In 1989 Paul and Jackie Gordon left the north of England for the sunshine and tech boom of the Bay Area. Working in a variety of ground breaking start-ups through the nineties and naughts, Gordon was on the ground as the California wine scene – led by the likes of Wells Guthrie (Copain) and Ted Littorai – searched outside Napa for more marginal sites, with the aim of producing wines with less muscle, lower alcohol and better terroir definition. North towards the coast and Clear Lake, the appellations of Mendocino, Anderson Valley and Yorkville Highlands began to open up. It is here, in the latter district, that the Gordons found what they were looking for in 2005, “something different, something extreme”: a steep old sheep ranch buffeted by winds off the nearby pacific. The land is high and marginal above both the tree and fog line – extreme terroir, even the soil (a meagre overlay of topsoil over a band of decomposed schist, mica and quartz, scarily similar to those found in Côte Rôtie) is unusual. It drains fast and, at 762m above sea-level, means growing seasons are long.
Paul describes the land as “high risk, high return”
Paul and Jackie planted 15 acres of the 150 in total with Rhône varieties; mostly Syrah but also a little Grenache and “the world’s coldest planning of Mourvèdre”. 15 acres (6.25 hectares) is small enough that the Gordons can continue with their day jobs (Paul is VP of engineering at Hitachi ABB Power Grids, while Jackie works part time in real estate), whilst being hands-on both in the vineyards and winery. They have a small crew, but the couple still does a third of the pruning and all the winemaking. Their first harvest was in 2008 – which was all sold in bulk – and their first release in 2009, from which they have been building upon since. Paul’s wines are clearly made in the mould of his beloved Northern Rhône, particularly Côte Rôtie. These are subtle, layered, and precise, without feeling ‘made’ and with an uncommon cool-climate complexity for this part of the world.