Toscana, of course, and our aim is not to create a lesser version, but rather to see what this Italian immigrant will become in her new homeland in the desert.
Tranquil Heart Muscat
(New this year, but related by variety to the Chavez Muscat of last year)
Bill Shinkle lives in a stone house on a hill overlooking his acres of vineyards, planted to Italian Varieties Aglianico, Fiano, Barbera, Moscato, and a few others. He designs and maintains the landscaping of Las Vegas casinos but lives about 250 miles away in Hemet, California. Before Bill owned this grand house on the hill and turned it into “Tranquil Heart”, neighborhood kids would break the windows and sneak into it to see the ghosts that must have lived in the stairwells and bathrooms. The previous owner, trying to keep the kids from breaking in, staged a fictional murder in one of the bathrooms, but the fake gore only made the property more enticing. Bill poured his resources into the property and into his farming and now produces some of if not the most intriguing inland southern California fruit.
We made four barrels of Muscat, fermented on skins for 5 days. The wine is more piney than fruity and more white wine than orange wine. It has a level of refinement that previous years haven’t had. It has a clarity and focus that previou years haven’t had. It could be the cultivar or the soil, or the biodynamic preparations that Bill applies. It could be a combination of these factors. It carries on a tradition of skin contact Muscat for our winery, but also buttons it up. Despite its refinements, this wine does have a lot of resolving to do, and will likely go through a much longer aging period than previous years.
Galleano Home Ranch
(Last year’s Galleano Rosso + Galleano Rosato)
The Galleano Home Ranch produced two wines for us last year: Galleano Rosso and Galleano Rosato. This year, the Salvador that produced the Rosso was in short supply, but we got many more other varieties than we had anticipated, so we combined everything.
The vineyard was originally planted to produce grapes for dessert wines (Pais, Palomino, Grenache, Alicante Bouschet, and Salvador) and all the grapes make an appearance in this light colored red wine. Last year, it was harvested drunkenly in the afternoon. This year it was harvested quickly during two morning picks under a low sky of clouds that kept things cool until we strapped down our bins and pulled off, waving goodbye to Dom, Red, Raj, and the LA River crew.
(New this year)
A hillside vineyard in Ramona, CA (in San Diego Country), this property belongs to old friends who bought the acreage during the pandemic. The vines were already established in the soil, rich with pink quartz. Yucca grows in between vines. Deer nibble on the shoots at the outer ends of rows. Large granite boulders break up the upper block. Indigenous flora grow in and around the vineyard.
We picked all 1.7 acres with only three people on a warm morning late in August, and we picked it for white wine. The resulting wine is clear, cohesive, and exciting. It’s the color of the pink quartz in the soil.
(New this year)
Early last year, Kendall, Jess, and Laura started talking about wines they could see themselves making under the Herrmann York label. The consensus was that sparkling wine piqued their interest and matched their wine preferences, so we began talking about the varieties they would like to use in their creation. This wine is 100% Palomino from the Lopez Ranch Palomino vineyard, barrel fermented dry and settled for 2 months in an untopped barrel before adding back juice from a later harvest to feed the secondary fermentation. Sparkling wine requires the type of patience and precision that baking does–contrary to the free spirit of cooking, which is analogous of still winemaking. We have a lot to learn.
The ladies did their research and carried out every aspect of the production. With style. This likely won’t be released until well into 2024, but it’s showing a lot of promise.
Heart of Sand
(Last year’s Secondo Rosso)
This is our second year working with this mysterious Grenache, growing in a field flanked by warehouses. Last year’s label featured Secondo Guasti, looking down from his balcony onto the encroaching progress overtaking what was once his vineyard.
This place is the scruffy cousin to Hoefer Ranch, which hides behind large cinder walls, pampered every year. Heart of Sand wasn’t pruned for the most part this year, and we returned a few times with the LA River crew to drop fruit and do what we could to give the vines a chance to ripen. The result was a light and lean wine with character and energy. A smoky grip gives it an edge. Whole bunch fermentation. It will need quite a while in barrel.
(New every year)
This wine started as a celebration of Efran Chavez, and now, every year, it is a celebration of the people who grow and make our wine (their numbers are legion). Los Empleados this year is an intentional blend of Rose of Peru from the Maglite vineyard in Ontario and the Lopez Palomino vineyard in Fontana.
This was the first year we were fortunate enough to get Rose of Peru from the west side of the Magite vineyard, which we pressed and made as a white wine. All six members of Herrmann York came to pick and filled a bin in a few hours. The fruit was beautiful and unexpected. We’re grateful to have it.
While tasting through the barrels in January of 2023 after everything had gone through malo, we discovered that the Rose of Peru played a treble clef to accompany the bass clef of the second pick of Lopez Palomino, which was lightyears different from the first pick. Whereas the first Palomino pick was lean and bright (and will likely benefit from more time in barrel), the second pick had more muscle and presence. It had a certain fleshiness that was the perfect foil to the freshness of the Rose of Peru. Together, the wine is greater than the sum of its parts, just like any great partnership.
(Last Year’s Oknesksi Primitivo)
Okneski is the hometown hero and the vineyard we plan to harvest as long as George and Marlys allow us to. The wine this year is as light as last year’s but with twice the personality. We fermented it whole cluster this year, a decision for which we were awarded with complexity and approachability all at once. There’s a lot of tasting left before we decide if this is the best treatment for this site, however. The original character of the wine comes through,despite the difference in vinification method. It’s unmistakably Okneski.
(New this year)
Rick Stark and his wife Deborrah reached out late in the season to ask if we wanted to harvest their Cab. The variety doesn’t interest us, but Yucapia and neighborliness does. We took a trip to look at the property and, while the vines are young, there is some promise here. This is a small home vineyard project that will, at some point in time, be able to produce about two barrels of wine. In the years to come, we hope to help Rick and Deb prune, plan, and care for their vines.
Yucaipa will be the most recent addition to the American Viticultural Area registry. It’s a town of rapidly increasing elevation, owing to the foothills on which it is built, leading up to San Bernardino peak. The soils are varied and local politics are fierce, but the true promise of the region is in the creativity and openness of those who pour their time and energy into small projects like the Starks. We’re proud to be a part of their growth.