The Charles Ranch was once one of the largest sheep ranches in Sonoma County. George Charles was a fourth-generation rancher in the rugged hills and raised 2,000 head of sheep along with a small herd of bison. George’s son-in-law, Lee Martinelli Sr., was a successful third-generation grape grower and consulted with George as to which grape variety would be the most suitable to plant in this unique climate. The distinct micro-climate is two miles inland from the Pacific Coastline at Fort Ross and is ideally suited for growing Burgundian varietals. In 1980 George sold his herd and used the steep 14-acre pasture to plant Chardonnay grapes, becoming a pioneer of grape growing in an area that is now considered a prime viticultural region. The vineyard was planted in 1981, being the second vineyard planted on the far Sonoma Coast.
The growing season of 2017 stayed wet with spring rains and cooler temperatures, providing moist soil reserves through the summer. The summer had stretches of hot days throughout, especially over the Labor Day weekend, when harvest was at its peak. We were very lucky in October 2017 that the Tubbs Fire, which burned from Calistoga to Santa Rosa, stopped 1.5 miles from our properties. Across Sonoma County as well as in our vineyards, 95% of all wine grapes were already harvested and were not affected by the smoke from these devastating fires.