When thinking about the Napa Valley it is common to think BIG. Vineyards as far as the eye can see, large ornate tasting rooms, and wineries that produce tens of thousands of cases of wine. While this is common, like every great wine region, Napa has its hidden secrets. Amongst the Mondavi and Beringer’s, Napa Valley is home to a number of small production wineries that will leave you wanting more.
While in Napa we had the pleasure to visit such a winery, Ackerman Family Vineyards. Located in the Coombsville AVA, Ackerman produces around 500 cases of wine a year. As we drove up the winding road to the vineyard we couldn’t help but be awestruck by the beauty of this small vineyard. While at the vineyard we had the pleasure of being shown around by Lauren Ackerman, the owner of the winery, and learned some very interesting things about the property.
The Ackermans never set out to buy a vineyard. In fact they set out to buy a horse and somehow in the mix they ended up buying the vineyard, the house, and the horse got thrown in. They bought the vineyard in 1994, having no wine industry experience, yet they quickly jumped in and step by step they turned the vineyards into what is planted today. For the first six years, they sold the grapes to other wineries, keeping a small amount to make a couple of barrels for themselves. Finally, in 2003 they produced their first commercial wine; 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2003 vintage was released in October of 2007. Since then, Ackerman has continued to produce 100% Cabernet and always releases the new vintage in October.
The most intriguing part about Ackerman is their vineyard. The Ackermans have a strong belief in being stewards of the land. The moment they bought the vineyard they knew that they wanted to practice sustainable farming philosophies. However, this is not an easy endeavor and takes continuous work.
“The process is arduous, takes years to fully realize and is truly a lifetime commitment. Sustainability rests on the principle that we must meet the needs of the present use of the land without compromising future uses or those of future generations. It means maintaining certain principles such as biodiversity, ecological balance, natural plant fertilization, natural pest management and soil integrity”- Lauren
With this principle in mind, Ackermen took on the task of becoming a certified organic winery. Now they use cover crops to help improve water infiltration, protect against erosion and weeds, provide nutrients to the soil, and allow good bugs, like lady bugs, to live. They have hawk boxes to help control rodents and vineyard dogs to help keep away the deer. This vineyard is a living example of nature working to produce amazing wine!
Coombsville is located in the southeastern end of Napa Valley, just outside of the historic downtown area. Coombsville is different from the other regions in the Napa Valley because of its cooler climate and soil. The location of Coombsville lends itself to being around 10 degrees cooler then neighboring areas. Fog covers the vineyards in the morning and doesn’t wear off until late in the day which leads to a long and slow ripening season. The soil is a mix of well-draining river rock and volcanic ash rich in minerals; perfect for Bordeaux varietals.