All of Côtes de Ciel wines are made exclusively from grapes grown at Ciel du Cheval. Ciel du Cheval is located near the geographic center of the Red Mountain AVA (American Viticultural Area) in Washington State. Ciel was established in 1975 and for nearly 39 years has been providing grapes to some of the state’s finest wineries, Ciel has a reputation for growing red wines grapes that have intense character and dense but supple tannins.
Intense not only describes the wines made from Ciel du Cheval grapes, but also the efforts made to grow the grapes. The vineyard has a simple mission: grow grapes that are the best reflection of the unique terroir and give a sense of place. However, like the rest of the vineyards on Red Mountain, the soils at Ciel are extremely homogeneous. As a result, Ciel has been divided into thirty-six separate blocks. Each block is custom farmed to achieve the best results possible. The variety, clonal selection, plant spacing, row orientation, training methods, and irrigation plans are unique to each block. An extensive network of sensors monitors soil moisture and local weather. And plant and soil samples are evaluated for available nutrients. All of this information is analyzed and changes are made. This has allowed a continuous experiment, a slow unveiling of the nature of each block for the last thirty-nine years, leading to a better understanding of the Ciel’s unique terroir. Farming this way requires more resources, but the results are worth it.
Ciel adheres to a core set of principles that drive the vineyard’s success while ensuring that it remains a responsible part of the community. These principles include:
- Employee Safety. No goal is worth taking risks with the employees’ health or lives. We take the time to ensure that all employees receive regular safety training, and to ensure all risks are managed appropriately.
- Earth Friendly. Ciel avoids taking actions that can harm the environment. As a result, Ciel does not use herbicides and uses practices such as dust control that minimize impact on our neighbors.
- Soil Conservation. Soil is a crucial element in the terroir of Ciel. Preserving the soil’s essential characteristics is the single most important step in the vineyard’s sustainability. Ciel carefully plans all operations that may affect the soil to ensure that the soil remains true to its original nature.
- Innovation. Revealing the terroir of the place requires a willingness to take calculated risks and try new things. Changing the irrigation practices, varieties grown, training methods, and other processes all improve our understanding of the place and the grapes it can produce.
- Education and Research. Ciel supports the local academic community by providing materials for training, participating in cooperative education, and supporting research efforts.
- First planting was in 1975. The most recent planting was in 2005.
- A total of 120 acres, 102 acres under cultivation, 3 acres uncultivated, 15 acres used by buildings, roads, and other infrastructure.
- Farmed in 36 separate blocks with an average size of 2.84 acres.
- Varieties farmed include Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cunoise, Grenache, Merlot, Mourvédre, Nebbiolo, Petit Verdot, Pinot Gris, Roussanne, Sangiovese, Syrah, and Viognier.
- Row orientation, plant spacing, training methods, and irrigation plans are unique for each block.
- All cultivation is mechanical. No herbicides are used.
- An extensive system of monitors is used to determine the water status of the soil as well as to monitor weather.
- All grapes are harvested by hand to ensure gentle handling of the fruit.