The Family Legacy: The Quality Farming Practices of Paloma Vineyards
When people ask us what we do, our answer is simple: we are farmers. Farming is at the core of everything we do. Our founders, Barbara and Jim Richards, had a clear understanding of this. Barbara was quick to remind everyone that “great wine is made in the vineyard, not in the winery”. She believed this through and through, and she passed that value down to her son, Sheldon, Paloma’s current owner and winemaker.
For 40 years, we have focused on high-quality farming. Today, we are exploring new ideas and philosophies that we feel will continue to put the health of the vines and ecosystem first so that we can keep making some of the best Merlot and Cabernet the Napa Valley has to offer!
In 1983, Barbara and Jim bought 17 acres of raw, unkept land at the very top of Spring Mountain. It was steep and rough and would require a lot of love to bring their dream to fruition, but they saw the potential; they saw Paloma Vineyard through the forest on the rolling hills.
It was 11 years later when they made their very first wine, the 1994 Paloma Merlot. Those 11 years gave them time to get to know the land they were farming. The steep terraces, varying soils (although all very rocky), and the different sun exposures forced them to learn hard and fast. They focused on understanding what would help the vines on their property thrive. And thrive they did! By 2001, unknowingly, Jim and Barbara had grown the grapes that would make the number-one wine in the world!
Our core philosophies have not changed since Barbara’s passing in 2016. We still farm with our hearts and allow the land and environment to guide what we do. Jose, our vineyard manager, has filled Barbara’s shoes in the vines. After 15 years with us, it’s safe to say that he now knows the plants better than anyone. His passion for vine health shines through in his annual vine experiments and trials. Jose embodies our farming values in his everyday practices.
This season we will be planting a variety of different rootstocks and clones throughout some weaker areas of the vineyard to learn more about what might thrive in those areas. Jose takes it upon himself to monitor these vines’ growth and health in comparison to each other so that our upcoming replants are well-informed, educated decisions that will result in outstanding wines for the future!
Today, Sheldon’s son, Caston, is spearheading some new practices that we hope will improve the overall ecology of the property and make the farm more sustainable for the future. Through regenerative farming practices, such as cover crops, we are bringing native plants back to the farm, adding nutrients back to the soil naturally, and learning how to retain more of the precious moisture that falls on our land.
Given the inconsistency of rainfall over the past decade, in conjunction with cover crops, we are exploring ways to retain more water on our property and manage our irrigation system more effectively. Vines have a unique characteristic in that consistently available water is crucial for grapes to reach maturity, but well-drained soil is incredibly important to the plant’s overall health. This makes irrigation strategies incredibly important in the later, warmer months of the season.
Our goal is always to make the best possible decision with the information available. What we are doing today is different than what we did 40 years ago and what we do 40 years from now, will undoubtedly be different than what we are doing today. If we want to leave our farm, and our world, in a better position than when it was passed to us, adaptation is a necessity. Seems like the least we can do for our children and their future generations.
While our fundamental values of high-quality farming will never change, we will continue to explore new ideas, philosophies, and practices, allowing science to be our evolving guide. The future is a bold, exciting place and we plan to continue embracing it!
We love to share what we are doing on the farm and in the winery, so please come join us in the tasting room and bombard us with your curiosity!