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Purisima Mountain Vineyard and Viticultural Profile

Since its founding well over a decade ago, Purisima Mountain Vineyard has emerged as one of Santa Barbara County's most acclaimed estate vineyards. Guided by winegrower Steve Beckmen, and meticulously farmed by Steve and his father Tom Beckmen, this biodynamically farmed vineyard overlooking the Santa Ynez Valley consistently produces wines of outstanding depth, power and sophistication.

Impressed by Purisima Mountain's unique microclimate, as well as it complex range of soil types, exposures and elevations, Tom and Steve Beckmen were convinced of the site's potential for producing world-class Rhone varietals. Acquired as a stunning, unplanted 365-acre hillside property in 1996, the planting of Purisima Mountain Vineyard was an ambitious undertaking. To capture the site's natural diversity, the vineyard is designed as a "palette of small vineyards" featuring 37 sub-blocks and numerous clone and rootstock selections. It has also been designed to optimize different hillside exposures and elevations. Over the years, this diversity has helped to define Beckmen's small-lot approach to winemaking.

Planted to 18 blocks and seven clones of Syrah, and eight blocks and five clones of Grenache, Purisima Mountain Vineyard also has smaller plantings of Mourvedre, Counoise, Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Despite its size, Purisima Mountain Vineyard is farmed with the painstaking care and attention usually dedicated to much smaller vineyards. In keeping with the "palette of small vineyards" approach, winegrower Steve Beckmen treats each cultivated section on Purisima Mountain individually, attending to and nurturing the specific needs of each site.

Purisima Mountain's high elevations (reaching upwards of 1,250 feet) influence climatic factors such as moisture, temperature and exposure. The climate is also influenced by marine air drawn up from the Pacific Ocean through the Santa Ynez Valley, which brings morning fog and cool ocean breezes in the summer afternoons. These cooling factors ensure moderate temperatures that allow for a longer, steadier ripening period, leading to superior grapes.

Soil types on Purisima Mountain include clay and clay loam soils of the Linne and Chamise series. However, the most unique soil variation found on Purisima Mountain is its limestone subsoil. Although typically found in the great Rhone regions of France, such as Cote Rotie and Chateauneuf du Pape, limestone subsoil is a rarity in California. Referred to as calcaire in French, limestone is a rock made of calcium carbonate that is not readily penetrated by plant roots. Vine roots must struggle in the thin topsoil, which is generally 12-36 inches in depth. This results in less vigorous growing conditions, which in turn produces smaller vines with low yields of intensely flavored fruit.

A gravity-fed drip irrigation system allows for the flexibility to water individual sections of vine rows, or as many as 40 acres of vineyard simultaneously. Drip irrigation is used to control water by allowing it to concentrate around the vine roots without excessive moisture loss to evaporation or runoff.

Throughout the ongoing planting and evolution of the vineyard, Tom and Steve have worked to preserve the environment and plant in the directions dictated by the hillsides. Accordingly, most row directions are southwest to northeast, with some north/south and east/west rows. Slopes range from almost flat to 25 percent, with an average slope of 15 percent. Slope angles are primarily south facing with some east, west and north-facing slopes. Vine spacing is also determined by the land, with an average of 1,200 vines per acre.

In 2006, after several years of careful testing and experimentation, Beckmen Vineyards committed itself to farming Purisima Mountain Vineyard 100 percent biodynamically. Though the decision to adopt this organic, proactive and holistic method of farming was quality-based, it also champions a comprehensive, environmentally friendly approach to viticulture. While practicing this classic approach to farming, Beckmen Vineyards also maintains an eye toward the future, utilizing modern technology and cutting edge trellising and canopy management techniques. A vertical trellis with three pairs of shoot position wires is predominantly used. During the growing season, techniques such as shoot thinning, leaf pulling, crop thinning and hedging are employed as necessary to create healthy, balanced canopies.

Taking the right steps to ensure that the highest quality grapes and wines are produced from Purisima Mountain has always been the ultimate goal of Beckmen Vineyards. To achieve this goal, Beckmen Vineyards has established one of the region's most well-regarded estate-vineyard programs. Reflecting Tom and Steve Beckmen's unique approach to winegrowing and their innovative viticultural practices, this stellar vineyard represents a coming of age for Santa Barbara County winegrowing.