In the 1930s, famed engineer and pilot William Hawley Bowlus, whose pioneering sailplanes are in the Smithsonian, used to fly gliders off the ridges of Monterey’s majestic Carmel Coast. Eight decades later, his grandson and great-grandson unknowingly came to the same mountain slopes and established one of California’s most exciting vineyards. Perched seven miles from the Pacific Ocean, Albatross Ridge is an extraordinary site. Albatross Ridge exists on the very edge of what’s possible in cool-climate-viticulture, producing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir of uncommon beauty and grace.
In 2006 the father and son team of Brad and Garrett Bowlus began planning a return to their family’s farming roots. Their vision was to find a remarkable piece of virgin land, where they could plant just two grapes: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. A place where, as Garrett says, “We could grow the style of wines we like to drink.” After searching from Oregon to Santa Barbara, they found what they were looking for high on Monterey’s Carmel Coast. Brad and Garrett began planting the vineyard in 2008. With the help of renowned “Dirt Doctor,” Dr. Alfred Cass, Brad and Garrett oversaw every stage of the vineyard’s development. Albatross Ridge’s 25 acres of vines feature four clones of Pinot Noir and two clones of Chardonnay. It was only after planting the vineyard, when Brad and Garrett were searching for a name for the site, that they discovered an old book on local Monterey history. On its very last page, they found something as remarkable as it was improbable—a photo of Hawley Bowlus launching his Albatross sailplane off the same high mountain slopes where they founded their vineyard. “It was such a serendipitous discovery,” says Brad. “It affirmed everything we had been working so hard to achieve.”
Today, the Bowlus Family harvest their grapes at relatively modest Brix. In the winery, they ferment the vineyard’s different blocks and clones in very small lots. While Albatross Ridge harvests earlier, due to the vineyard’s unique conditions, which include one of the longest growing seasons in all of California, the grapes still taste beautifully ripe. Equally important, these same conditions naturally limit crop size, and result in extremely small yields that average well under 2 tons per acre. Albatross Ridge makes just a handful of wines, with an exclusive focus on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as small amounts of pétillant naturel rosé. Gently made with a minimalist approach, these sophisticated wines have quickly established themselves as cool-climate Central Coast benchmarks, recognized for their beautiful structure and pure varietal flavors.