This harvest, we are excited to be getting Cabernet Sauvignon from the Fellom Ranch in Cupertino. It’s always fun to discover a new vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains and a vineyard owner passionate about growing premium fruit.
A small mountain vineyard with stressed vines and concentrated fruit… it’s exactly what we look for to make distinctive, age-worthy Santa Cruz Mountains wine.
The ranch is located up a private drive off of Montebello Road. As an avid cyclist, Montebello Road is one of my favorite climbs. I’ve passed this remote ranch many times without even recognizing that there was a vineyard. I’ve also mountain biked to the south, below it, along Stevens Creek and the San Andreas fault.
Located at an elevation of over 2,000 feet, the road is narrow, with steep slopes on both sides. There is no doubt that it takes dedication and a passion to plant and maintain grapes on these rugged slopes.
This aerial view shows Fellom Ranch just to the south of Ridge Vineyards. Montebello Road runs along the northern side of Ridge. Fellom Ranch consists of 5-acres of Cabernet Sauvignon perched on top of a small knoll.
Roy “Bud” Fellom’s grandfather acquired the ranch in 1929. Originally from San Francisco, it served as a family get-away for many years. Bud recognized the potential and planted vines in 1980 and 1983. He has farmed the vineyard and made wine on the property ever since.
These 30-year old vines have deep root structures and are primarily dry farmed. Even so, this northern facing slope is quite lush and becomes more so as you move down the slope where soil nutrients and groundwater moisture are more plentiful. Bud thins the canopy in these areas to open up the fruit to sunlight and ventilation.
The soil layer, especially at the top of the knoll, is very thin.
This south facing slope is more stressed, with less nutrients and water available. Winter rain water is collected and stored and used for spot irrigation in the most highly stressed areas of the vineyard. Yields from these highly stressed sections of the vineyard are very low.
These small berries are typical of Santa Cruz Mountain fruit. The high proportion of skins and low yields make intensely concentrated wines with a tannin structure suited for long term barrel aging.
There is an abundance of beautiful views from Fellom Ranch. In the background of this shot is Ridge Vineyards and a marine fog layer blanketing the Santa Clara Valley floor below.
The vineyard rows follow the contour of the hillside. You can see the terracing required to plant the vineyard, which makes it labor intensive to maintain and farm.
My final stop on the ranch tour was to meet a 9-week old liter of Queensland Healer pups. The ranch is a perfect location for these guys to run and play.