SIERRA VISTA WINERY and VINEYARDS, an eco friendly winery
FAMILY OWNED AND OPERATED the winery is on RED ROCK RIDGE, half a mile high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains thirty miles west of Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Foothills of California. A beautiful view of the mountains from our shaded picnic area sourounded by vineyards makes this a "must see spot of paradise" for visitors to this newest and fast growing wine region sometimes called the Gold Country. Our unfiltered "FIVE STAR" wines are a must for wine lovers. Open daily 10 to 5 except Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Day, and Easter. Call 1-800-WINE-916 or locally 530-622-7221 for information and directions or look at the map on the "MAP PAGE".
In 1972, John and Barbara MacCready bought their property on the Eastern Highlands of the Sierra Foothills of California and pioneered the rebirth of mountain viticulture in the re-emerging premium wine region of El Dorado County. At that time all the Sierra Foothills were classified as Zinfandel country so when we planted Cabernet Sauvignon we were bucking tradition as we have ever since. Luckily we planted the cab on a site which produces great Cabernet Sauvignon.
The winery farms twenty-eight acres of mountain vineyards on challenging slopes from 2800 to 2900 feet elevation. Mountain vineyards are low yielding with intense flavors, outstanding character and provide thrilling tractor driving. Extensive studies John MacCready made in the eighties showed the climate at Sierra Vista to be very similar to that of the Northern Rhone Valley of France. This was the deciding factor in determining which grape varieties to plant in our vineyards. Rhone wines have developed into the perfect grape for the area and develop in time to emulate the better wines of Cote Rotie and Hermitage in the Northern Rhone.
The first crush was in 1977, with grapes purchased from local Vineyards. Only 1,200 cases of wine were made that year. Annual production has grown gradually to the current 5000 cases. Several different wines have been produced since the first crush: these include Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Chardonnay, Viognier, Roussanne, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and a Rhone Blend called Lynelle Reserve.
In 1979, Sierra Vista planted Syrah, whose lineage traces to Chapoutier's vineyards in the Northern Rhone appellation of Cote Rotie. Syrah wine was first produced in 1982 and is very competitive in taste and quality to wines from Cote Rotie and Hermitage. In 1990, John MacCready made a study comparing the northern Rhone Valley to El Dorado County. He found that much of the El Dorado appellation is very similar to the northern Rhone Valley in climate, rainfall and soil type. Because of this, Sierra Vista's emphasis in the future has been the development of Rhone varieties. As discussed above in addition to Syrah we have introduced Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Viognier and Roussanne. From these grapes we make varietals and Rhone style blends.
Sierra Vista Vineyards is located on the crown of a curving ridge at 2800 feet elevation. The vineyards cover four different terroirs or microclimates.
1.There is a western facing slope, just off our ridge top, with a 10% - 15% slope. The soil is basic loam with some sand and clay with a volcanic ash origin. It looks very much like the soil at Chateau Rayas in Chateauneuf-du Pape. This hillside at 2800ft (881 meters) and is our warmest slope where we have Grenache, Cinsault and Zinfandel planted.
2.The top of the ridge has a slightly south slope and is also at 881+/- meters. The soil is the same as that of the first terroir and the trees are similar to those at Hermitage and Cornas. We planted Cabernet Sauvignon here in 1974 and Syrah in 1979. The 1991 Syrah, for the first time, is showing some of the characteristics which make Hermitage a truly great wine. One wine writer compared our 1987 to a good Cote Rotie.
3.This microclimate-terroir is just off the ridge top with a slight north east slope of 10% to 15% grade where the soil is the same as that of 1. Here we have grafted Cabernet Sauvignon to Viognier.
4.This area has a north slope of about 5% to 15% grade. When we have snow it lasts here longer than any other part of the vineyard. The vineyard is terraced volcanic loam on a bed of granite. This is where we have our Chardonnay.
In the late '90s Sierra Vista was the first winery in the El Dorado AVA to install photo-voltaic solar panels at the winery. A 14.4kw system was installed on the roof of the winery and reduced energy consumption from the grid by around 94% the first month it was fully operational. We are proud to have done this before it became really politically correct.
Many years ago when we saw that erosion was taking place in the vineyard we started practicing sustainable agriculture by implementing methods to stop the erosion. Since then we have developed methods in other areas of farming to allow us to be considered a sustainable agricultural operation.
What are John's qualification as a winemaker? He says "in 1982 when we wanted to expand the bank suggested that we get a consultant if we wanted a loan so I had as a consultant Dimitri Tchelistcheff - whose father, Andre, was the guru of the California wine industry. Dimitri is great in his own right. And I learned a lot from the French consultant and author Emile Peynaud, his book that is. Many people here consider our style as more French than American because I consider wine as a food and something that should accompany food. It is generally has less alcohol than many California producers".
A native Californian and a graduate of the University of New Mexico, John was also graduated from the University of Missouri in Columbia with a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering. In 1972 while he was pursuing his engineering career, he decided to start a vineyard in El Dorado County and grow wine grapes as an investment. John and his wife, Barbara, also felt that El Dorado was an ideal place to raise their two daughters. Sierra Vista Vineyards turned into Sierra Vista Winery and Vineyards in 1977. While waiting for Sierra Vista Winery to grow big enough to support the family, John commuted to Sacramento where he was a professor at California State University, Sacramento. Now at Sierra Vista full time he wears many hats. Among them are winemaker, vineyard manager, tractor driver, delivery boy and fork lift operator and most important Marketer and saleman.
At Sierra Vista John has been a pioneer in the establishment of the Rhone vineyards In El Dorado County with the planting of Syrah in 1979 followed later by Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Viognier. His two trips to the Rhone valley has, together with his experience, have given him valuable insight into the value of Rhone style wines.
Since being in the wine industry John has been the president and vice president of the El Dorado Winery association and has been inducted into the Knights of the Vine. Is a past and founding president of the Rhone Rangers, an organization dedicated to educating the public about Rhone style wines.
John MacCready comments "Winemaking satisfies my inclination toward creativity and art while my engineering training enables adoption of the latest technology, if needed, to our operation." John also states that "our research has shown that Sierra Vista's Vineyards have similar growing conditions to the Rhone valley from Cote Rotie to Chateauneuf-du-Pape. With vineyards well suited to Rhone varietals, our goal is to create outstanding wines from our El Dorado appellation and establish Sierra Vista as a premium producer of Syrah, and Viognier in the tradition of those from the northern Rhone."
Barbara was graduated from the University of Missouri at Columbia with a masters in statistics. After a programming career in the space industry, Barbara joined John's vineyard team and pruned, planted, trained vines and even moved irrigation lines.
In 1974 when the first vines were planted, Barbara was the vineyard foreman and manager. When the winery began production in 1977 her duties expanded to include tasting room sales, marketing and even crush crew as needed. She gladly relinquished vineyard and crushing duties when John became full time at the winery.
Now Barbara runs the winery office and compliance with her faithful computer.
Barbara comments, All our wines are estate grown except the Sauvignon Blanc. Growing our own fruit allows us the luxury to limit yields allowing ripe grapes at lower sugar levels. Our vineyards are farmed sustainably using only organic material on our vines. We continue to strive to be more environmentally friendly.