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The History of Arroyo Seca Wine Country

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The Arroyo Seca AVA is located just south of the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County. Bill Jekel founded Jekel Vineyards in 1972 and was a noteable viticultural pioneer in Monterey County.

He produced his first commercial vintage in 1978. Jekel’s Gravelstone and Sanctuary Estate are located in the Salinas Valley. These vineyards have rocky soils and enjoy a moderately windy and cool climate.

The History of Arroyo Seca Wine Country

Douglas Meader founded Ventana Vineyards in 1972 as well. He is known as a perfectionist in both the vineyard and the winery. Meador makes great Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling.

Unfortunately, Jekel and Meador’s success was the exception. During the early 1970s, relatively cheap land prices drove a huge expansion of vineyards in the region. Based on an overly objective interpretation of Amerine’s degree-day study, massive and often misguided vineyard development took place. Wind, soil and sun were overlooked and temperature was the only factor that growers were seriously concerned with.

The winds can be very strong in some parts of the region and will slow or stop ripening. Rows of vineyards were also too long and extended over hills causing uneven ripening. Mechanical harvesters were forced to pick small sections at a time which was economically wasteful.

Irrigation was often used too liberally and vine foliage was not properly pruned leading to dilluted grapes and wines. Grapes from the region became known by the derogatory term “Monterey Veggies”. As a result, the region’s viticultural history has been characterized by a trial and error process regarding varietal selection in specific microclimates.

Additionally, many mistakenly believed that Phylloxera was not a threat in the region. When the Phylloxera Louse arrived in the late 1980s, it ravaged the defenseless vitis vinifera rootstocks.

In recent years, a concerted and largely effective effort is being made to learn from the mistakes of the viticultural area’s past. Row length has been decreased, and irrigation methods have been honed.