There must be a Creator and she loves art! Why else would the Earth be so beautiful? The Earth is also powerful and diverse; complicated, forgiving and patient; wise. She buries our mistakes, grows our successes; endlessly challenges our creativity and ability, always rewards us with vision and beauty! The extraordinary intellect of the mind is matched by the extraordinary complexity of the Earth. We can protect the Earth by creating spaces that let its energies expand and flourish. The Earth needs strong spaces to balance those parts that have been weakened.
This was the first statement we ever wrote about Cowhorn. From this statement, our dreams, plans and actions grew.
In 2002, Bill and Barbara Steele purchased the property that is now Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden. Beginning in 2002, we initiated multi-year testing of our soils, water-holding capacity, heat summation and natural water availability. The test data confirmed that the farm has two distinct sets of growing soils. One set, located along the eastern border is comprised of well-drained, high fertility soils, excellent for produce. The other set confirmed our initial impression that the site shares a number of favorable characteristics with Châteauneuf-du-Pape. We subsequently selected our vineyard blocks, rootstocks, cultivars, and farming programs based on our test data and tastings of benchmark wines made from Rhône grape varieties. The next two years were spent preparing the property for planting. We fenced, built roads, installed comprehensive irrigation systems and planned our proposed plantings. As with all organic and Biodynamic® processes, you can never plan too much! Our first master plan was created in 2004.
The first 11 acres of vineyard were planted in 2005, primarily with field-grown dormant vines. The combination of relatively mature plant material and careful site preparation enabled us to produce 300 cases of Syrah and 40 cases of white wine from the 2006 vintage. We produced 1500 cases from the 2007 harvest and plan to bottle 1700 cases from the 2008 harvest.
In 2006, we began planting in the garden blocks. Our first asparagus harvest was about 250 pounds in 2007. In 2008, we harvested over 2000 pounds and in 2009 over 4000 pounds. The asparagus blocks should reach maturity and full production in 2010. The orchards are still too young to produce enough fruit for commercial purposes, but they are definitely providing enjoyment for the staff!
Our values for land management and agriculture preceded our interest in wine, so when we headed into the business of farming we sought the advice of like-minded individuals whose knowledge complemented our backgrounds in finance and management. Our holistic-estate advisor, Alan York, is an acknowledged expert in Biodynamic® viticulture with an international track record. He joined our team in 2002 shortly after we acquired the property, and continues to work with us on a regular basis. Our winemaking consultant, Ken Bernards, is known and respected for his own brand, Ancien Wines, as well as his success with other consulting projects. He joined us in early 2008 and has already taken our wines – and our expectations for them – to a new level. Our architect and site planner, Buddy Williams, is an accomplished environmental designer who has worked all over the world. Buddy has been an integral part of all physical development of the property and his master plan continues to guide our future thinking.