Ann Kraemer – Shake Ridge Ranch and Yorba Wines
This is an update to an article I wrote five years ago about our tour through what is now regarded as one of the top vineyards in California, Ann Kraemer’s Shake Ridge Vineyards. Fast forward five years, and Ann Kraemer now has a successful tasting room in Sutter Creek. The Yorba wine tasting room is at 51 Hanford Street. We stopped in Thursday while visiting the Amador wine area and found the tasting room alive and well with a throng of folks tasting Yorba wines, along with catered food from Lucy’s Spice Box. Ann Kraemer sells 80% of her Shake Ridge fruit to various winemakers in California. She keeps 20% for the Yorba label. These wines are held from release at least two years or longer than the average release time for most wineries. The idea behind Ann’s late release is to showcase to winemakers the amazing quality and complexity that is possible from the grapes grown at Shake Ridge Ranch. Not only are these wines excellent in quality, the prices are very reasonable. The tasting room is open Thursday 12-7, Friday to Monday 12-5. If you are in the quaint town of Sutter Creek, stop in at the Yorba tasting room.
Originally posted in March of 2010
A few weeks back we had the chance to visit Ann Kraemer at her beautiful hillside vineyards on Shake Ridge Ranch in Amador County. What a pleasure it was to be with one of the most respected vineyard managers in the world of wine. Ann has been at the business of vineyard management for 19 years. Most of that has been working for others, and now that she’s at Shake Ridge she has fulfilled a dream to run her vineyards and reap the rewards of her vast experience.
Ann took us on a wonderful one-hour vineyard walk through the Shake Ridge Vineyards. Ann and her family purchased the ranch in 2001. It took Ann over a year to plan the vineyard. Soil was analyzed from six-foot deep pits dug at various locations. Which grapes would grow best and exactly where on the ranch would favor the growing conditions for a particular grape? For example, Barbera loves heat, so the orientation for those vines is on west-facing slopes. Petite Sirah was planted in the lower spots of the vineyard where the soil is more fertile and cooler. At the same time, Ann wanted to make sure she preserved the beauty of the ranch. As you can see from the photo, the oak trees have been preserved and add a wonderful attractiveness to the hillside vineyards.
There are 34 acres planted on the 185-acre ranch, with Zinfandel and Syrah making up the largest plots and Tempranillo, Petite Sirah, Monvedre, Granache and Viognier making up the smaller plots. Thirty percent of the vines are used for Ann’s Yorba label; the rest of the grapes are sold to ten different winemakers. Each winemaker has a specific plot and Ann works closely with each winemaker to make critical vineyard management decisions. In a week or so after our meeting with Ann, she was to meet with each winemaker to discuss pruning strategies. Pruning was scheduled for roughly two weeks after our visit. That is a bit late in the year but Ann points out that the longer she can delay pruning the longer she can delay bud break, giving her an added protection against frost. There is no frost protection that Ann uses, just good old Mother Nature. “Cold air runs downhill like water, so at the low spots we don’t plant vines.”
Before purchasing Shake Ridge she did vineyard management for Cuvaison, Clos Pegase, Swanson, Domain Chandon and others. She has consulted for some of the biggest names, such as Stagecoach and Shafer. She is a master at her craft and you really get a sense of her passion and commitment to grow the best grapes for the soil and the land that she cherishes.
Her Yorba wines are made by Ken Bernards of Ancien fame. From our walking tour we are sure that Ken Bernards loves making wine for Ann. The old adage “wine is made in the vineyards”could not be more true is this case. The wines are absolutely delicious, elegant, and nicely priced for the quality of the wines.