- Location: Sonoma Coast
- Elevation: 1300-1500 feet
- Proximity to the Pacific Ocean: 3.05 miles
- Row Orientation: Graveyard Block North/South, Mother Block East/West
- Clones: Pinot Noir (unknown) Own Rooted & Dry Farmed
- Soil: Graveyard Block Sandstone, Mother Block Goldridge
- Vine age: 47 years, planted in 1972
George & Nikki Bohan are the current guardians of 1,100 acres of land on a remote ridge of the Sonoma Coast, 1400’ in elevation, and just 3 miles from Pacific Ocean. In 2013, I was provided the opportunity to purchase their fruit. As I stepped foot onto the property for the first time, I immediately was captivated by the breathtaking beauty of the landscape. My connection to the site only grew deeper as I heard firsthand the incredibly rich, storied history of their family.
Today, Bohan is just one of four vineyards we proudly partner with and place their family’s name on our bottle as a single vineyard designate. The fruit closely resembles their happy, kind and carefree personalities, and upon smelling the wine in a glass, the aromatics provide an instantaneous smile. George and Nikki, along with brother Mick, barely sleep during harvest, as they work relentlessly to pull 150-200 tons of grapes off the vines for Failla, Flowers, Sandlands, Arnot Roberts and Kutch. They are real deal, fourth generation farmers. After 161 years of their family making a living off what the land provides, this is the true definition of sustainability. How they got here is a story that I am fortunate to have the opportunity to share with you today.
The history of Bohan Ranch started back in 1857 when great “Aunt Rose” Bohan, married Peter Sposito. Peter and Rose raised sheep, goats, cows and turkeys making their living as ranchers and running their own dairy. Rose would transport their weekly supply of cream and butter to a schooner at Fort Ross, bound for San Francisco, where their raw materials would find their way into restaurants and grocery stores. Today, 161 years later, George and Nikki continue that tradition by selling grapes and livestock from where that old dairy once stood. Wines are now produced, and make their way into restaurants and merchants still in the big city.
Rose Bohan’s husband Peter died in 1888; and upon his death, Mike Bohan, (George’s Grandfather) came from Ireland to help Aunt Rose on the ranch. In around 1905, Mike purchased the ranch from Aunt Rose and continued to raise livestock. After WWII in 1946, Mike sold the ranch to his son, Michael Bohan, (George’s Dad). Michael continued to raise sheep, but significant losses from coyotes each season caused him to consider new ways for the land to support his family. In 1972, Michael took a chance and planted one acre of Zinfandel by hand (which is still in production today). At the time, Michael was a real pioneer and was the first modern farmer to plant grapes on West Sonoma Coast.
Planting was a family affair, and while waiting for the Zinfandel plants to produce their first crop, Michael became concerned due to his increasing age and the fact that his sheep population continued to be slaughtered by coyote. Just two years after his initial planting, Michael decided to go “all in” and plant an additional nineteen acres to wine grapes. George was just 12 years old at the time and he and his brother Mick worked all winter, spring and fall to hand cut every plant stake and every end post from redwood trees scattered across their property. Michael prepped the land for months, several acres at a time with his tractor, and then invited family and friends over to ultimately help plant the 19 acres.
Not having experience in viticulture, Michael was told by a University of Davis expert that he was likely to fail by planting so close to the Pacific Ocean on his remote hilltop. Undeterred, Michael contacted the nursery and requested Pinot Noir and Chardonnay budwood without rootstock, something that rarely occurs today. Because he intended on dry farming, no drip irrigation lines were installed; instead, all the young plants were watered by hand.
The period from 1975-77 were drought years, and because the vineyard was raised without irrigation, the root systems were forced to go deep down in their search for water to survive. This resulted in having to wait an additional year for their first crop, which eventually came four years after planting. The positive result of dry farming is that these plants are the hardiest that I work with due to their old and deep root systems. They don’t suffer in drought years like younger irrigated plants with root system which sit near the surface, closer to the irrigation.
Since Michael’s original plantings in 1972, Flowers, Peter Michael, Marcassin, Martinelli and Hirsch have all planted on the same or neighboring ridges. Walt and Joan Flowers purchased their Sea View property from Michael and his wife Leona in 1998 and subsequently began planting Pinot Noir the following year.
I am fortunate to be the recipient of both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the original 1974 planting, (ironically, the same year I was born). Past recipients of fruit have been Felton Empire, Sea Ridge, Robert Stemmler, Fetzer, Turley, and Kendall Jackson. At present, George has a growing waiting list for his fruit which includes Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Trousseau.