Ashton Vineyard was born in 1970 when Stephen and Justine Ashton (two artists from the East Coast) had a vision to cultivate a small sustainably grown vineyard in Glen Ellen, California. After pursuing viticulture and enology studies, as well as researching grape varietals conducive to the microclimate, they landed on the Pinot Noir grape. Selecting seven specific Pinot Noir clones, Stephen and Justine hand-grafted 3000 vines on the porch of their family home. After preparing the soil and aligning with the full moon cycle, the grafted Pinot Noir vines were hand-planted by family, community and friends. As their passion for viticulture and sustainable growing practices grew, they expanded their vineyard in the 1980’s, adding a small acreage of Syrah, similar to the varietal of the Hermitage region of the northern Rhone area of France.
Committed to sustainable farming, and the core value of attuning to the land, the Ashton family adheres to organic and biodynamic principles. Farming practices include refraining from the use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers or herbicides. Additionally, no irrigation is used except for the rains and moisture that nature provides on the Sonoma Mountain appellation, characteristic of cool nights and morning fog. “Dry farming” also encourages the roots to travel deep into the earth to source water from the natural table, promoting healthy vines and producing beautifully concentrated fruit.
After handpicked harvests, Ashton Vineyard grapes are brought to Deerfield Winery, where the wine is made by long standing friend and award winning winemaker Robert Rex, along with associate winemaker Cecilia Valdivia. The grapes are triple hand sorted, removed from their stems and whole berry fermented; then a special program of cooperage is designed for each wine of each vintage. The mission is to create the purest wine that expresses the unique terroir of the Ashton Family Vineyard.
In the fall of October 2017, the Ashton Family's estate was impacted by the Nuns Wildfire. The majority of the Pinot Noir vineyard was lost, along with the family’s farmhouse, barn and art studio where they produced the annual Wine Country Film Festival. In 2018, the “third generation” joined the AV team in efforts to recover from the impact of the fire and to continue the family’s legacy of sustainable farming and artisanal winemaking. Today, Ashton Vineyard is women-owned and continues to be family operated.
To make good wine we listen to the vines, to the soil, to where the sun rises and sets. We pay close attention to the terroir to discover what the vines need to deliver the flavor of the land: from the roots of the vine, all the way through to the final expression, winding up in the glass. ~Stephen Ashton