Amador County (County Appellation)
Shake Ridge Ranch - Gem of the Sierra
Shake Ridge Ranch has set a standard for viticulture in Amador County and the incredible list of winemakers who now source fruit from the amazing vineyard above Sutter Creek tell it's story in every vintage and bottle produced.
May 16, 2013
It has been a long time since the first vines were planted in Amador County back in the 1800’s and they have been growing there since. The site of Shake Ridge Ranch was among them but reverted to pasture lands for over 80 years. Over those years lots of different approaches have been taken to viticulture, but possibly nothing like Shake Ridge Ranch in design, preparation and planting. Sure there are a lot of very well developed vineyards, but what Ann Kraemer and family have accomplished at Shake Ridge Ranch is awesome. And the list of high profile winemakers, many from Napa, who regularly journey to the hills just above Sutter Creek to secure Zinfandel, Barbera, Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah, Tempranillo and Viognier is stunning.
Winemakers of Tribute to Grace, Newsome Harlow, BellaGrace, JC Cellars, Buccella, Aratas Wine, Tallulah, Ferdinand Wines, Keplinger Wines, Portalupi, Gallica, Enfield Wine Company, Yorba Wines (the Kraemer family label), Favia, Dirty and Rowdy (irrepressible Hardy Wallace), and Forlorn Hope all took part in the rather remote Sierra Foothills above gold country town Sutter Creek. The only person missing was Ann Kraemer herself, who had broken her ankle early that day and was off to hospital for surgery (reportedly doing well but laid up for the growing season).
Shake Ridge Ranch was developed starting in 2003 when the Kraemer Family had completed property acquisition and title work. They had been a citrus growing family from Southern CA while Ann Kraemer had ventured into viticulture and spent much time managing vineyards for Domaine Chandon and Swanson while eventually consulting to the likes of Cain, Calera, Hobbs and Shaefer. 25 years of experience was assembled before the Shake Ridge Ranch project started. From the original plantings in 03 an additional 12 acres where planted in 2009 to the current 46 acres of vines.
Air movements are a combination of day time breezes uplifting from the distant Delta followed by evening down drafts from the Sierra crest. The Consumnes River drainage is just to the north.
It is obvious there are no single blocks that dominate quality, they all do. When asked what variety is the standout, Annie Favia responded thoughtfully after consideration, “I don’t think there is one, they are all just outstanding”. She might know being involved with Ann Kraemer on this vineyard and making wine with her husband Andy Erickson.
So, what about all those wines that were being tasted? They tell the story plain and simple. There was one common attribute that could be found in each winemaker interpretation and found in each varietal and that was tannic expression. The tannins are consistent across the entire range, being very fine grained, sophisticated in texture, always present but not in the way of fruit. From Petite Sirah by Keplinger to Mourvedre by Dirty and Rowdy, while very different varieties and traits, that underlying tannin profile could be found. It undoubtedly speaks to this place.
One of the stand out wines, if that could be said among this group, was Mourvedre done by Dirty and Rowdy from a small southern facing block high on the property. Soft and silky, yet expressing those defining tannins and bright fruit, it begged to keep tasting this wine. But it would be impossible to really claim any one wine stood out over the others. This group of exceptional winemakers is almost as unique as the vineyard itself, and they certainly present passionate statements of each block and variety.
To cap off this incredible day, a wonderful outdoor dinner was prepared at sundown while this band of winemakers tore through multiple bottles of each others single vineyard offerings. Convergence at the pouring table was an amazing site.