Just east of King City, this windy hilltop is an ideal location for growing Riesling grapes that produce an exceptional food wine. Planted on the crown of the ridge, the vineyard is well drained and the vine roots must grow deep to find moisture. Morning ocean fog and cool afternoon trade winds from the Monterey Bay and Big Sur coastline keep the growing conditions temperate to cold. Vine growth is difficult on the rugged and steep hillsides but the end result is a concentrated wine that expresses the intensity of its terrior.
While Sweetwater’s location is ideal for growing high quality grapes, the soil and climate can be very unsuitable for other agricultural pursuits.
Here’s how Steinbeck described these old coastal foothills in East of Eden:
"But the acres were harsh and dry. There were no springs, and the crust of topsoil was so thin that the flinty bones stuck through. Even the sagebrush struggled to exist, and the oaks were dwarfed from the lack of moisture. Even in reasonably good years there was so little feed that the cattle kept thin running about looking for enough to eat. From their barren hills the Hamiltons could look down to the west and see the richness of the bottom land and the greenness around the Salinas River."
(Where we’ve planted the Riesling, the “crust of topsoil” is about a foot deep. The flinty bones Steinbeck refers to are exposed areas where there’s no topsoil and the hillside’s gypsum foundation is a telling white against the yellow grass and brown dirt. From a distance they look like bleached bone yards.)