David Girard Vineyards - History of a Gold Country Winery
More than twenty years ago, David Girard looked out at this stunning landscape rising 1400' from the South Fork American River Valley and saw not only beauty, but also great potential. In the heart of Gold Country -- indeed, one mile from where California gold was first discovered in 1848 -- he envisioned an estate vineyard producing grapes of great distinction.
By the late nineties, David was up and running, selling his entire Merlot harvest from 14 acres to Robert Mondavi on a ten-year contract. But, like the intrepid forebears of the region, a passion for discovery and a hearty appetite for risk soon got the best of him. "My life is more a product of curiosity than it is any great vision," David once revealed. So after just a few years of grapes sales, new acreage was planted, and David Girard Vineyards was born.
At the time, El Dorado County was known for producing a dizzying array of winegrapes, but David and celebrated Vineyardist Ron Mansfield, with whom David worked from the start, had a more focused idea for the new plantings. A trip together to the Rhone Valley convinced both men that the granite soil, topography, and cooling influence of the nearby American River beckoned those same grape varieties that had such a storied history in Southeast France. Over the next few years an additional 22 acres of red Rhones were planted in a traditional, head-trained fashion, and as a finishing touch, half of the original Merlot vines were grafted-over to exciting white grapes from the Rhone and Provence.
Today, David Girard Vineyards thrives by serving meticulously crafted wines in a gorgeous, historical setting on 85 total acres. The winery is renowned in the region and beyond for providing a serene, pleasurable destination for both our dedicated followers as well as first-time guests. With a glass of award-winning wine, we are indeed a "destination for people to spend some time, relax, and take it easy."
Boutique Vineyards & Winemaking
AT A GLANCE: David Girard's weathered granite vineyards lie on the slopes of Gold Hill, which rises directly out of a canyon from the American River near Coloma, CA. Our vines were first planted in 1998, on soils from the "Auberry" series, which means that the parent material is decomposed igneous rock on rolling hills. Coarse and sandy, the soil provides an excellent, well-draining medium for our vines. At about 1400' elevation in the Sierra Foothills, we experience some significant summer warmth, but pronounced diurnal winds blow cooling mountain breezes down the canyon at night. These temperature swings help the vines to fully ripen grapes with balanced, intense flavors and great acidity.
GRAPES: Except for six acres of the original Merlot planting and our small, new plot of Cabernet Sauvignon, we grow grapes that have a home in the greater Rhone valley in France. These include Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Counoise for reds, and Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Rolle for whites.
We grow grapes on thirty-five out of eighty-five total acres on the Estate, which was originally designed and installed by Ron Mansfield and his dedicated crew. Topography is a major factor here in the Foothills, and creates different climate pockets wthin small areas depending on aspect and sunlight exposure. With this in mind, we have our sun-loving Grenache and Mourvedre on south-facing slopes, cooler-climate Syrah facing east to bring out its spiciness, and the more delicate white grapes mostly facing north. The non-planted areas provide habitat for much wildlife, and we have a delightful tour which educates guests on the rich history and ecology of the property.
FARMING: From our inception in 1998 we've farmed the land gently and with respect for our surroundings. To this end, we have been practicing Organic farming since 2014. Our first soil-enriching cover crop was planted that autumn and the following spring we abandoned strip-sprays of herbicide in favor of using a tractor-mounted weed knife. Vine pests like mildew are kept under control with sulphur and oil sprays.
While we believe deeply in minimizing our environmental footprint and acting as responsible stewards of the land, our real conviction is that the world's best wines are made from organically farmed grapes: by striving to keep the native ecology intact our wines show a true sense of place and uniqueness.