Dry-farmed vineyards do not receive any irrigation. Water held in the soils from winter precipitation provides the necessary water for vine growth. Many dry-farm growers do minimally irrigate new vines for the first 1 to 3 years of production to help establish the rootstock and the vine.
Included in this list are a few vineyards that may receive supplemental winter irrigation. In some dryer areas of CA, there are years when winter rains are insufficient to fill the soils with the necessary water to support dry-farmed vines. CAFF has spoken with growers who, depending on the year, will irrigate vines in the winter dormant period to help fill the soils. Although these vineyards are not technically dry-farmed every year, CAFF has included them because there is no irrigation during the growing season, and growers are using valuable dry-farming techniques. If a vineyard may receive winter irrigation, it is clearly stated in the description of the vineyard.
Deaver Vineyards, Plymouth
Dry-farmed vineyards can be found throughout California. Below is a list of vineyards by area. Click the headings to link to the vineyard’s website. To learn more about wines produced from these vineyards, read our Dry-Farmed Wines list or click on the links below.
North Coast Region
The oldest vineyard in Sonoma, Will Bucklin’s 14 acres of vines date back to the 1880’s. The vineyard is dry-farmed, head pruned, spaced 5 X 10 feet, and on St. George rootstock. Primarily Zinfandel, the other 1/3 of the vineyard is comprised of red varieties such as Petite Sirah, Grenache, Alicante Bouschet, Tempranillo, and others. Replacement vines receive water for the first year of growth. Bucklin also has 16 acres of newer vines, including a mixed red field blend and a Cabernet Sauvignon block, some of which receive irrigation. The vineyard is certified organic. His goal is to have his vineyard entirely dry-farmed. To learn more about his vineyard practices, read our Bucklin Old Hill Ranch case study. Learn about Bucklin Old Hill Ranch Zinfandel.
Bernier Vineyards, Sonoma County
Paul Bernier is a dry-farmed grape grower in Sonoma. He currently owns or manages multiple ranches throughout Sonoma County with a total of 45 acres of vines. His home vineyard consists of 20-year-old Zinfandel as well as Petite Sirah. Vines are planted on St. George rootstock and spaced 8 X 8 feet. Vines receive water for the first year of establishment. To learn more about his dry-farming practices, read our case study on Bernier Vineyards. Bernier grows grapes for multiple wineries around Sonoma County including, Dry Creek Winery, Dutcher Crossing Winery, Peterson Winery, and Sbragia Winery. Paul Bernier also makes his own compost. Watch this video to learn about his composting system.
Christian Moueix became the sole owner of this historic Napanook Vineyard in 1995, renaming it Dominus Estate. Originally from Bordeaux, France, Moueix’s father was a wine merchant and producer from Libourne, France. Moueix came to California in the 1960 to study at UC Davis, and returned in the 1980s. Currently, Dominus Estate has 103 acres of dry farmed Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. The vineyard is planted on gravelly and clay loam soils, and the vines are spaced at 9 by 4 feet. In addition to dry-farming, Dominus Estate is committed to sustainable practices such as cover cropping and erosion control to protect Hopper Creek. Click here to learn about their dry farmed wines.
Emeritus Vineyards is comprised of two vineyards, Hallberg Ranch in Sebastopol and William Wesley Vineyard in Annapolis. Both vineyards are dry farmed Pinot Noir planted on Goldridge Sandy Loam soils. The William Wesley Vineyard, 26 acres planted on the Sonoma Coast, receives cold night temperatures and fog coupled with warm days- this produces intense fruit. The Hallberg Ranch vineyard is 107.76 acres and was the first vineyard to be dry farmed. All the vines were originally irrigated and slowly converted over to dry farming; irrigation was used to establish the vines. Learn about the wines of Emeritus Vineyards.
Frank Leeds and John Williams farm and produce wine from over 200 acres of vines located in Rutherford and St. Helena. All the varieties they farm, including Merlot, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sauvignon Blanc, are dry farmed. New vines receive minimal irrigation during the first year or two of establishment. Most of their vines are on St. George rootstock, and vine spacing varies between vineyard and variety. To learn more specifics, read our Frog’s Leap Case Study or read about about Frog’s Leap Sauvignon Blanc.
Sierra Foothills Region
Ken Deaver farms over 250 acres of vines in the Shenandoah Valley. All except about 10 acres of his vines are dry farmed. The age of the vines vary; the oldest vines date back to the 1860s, and the youngest were planted only 3 years ago. Vine spacing varies depending on the age of the vine, but all new vines are planted on a 8.5 X 9 spacing. The majority of the vines are head trained Zinfandel, with smaller blocks of Petite Sirah, Mission, Alicante, Primitivo, and Sangiovese. During years of drought, vines may receive winter sprinkler irrigation, but do not receive summer irrigation. Deaver Vineyards sells the majority of the fruit to wineries, but also makes small batches of wine. Learn more about the wines at Deaver Vineyard.
Central Coast Region
Originally planted in 2004, this vineyard is comprised of 20 acres of dry-farmed vines and olive trees. Phillip and Mary Morwood Hart grow Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, Counoise, Viogner, Marsanne, Rousanne, Grenache Blanc, Sangiovese, and Tempranillo. The vines are head pruned, planted predominately on 110R or their own rootstock, and spaced at either 10 X 10 or 12 X 12 feet. The soils at AmByth Estate are Calcareous Clay, with excellent water holding capacity. The vineyard is certified organic and biodynamic. Learn more about AmByth Estate’s Wine or read our case study on AmByth Estate.
Pat and Barney Bailey planted 10 acres of dry-farmed Chenin Blanc in 1968, with additional plantings on Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon in 1970 and 1971. Later, Pat and her son David further expanded the vineyard with 9 additional acres of Zinfandel after Barney passed away. The farm also has 25 acres of organic and dry-farmed walnuts. Bailey Ranch sells fruit to Lone Madrone. for the Chenin Blanc and Bailey Ranch Zinfandel.
Benito Dusi Ranch, Paso Robles
Benito Dusi dry farms 40 acres of head-pruned Zinfandel. The vines vary in age, some as old at 80 years, others between 30 and 40 years old. To successfully dry farm, Dusi requires 14” of rain a year; in some years, he only receives 9 or 10” a year. In this case, he will supplement rainfall by using overhead sprinklers in the winter. His vines are spaced at 10 X 10 or 12 X 12 feet and planted on St. George rootstock. Dusi sells his grapes to Ridge Vineyards, who produce a vineyard designated Paso Robles Zinfandel.
Condor’s Hope vineyard is comprised of 4 acres of dry farmed Zinfandel, Shiraz, Mission, Mourvedre, and Pedro Ximenez. Steve Gliessman and his family also dry-farm olives. The vines are spaced 10 X 10 feet and head pruned. The soils of Condor’s Hope are sandy clay-loam alluvium. During the first 3 or 4 years, vines receive infrequent water to help establish healthy and vigorous root systems. Read a description of Condor’s Hope dry farming practices or learn about the wines of Condor’s Hope.
Pat Derose farms 100 acres of vines, 40 of which were planted before 1900. The vineyards, located in the Gabilan Mountains near Hollister, are completely dry farmed. Prior to 1990, half of the vineyard was dry farmed, since then, all the blocks have been converted. Many of the vines are trellised and planted on hillsides with deep sandy-loam soils. Older vines are on their own rootstocks. Grape varieties include: Zinfandel, Negrette, Viognier, and Cabernet Franc. The winery is also solar powered. Learn about DeRose’s wines.
The Heaton family has farmed this 130 acre ranch since the 1880s, growing dry-land barley, hay, wheat, fruit, and walnuts. In 2004, Neil and Ginny Heaton converted a retired grain pasture into 23 acres of dry-farmed wine grapes. The Heatons grow Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Grenache Blanc, and Viognier. The vines are spaced 12 x 12 feet and are head trained. The Heatons sell wine grapes to Lone Madrone.
In 2006, Skip Dodd and his son converted 15 acres of the Dodd Family Ranch into a dry-farmed vineyard. The ranch has been in the family since 1871. They currently grow dry-farmed Tannat, Zinfandel, Petite Verdot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The vines are head trained and spaced at 12 X 12 feet. Klau Mine has sold fruit to Lone Madrone for their Dodd wine.
The historic Martinelli vineyard was planted in 1921 by Amadeo Martinelli. The 9.5 acre vineyard is dry-farmed, and the vines are head trained and spaced at 10 X 10 ft. The vineyard is about 92% Zinfandel, with additional acres of Mourvede and Grenache. Within the vineyard there are cherry trees, pistachios, pears, nuts, and other wild berries. Among others, Martinelli sells grapes to Lone Madrone.
Brothers David and Toby Osgood moved onto this property in 1982 and began farming Barley. In 2001, David converted part of the land to wine grapes, planting Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The vines are dry-farmed and head trained. The Osgoods sell fruit to Lone Madrone, which produces and Old Hat Zinfandel and Barfandel from these grapes.
Tablas Creek Vineyard is located on the west side of Paso Robles. They have 105 acres under vine, 1/4 of which is dry farmed and head pruned. These vines are space at 10 X 10 or 12 X 12 feet. Dry farmed varieties include Tannat, Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, Counoise, and Roussanne. The rest of the vineyard has not been irrigated during the growing season since 2009 and is trellised with a tight spacing of 8 X 3 feet. This spacing has made dry farming these blocks more difficult. To learn more about their management practices read our Tablas Creek Vineyard case study or read about their wines.
Jean-Pierre Wolff dry farms 35 year old Chardonnay Vines. The vines are trellised and cane pruned, spaced 12 X 8 feet, on their own rootstocks. The vines were conventionally irrigated when he purchased the land, and it took him three years to convert to a dry farmed vineyard. He did this by deep ripping the top roots of the vines, harvesting the water from his land, and retraining the vines. His chardonnay block may receive fertigation during the growing season, which is fertilizer mixed with water, or supplemental winter irrigation if needed. The vineyard is SIP Certified. To learn more about his vineyard practices, read our Wolff Vineyard Case Study. Wolff makes an estate dry-farmed Chardonnay, but also sells his grapes to Mt. Eden, who produces a Wolff Vineyard Edna Valley Chardonnay.
The 4 acre dry-farmed vineyard located in Templeton was planted in 1996 by Frank Nerelli. The vineyard is comprised entirely of head trained Zinfandel on 8 X 12 foot spacing. The vines are planted on St. George rootstock. There are no sprays, pesticides, or fertilizers used in the vineyards. The rows are mowed and cultivated with a harrow tool to remove native grasses and weeds to reduce competition for water and to seal in the moisture. The vineyard yields on average, around 4 tons per acre. Nerelli makes estate Zinfandel and Zinfandel Port. To read about his wines, click here
East Bay Area
Nested at approx. 1,000 ft above the East Bay Hills, this 2.5 Acre vineyard and winery has been DRY FARMED since its inception in 2005. The land had been prepared for almost 10 years prior to planting; by composting several tons of shredding from the local overgrown trees. Also it was terraced to reduce erosion and ease of manual work on hillside. The spacing chosen is predominantly 5’X3’ and some 6’X4’. The varieties are diverse depending on location and exposure, the Pinot Noir is at the lowest location where the temperature is coolest, while Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah are at the top, in between there are vines of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Grenache. Captain Vineyards follows both Green and Sustainable practices in the vineyard and winery, and produce less than 1,000 cases/year. Captain Vineyards has received the Contra Costa county sustainable award, pollution prevention award and water smart award.