Jeffrey and Bryn in their kitchen
Penn Valley, California
The Sierra foothills has become a haven for artisanal producers, largely thanks to the pioneer work of members of the New Age group Renaissance who, under the guidance of Gideon Beinstock tested the compatibility between the terroir and slope exposures of the land with different varieties. Alder of Vinography explains this initial stage of viticulture in the area in this article of his. When I visited the vast compound of the Fellowship of Friends (named Apollo) in 2006 (story here) I didn’t foreview that I’d come back so often in the area, but the Fellowship’s work and Gideon’s skilled
management and planning opened the way for a cohort of artisan-minded vintners vinifying naturally
(beginning with Gideon Beinstock’s Clos Saron), putting this little-known wine region on the map. While vines were planted already there during the gold rush in the late 19th century, the revival of viticulture and winemaking can be credited to Renaissance and Beinstock, and the region got its own AVA in 1987. For one thing, what I like in the region is there’s no endless expanses of vineyards covering the hills, it’s very fragmented in a ranch country with a hilly landscape of woods and prairies, another world when you see Napa and other intensive agricultural regions.
Bryn and Jeffrey of Ellsworth Wines started their wine operation in 2019 near PennValley, a small community located near the charming town of Nevada City (main street pictured on left). Both of them were previously living in Washington D.C. and worked in restaurants (around 9 years of experience in the field), that’s where they met, Bryn was at the service and Jeffrey was a cook. He knew the wines of Gideon Beinstock and then heard about Frenchtown, the winery operated by Aaron and Kara, and came here to do the harvest with them in 2018. On her side, at the same time, Bryn travelled to Spain to do the northern side of the Camino de Santiago along vineyards (she walked some 700 kilimeters in one month !) and she was impressed by the small communities of a wine region, she loved the life style. At the time they were knowing each other but not really living together, so it was interesting that their separate experiences somehow merged on a common awakeness that would result in starting this winery together. At first they worked with the help of Aaron and Kara of Frenchtown Farms, who tend vines and make wine not far from here.
Jeffrey and Bryn in front of their facility
Jeffrey and Bryn had the luck to find land owners who could rent them a small surface of vineyards and a nice little house (pictured above right) plus a small outbuilding they could use as a facility (picture above and above/left). The owners, who raise horses and themselves live in a house a few yards away, were pleased I guess to rent the lot including the parcels to someone who wouldn’t use pesticides, and for Jeffrey and Bryn it was a rare opportunity to find a house to live, a building for thye winemaking and a couple of parcels all together. They of course also complement their own production with fruit they buy elsewhere. The equivalent surface for the wine they produce is 6 hectares today (it was recently 7,7 hectares but they lost a contracted vineyard recently). They’re not looking to become a big winery but they just aim at having the right volume of grapes to work with in order to make a living and have time to tend themselves the vines, not only near the house but also on the contracted vineyards, they already do it and it’s a lot of work, mowing, spraying, pruning, trimming. They get help from friends for that, but mostly for harvest. Pruning takes 3 months for the whole surface, starting in early february until early april. They once had to prune with one meter snow, that was something !
Bryn had hurt her ankle the very day we showed up (a few hours before) while putting the bird protection nets on…
Source : https://www.wineterroirs.com/2023/08/ellsworth_wines_sierra_foothills_ca.html