In our Ancient Peaks Soil Series, we explore the unique diversity of soil types found at our estate Margarita Vineyard. Today we take a look at the rocky alluvium soils of Margarita Vineyard, which run through the centerline of the vineyard.

Northward Flow

Santa Margarita Ranch is located at the southern end of the great Salinas Valley, which is the headwaters of the Salinas River that extends all the way up to Monterey Bay. And naturally, the flow of water is what dictates the path of erosion.

Indeed, the alluvial plain that runs through the center of Margarita Vineyard draws from the Santa Lucia Mountain range to the west, as well as from the hills to the south and east—all part of the greater northward flow that feeds the Salinas River. “Historically, this area has seen massive rainfalls of more than 100 inches annually, which created these huge flows over hundreds of thousands of years,” Doug says. “This is what not only created the river and the local aquifers, but also these alluvial plains that feature a concentration of different rock materials.”

At Margarita Vineyard, this includes rubble composed on the surrounding parent materials. Doug notes that when we dig down into this portion of the vineyard, we find streams of ancient gravel from 50 to 100 feet deep. “These are old stream channels that have been covered up by these huge rain sequences over thousands of years,” he says.

Stone Cold

The alluvial soil section of Margarita Vineyard is particularly notable for plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.

Residing at the foot of the Trout Creek, this drainage forms a gap in the mountain range, creating a channel for brisk marine air to flow into the vineyard. This provides a perfect convergence of conditions for Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir—two varieties that tend to thrive in cooler growing environments. The well-drained alluvial soils encourage deep root growth and help preserve natural acidity, which is essential for these varietals. We also have select Cabernet Sauvignon blocks planted to rocky alluvium in a warmer interior section of the vineyard.

Margarita Vineyard spans a rare array of five soil types. Among these are four “parent” soils: ancient sea bed, volcanic, granitic and Monterey shale. Rocky alluvium is different, as it is an amalgam that draws from these other parent materials. “The parent materials are in all of the hills that surround us, and these materials drain toward this ancient alluvial floodplain in the middle of Margarita Vineyard,” says co-owner and viticulturist Doug Filipponi. “So in our case, we’re going to find this mixture of volcanic rock, shale and the other soils that predominate elsewhere in the vineyard.”

Taste It

Our flagship 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon comes partly from the rocky alluvium soils at our estate Margarita Vineyard, along with blocks planted to ancient sea bed and shale. It opens with expressive aromas of plum, boysenberry, red currant, black olive, caramel and toasted oak. Broad, chewy textures deliver layered impressions of blueberry, cherry, cassis and violet with undercurrents of graphite, sage, eucalyptus and vanilla bean. Fresh acidity and fine tannins carry into a long, expansive finish.