Peay Vineyards is a 53-acre hilltop vineyard located above a river in the far northwestern corner of the West Sonoma Coast, 4 miles from the Pacific Ocean. They grow Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne.
The beginning of Peay Vineyards, from the pen of Andy Peay….
“Armed with tanks full of coffee and gas, a Polaroid, and U.S. Geological maps in hand, we drove the back roads and coastal hills of the West Coast of the United States in 1995 looking for that special plot of land. “Hey, Nick, is that moss hanging off that split rail fence. Hmm, good, likely lots of cooling fog.” “Is that bracken fern? Maybe too much water, Andy.” “Excuse me, old timer, do you have any records of temperatures in this area?” “Can you see that parcel from the lowest branch? Take a photo.” “Whaddya think, 10% slope on that hillside?” “What soils do you find on this ridge?” “Um, Nick, that is definitely trespassing.” We drove all around the Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara, up and around the Mendocino Ridges, down along the Sonoma Coast, even traveling as far as eastern Washington.
One morning, I — Andy — woke up in a thick fog on a black sand beach on the Lost Coast in Humboldt County (Humboldt County?!) I grabbed my bivvy sack and stuffed my gear into my truck and headed south on Highway 1 with plans to revisit some logging roads on the Mendocino and Sonoma Coast ridgelines that caught our attention on our last trip. En route, I stopped in the town of Mendocino to pick up real estate listings to see if anything appealing had gone on the market. I needed a cup of coffee and who knew maybe I could avoid spending my day climbing trees for better sight lines for photos and scaling old logging roads rutted from years of heavy winter rains. There was one property listed down the coast an hour or so. “A scenic viewpoint with vineyard potential!” I groaned. Anyone who has looked for land in “wine country” recognizes that this designation is meaningless; you could plant a vine there and it may live. Heck, vines thrive almost everywhere. But there is no guarantee it would bear fruit or make tasty wine. It could, however, and for that you pay double the price.
I decided I should check it out anyway and drove an hour south of the town of Mendocino to meet an agent in the coastal town of Gualala, a hamlet that serves as the northern border of the Sonoma Coast. From there I drove south on Highway 1 along the Pacific Ocean into Sonoma County for a few miles and at a place named Sea Ranch headed east crossing the San Andreas Fault and climbed the coast ridge along the Wheatfield Fork of the Gualala River. As we mounted the ridge, the sign posts we used for identifying the correct climate and soil types were abundant. I got excited.
After winding our way through tall stands of redwood trees we pulled into a clearing on a south facing ridge. We were perched on a knoll on the second ridge four miles from the Pacific Ocean. Bronzed fields sloped and dropped into steep gorges forming a pronounced camelback shape to the land. Fog listlessly retreated into the river gorge pulling in its long tentacles across the fields. A stand of fir capped the southern part of the knoll, hiding the bell-shaped terrain gently sloping south east, south, and southwest. To the south, far in the distance, I could see vineyards renowned for Pinot noir and Chardonnay. But no one had grown grapes this far northwest in Sonoma County. It sat deeply in the inversion layer and was too cold and foggy. And god-forsakenly remote! Right here, this was frontier land. It was breath-taking.
I excitedly walked all over the parcel envisioning rows of vines. At high noon, a gentle breeze was persistently luffing my t-shirt making me shiver. The slopes were mostly gentle, the exposure ideal, and the local flora encouraging. I snapped a handful of Polaroids, thanked the agent for her time, and went on my way. “Cool breezes. Sloping hillsides. It looks promising! Let’s see what Nick thinks.”
Well, Nick liked what he saw in the photos. He visited the parcel. Took soil samples. Studied the geographic history. Poured over daily temperature and precipitation records an old timer living on the property had recorded for the past 15 years in a spiral binder. Nick gave the green light and our adventure was underway.”