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Exploring the Potential for Great Suisun Valley Cabernet at Koch Wine

Koch Wine proprietors Maurry and Gloria Koch came into the wine business in a way that Maurry refers an adventure and lots of luck. Like many before them, they had both carved out their own successful careers in completely different industries; Maurry through his family owned and operated luggage, US Air Force fighter jet hardware, and furniture company, and Gloria as a real estate broker. The turning point for the couple came when a house and 20 acres in Suisun Valley, California became available. That “potential investment for resale” evolved into their “slice of heaven.”

Once purchased in 1999, they went about improving the ranch, and it began with the land, that took a few years of hard work, because at the time of purchase it had fallen into disrepair. Maurry is a perfectionist, so that was the first project.

Next, as Maurry and Gloria looked around the land, they wanted to create landscaping. They knew that it would be costly to landscape that much property, and with the usual trees, shrubs, and flowers, there would be no financial return on that benefit. The soil was tested, and they were told that the combination of the soil contents and with all rocks and good drainage, it was perfect for growing two things; olive trees and grapes. So, landscaping for them became planting the latter; not for the fruit that it would produce, but for the ambiance. Only when the vines produced great quality of grapes did the opportunity present its self to produce a quality of cab that was unique. One must remember that this was never seen as a long-term project; it just became that as it went along, based on all the time it took to attend to each detail.

When the decision was made to plant grapes, Maurry enlisted the services of Larry Balestra, of Suisun’s Balestra family, known for their many generations of being wine grape growing experts in Suisun and Napa valleys. Balestra guided the Kochs with careful planning and planting, to begin their own wine grape growing adventure.

Maurry’s passion is for great Cabernet Sauvignon, so that was the varietal choice. Only now does he realize that this was rightfully chosen, because his vineyard placement in Suisun Valley has cool mornings and warm afternoons, mid afternoon winds from the southwest, and then cool evenings.

Because Maurry makes quality over quantity choices, he then purchased superior root stock. Next, vineyard rows were planted nine feet apart, with six feet between each vine in the rows. Trellising his vines had Maurry making very unusual decisions; at least as far as the vineyard development business goes. He wanted the vine wires to be supported with caped white metal posts, so the end posts would not become rusty. Maurry said the white post don’t add to the quality, but create respect for the vines.

His vineyard cosmetics surprised everyone in the wine business, all the while making perfect sense to Maurry. It also made good enough sense, as time would soon prove, to the Kendall-Jackson vineyard team. This pristine creation, climate and soil combination instantly sold Koch’s grapes to a five-year binding contract to K-J, long before fruit was even growing on the vines. Koch’s vineyards were also very fortunate to tie into the Solano Irrigation District’s water supply, as a stream bed passes right through the Koch property. The combination of close attention to every-single-detail, plus his terroir location against the eastern slope of Mount George Range, and great irrigation opportunities, combined into what is a continuing success story.

After the vineyards were developed, house remodeling became the next project. As they used the house for weekend enjoyment, it was Christmas 2003 that saw them arrive for the weekend, never to leave again. “We just never packed our bags to go home, because this had become home without us even knowing it, until that fateful holiday,” admits Gloria.

Today, the Kochs have conveyed the management and crop sales to Lanza Vineyards. In 2006 the decision was made to also produce their own brand, starting with the 2004 “Koch” Cabernet Sauvignon vintage. The Kochs are quick to credit the Lanza family, for their own success. According to Maurry, “This is a four generation wine grape growing family, whose expertise for crafting our quality Cabernet makes us extremely proud.”

The acceptance of their grapes and wine has been a story in itself. Some say it’s the soil and rock formations and some say it’s the protection by being nestled in the hills, and others say it’s the wind and weather. Maurice thinks it is a combination of all three.

Roger King, president of the Suisun Valley Vintner & Growers Association, also has his own ideas about this piece of property. According to Roger, “This is the first exploration of Suisun Valley’s western hills. There’s a long extension of a volcanic mass that forms the eastern slope of that Mount George Range. This soil, comprised mostly of volcanic rock, creates great drainage opportunities… the same type of perfect conditions that has given rise to the most critically acclaimed Cabernets from anywhere in the world.”

I once had a viticulturalist say to me, “See this red soil? It’s filled with iron oxide, and that creates the best growing conditions for making red wines with big, tannin fruit. This is pure gold in winemaking.”

Without even realizing where they were headed, the Kochs walked into a gold mine for growing world class Cabernet Sauvignon.

Today, the Koch’s know that their vineyard has surpassed not only pristine landscaping conditions, but it has also exceeded everyone’s wildest expectations for the potential of that portion of eastern slope of the Mount George Range. For future generations of viticulturists in Suisun Valley, this will be an area to attract more Cabernet Sauvignon lovers. The Koch’s have set the bar really high, however, for anyone thinking of landscaping in this Cabernet wine grape growing region.

One Responseto “Exploring the Potential for Great Suisun Valley Cabernet at Koch Wine”

  1. […] Exploring the Potential for Great Suisun Valley Cabernet at Koch Wine […]

  2. Dear Balestra/Lanza
    I want to Thank You for the Beautiful red zin
    Grapes you provided to consumer produce in
    Pittsburgh Pa. Ron Casertano our wine man
    Had us be patient this year. We were fortunate
    To help him out and take 3 bulk containers and 36
    Cases. Though the cases looked prettier the
    Bulk grapes had an awesome flavor
    I will keep you posted on our 12th year of
    Making vino buono

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