How Stuart Bewley Found Alder Springs
In the late 1980s, Stu Bewley became fascinated with the mystery of how to grow world-class wine grapes. Why do some vineyards regularly produce spectacular vintages and others vin ordinaire?
Bewley traveled to Europe and South America to interview growers, winemakers, and consultants. He studied viticulture at the University of California at Davis, and poured over books and scientific journals dedicated to rootstocks, clones, elevation and drainage. And over a period of years he began to develop his own theories about growing extraordinary grapes.
He began searching California for a place where he could test some of his ideas. Bewley looked at possible sites from Calaveras County to Carneros and the Sonoma Coast, taking hundreds of soil samples along the way. But while he saw a lot of interesting properties, they were all missing one or more key components – water, drainage, sun, or terrific soil.
"Alder Springs Ranch was the most magnificently beautiful spot I'd ever seen. I went back and looked at it six times and couldn't get it out of my head. There was no limit to how deep the roots could go."
Then, in 1991, Bewley decided to check out a former cattle operation that was for sale in far northern Mendocino County. He doubted the rugged, remote, high-altitude property would be suitable for viticulture but he decided to collect some soil samples anyway.
The results were a complete surprise – far outperforming anything he'd seen. The minerals and mix of nutrients in the soil were excellent, but the drainage was breathtaking.
He bought Alder Springs Ranch and broke ground in 1993, planting his first vineyard block.