Porter Creek Vineyards is a certified Biodynamic wine producer in the Russian River Valley AVA in Sonoma County in California.

Owner: George R Davis (+1 707.331.4797 mobile). Two sons called Russell and Alex, the latter being the winemaker (see below). George and his second wife Susan married in Nepal.

Background: The vineyard originally consisted of a 16 hectares (40 acres) plot of land, which had 4.85 hectares (12 acres) of Pinot Noir on it, planted by an airline pilot during California’s early 1970s wine boom. In 1977 it was acquired by George R Davis, who grew up in Berkeley and spent his summers on his uncle’s nearby farm in Pleasant Hill (this is now under housing and highway). Davis finished a degree at the University of California, worked as a newspaper photographer, built sail boats and fishing boats (mainly in Maui), did social work and gained a university degree. He said he “jumped at the chance” of buying what is now Porter Creek, using a small inheritance from his grandmother on his father’s side. The winery was built and bonded in 1982.

In 1997 George R Davis’s eldest son Alexander took over as winemaker. Alexander has a degree in oenology from Fresno University and a post-graduate degree in winemaking from Dijon. Whilst in France he apprenticed with Christophe Roumier in Chambolle-Musigny, Bernard Michelot in Nuits St Georges and Marcel Guigal in the Rhone.

Staff: Assistant winegrower: Kevin McEnnis (we met at the IBWC 2018).

Estate vineyards: 2004 8.9 hectares (22 acres). | 2017 8.9 hectares (22 acres).

Terroir:  Porter Creek is the name of the Russian River tributary which runs through the property. This sits on easy to work, bright, loamy soils (Sutter loam and one other type). There are 4.85ha (12 acres) of Pinot Noir first planted in 1972. Gear R Davis later added 4 hectares (10 acres) of Chardonnay on a steep plot now called “George’s Hill”. No grapes are sold; all are bottled by the winery. Three vineyard sites. Contiguous. Rootstocks (must be here). 30% terraces. Fairly low.

Biodynamics: George R Davis told me in May 2004 that he went Biodynamic because ‘I was looking to move away from conventional methods. My younger son Russell [‘Rusty’] is into permaculture, and fairly radical environmentalism, and I am into Taoist teachings [see also Frog’s Leap], so the Biodynamic idea that everything from the soil underground to the celestial sphere above is connected, appealed to me. Biodynamic preparations are purchased from the Josephine Porter Institute and are stirred in a flow form fountain. Horn manure 500 and Horn silica 501 can be applied to the whole vineyard in a single morning or afternoon. Prepared Horn manure or 500P is also sprayed for its rapid soil-building properties, and is sometimes combined with fish emulsion. Horn Silica 501 is sprayed over the vines on Fruit Days and Horn manure 500 is spayed over the cover crops growing between the vine rows on Root Days, to help build a healthy root system with the aim of maintain a friable topsoil. Biodynamic compost 502-507 is made from cow manure and grape pomace, sometimes tree shavings, and hay (telephone call with George Davis on Sunday morning 13 March 2004).

Irrigation: Water for the drip irrigation system does not come from the Porter Creek watercourse, but from a 19-metre (sixty-five feet) deep aquifer which was filled 60,000 years ago when Porter Creek changed course slightly after an earthquake. The owners prefer to irrigate early in the season and for a prolonged period so the water can really penetrate, rather than in shorter bursts in the summer which risks leaving water in the topsoil where it can quickly evaporate.

Certification: 2003 First vintage with full Demeter Biodynamic certification. | 2018 Still with full Demeter certification.

Winemaking: Pinot Noir ferments in open-topped stainless steel tanks, having first undergone a several day long pre-fermentation cold soak in their juice. This preserves and enhances aroma and provides an more elegant style of Pinot Noir.

White wines

Chardonnay, George’s Hill, Russian River Valley AVA: The estate’s highest altitude vineyard. Last fully re-planted in the 1970s. Soil of drained clay. Alex Davis ferments this Chardonnay using native yeast, in French oak barrels. As in Burgundy, the wine is allowed to undergo spontaneous secondary acid fermentation (‘malolactic fermentation’) with no lactic bacteria added. This slows down the malolactic and leaves the wine with a richer texture on the mid-palate. | 2016 100% barrel fermented with wild yeast. Full MLF. A generous, well-proportioned Chardonnay (IBWC 2018).

Red wines

Pinot Noir, Fiona Hill Vineyard, Russian River Valley AVA: Last replanted in the late 1990s. Heavier clay compared to the Hillside Vineyard bottling below, and thus more structured. | 2015 Frank, nicely structured (IBWC 2018)

Pinot Noir, Hillside Vineyard, Russian River Valley AVA: Planted in the early 1970s, before the Russian River AVA existed. | 2015 Ethereal fruit with appealingly clear Pinot Noir and flavour and refreshing tannins (IBWC 2018).

Other wines: Other wines made here come from purchased grapes.


Porter Creek Vineyards

8735 Westside Road, Healdsburg CA 95448, USA

Tel+001 707.433.6321 | www.portercreekvineyards.com