Region / Appellation

California: Napa Valley, United States

Region / Appellation

Lovall Valley

Lovall Valley occupies a unique position geographically, climatically, viticulturally and historically. Located between the towns of Napa and Sonoma straddling the county line just north of Carneros, Lovall Valley is only 1.25 miles long and less than a half-mile wide and is the last pocket before the Mayacamas Mountains give way to Carneros and the San Pablo Bay to the south. Accessible only from Sonoma, yet located in Napa County, Lovall Valley sits at approximately 650 feet above sea level and is bordered on the west by Arrowhead Mountain. Huichica Creek runs the length of the valley bisecting the Grieve Family Vineyard, supplying it with moisture and extending the growing season.

Lovall Valley is ringed by hills on all sides, creating an elongated bowl. The contour of the valley is the primary reason it is the coldest place in all of Napa to grow grapes, a region 1 viticultural area, and only comparable to the coldest regions of the “true” Sonoma Coast. Cold air sinks, and due to the shape of the valley, the air settles in at night, thus mornings start colder and it takes longer to warm up during the day. The valley’s highest temperatures are three to four degrees colder than in Carneros, leading to later budbreak and flowering, and pushing harvest into October for Sauvignon Blanc and November for Merlot.

As the Ice Age ended and oceans were formed, Lovall Valley was underwater; as the ocean receded, a fine ocean-floor silt containing sea shells was left behind and is still the predominant soil type in the valley today (interestingly similar to parts of the Loire Valley in France famous for Sauvignon Blanc, Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé). Within the Grieve Family Vineyard, the area bordering the north-south creek is comprised of this type of soil and is where the winery has planted Sauvignon Blanc that goes into the Grieve Family Winery Sauvignon Blanc. The rest of the vineyard features a loamy-clay soil ideal for growing Bordeaux varieties and is where the winery has planted Merlot that goes into the Double Eagle Red Wine.

Historically, Lovall Valley was inhabited by nomadic Indian tribes. This ended in 1863 when Colonel Stephenson led a group of cavalry from the Sonoma barracks to the valley and massacred all 100 Indians living there — an event that became known as the Lovall Valley Masacre. From then until 1957 the land was used for cattle and sheep grazing. In 1957, Mr. Lawler sold 600 acres — most of the valley — to George and Eileen Nicholas who had outgrown their Sonoma Valley turkey breeding operation and needed to expand. Their business was sold in the mid-1960s, but continued as a turkey farm until 1979 when the property was divided into 40 parcels and sold. Most of the parcels were 10 acres in size, but there was one parcel in the heart of Lovall Valley that was 60 acres. In 2003, David Grieve purchased those 60 acres on which nearly 17 acres of grapevines had been planted two years earlier, as well as an adjacent 10-acre parcel where his house — and eventually the Grieve Family Winery — was located.

Today, Grieve Family Vineyard consists of 12.23 acres of two clones of Sauvignon Blanc and 4.49 acres of clone 181 Merlot.

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