The operative word, “Emergence,” is noted here, because Suisun Valley is coming out of its Sleepy Hollow, as wine brands are being born.
With neighboring Napa as its southeastern-most quadrant, Suisun Valley has been very little more than a grape growing region for as long as California’s viticulture history has been recorded. Yes, wine grapes have been grown there, and, yes, Wooden Valley Winery dates back to 1944, with Ledgewood Creek Winery coming along in 1985. Beyond that “winery history,” everyone growing wine grapes in Suisun Valley has been doing it to sell a commodity item, with little thought of packaging a brand to showcase his or her stellar own product. That is, until recently.
You also know you’ve got a story going when Wine Business Monthly publishes its “Top Stories for 2007,” and the Suisun Valley Cooperative Tasting Room is listed. This listing tells me (and everyone in Suisun Valley) that they’re finally emerging as a somewhat known region, with 25 years as an AVA (American Viticultural Area) finally under their belt.
So… Koch Wines… the Serendipitous Happenstance…
Koch Wine proprietors Maurry and Gloria Koch came into the wine business in a way that Maurry refers to as an adventure and lots of luck. Like many before them, they had both carved out their own successful careers in completely different industries; Maurry through his family owned and operated luggage, US Air Force fighter jet hardware, and furniture companies, and Gloria as a real estate broker.
The turning point for the couple came when a house and 20 acres in Suisun Valley became available. That “potential investment for resale” segued into their “slice of heaven.”
Once purchased in 1999, they went about improving the ranch. It began with the land, which took a few years of hard work, because at the time of purchase it had fallen into disrepair. Maurry is a perfectionist, so that had to be his first project; i.e., starting on the outside, and working his way inward.
As Maurry and Gloria looked around the land wanting to create landscaping, they knew that it would be costly to landscape that much property. With the usual trees, shrubs, and flowers, there would be no financial return on that benefit.
The soil was tested, and they were told that the combination of the soil contents and with all rocks and good drainage, it was perfect for growing two things; olive trees and grapes. So, landscaping for them became planting the latter; not for the fruit that it would produce, but for the ambiance. Only when the vines produced great quality of grapes did the opportunity present its self to produce a unique, high-end Cabernet.
One must remember that this was never seen as a long-term project; it just became that as it went along, based on all the time it took to attend to each detail. Maurry’s the first to admit that when it came time to plant vines, decisions were made based on the fact that this would be an immaculate landscaping project and on what would make him the happiest, versus what would be the best vineyard assessments. Maurry’s passion is for great Cabernet Sauvignon, so that was his variety choice. Only now does he realize that this was a serendipitous happenstance. This vineyard placement in Suisun Valley has cool mornings with warm mid afternoon winds from the southwest (Suisun Valley Bay), and then cool evenings.
Because Maurry makes quality over quantity choices, he purchased superior root stock. Next, vineyard rows were planted nine feet apart, with six feet between each vine in the rows. Trellising his vines had Maurry making very unusual decisions; at least as far as the vineyard development business goes. He wanted the vine wires to be supported with caped white metal posts, so the end posts would not become rusty. Maurry says, “The white posts don’t add to the quality, but they just create respect for the vines.”
His vineyard cosmetics surprised everyone, all the while making perfect sense to Maurry. It also made good enough sense, as time would soon prove, to the Kendall-Jackson vineyard team. This pristine creation with its climate and soil combination instantly sold Koch’s grapes with a five-year binding contract to K-J, long before fruit was even growing on their vines. Koch’s vineyards were also very fortunate to tie into the Solano Irrigation District’s water supply, as a stream bed passes right through the Koch property. The combination of close attention to every-single-detail, plus his terroir location against the Vaca Mountain Range, and great irrigation opportunities, combined into what is a continuing success story.
After the vineyards were developed, house remodeling became the next project. As they used the house for weekend enjoyment, it was Christmas 2003 that saw them arrive for the weekend, never to leave again. “We just never packed our bags to go home, because this had become home without us even realizing it, until that fateful holiday,” admits Gloria.
Today, the Kochs are only selling their grapes to Suisun Valley companies. In 2006 the decision was made to also produce their own brand, starting with the 2004 Koch Cabernet Sauvignon.
The acceptance of their grapes and wine has been a story in itself. Some say it’s the soil and rock formations, and some say it’s the protection by being nestled in the hills, and still others say it’s the wind and weather. Maurice thinks it is a combination of all three.