Terragena Vineyard, located near Humboldt Redwoods State Park and about a 30 minute drive from Myers Flat or Miranda in Humboldt County, California, is a completely off-grid vineyard. The natural surroundings of the region lead to the name Terragena, which is a Latin word meaning “born of the earth.” The vineyard in essence captures founder, Chris Buchanan’s focus on environmental sustainability mixed in with a rugged-outdoor sense of adventure.
Chris was born in Memphis, Tennessee, a far cry from the bucolic hills and Redwood trees of Northern California. While studying Mathematical Economics at Tulane University, on a very different track, Chris made a trip to Italy and fell in love with a bottle of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. The seed was planted- a few years later- Chris would move into a tent, upgrade to a yurt and ultimately a house in the woods up in Humboldt County while simultaneously studying winemaking at UC Davis.
Due to the remote location, the vineyard would be entirely off the grid.
noted Chris. The off-grid power system has allowed Chris to use older traditional techniques to craft wines that are both elegant and graceful. Terragena’s ultimate goal is to mature as a business and minimize off farm inputs while reducing fossil fuel use to zero.
The wines that Chris crafts are very much a reflection of his surroundings. “I draw inspiration from wines I have enjoyed personally over the years as well as from the natural beauty that surrounds the winery,” said Chris. Terragena wines tend towards lower alcohol levels with a focus on aromatics as well as delicate and full mouthfeel. “I really enjoy experimentation within wine production. For example, my single barrel bottling, allows me and our members to explore specific clones and barrel treatments and how they affect the wine as it ages in bottles,” said Chris.
The Humboldt wine scene remains a largely unexplored viticultural region as there are numerous and diverse microclimates that create the ultimate Petri dish for those winemakers looking to experiment with a wide range of wine varietals. “We grow everything from Pinot Noir, to Merlot, to Nebbiolo depending on the specific vineyard site,” said Chris, “I am looking forward to the future of Humboldt wine as the industry matures and continues to grow with the independent spirit that makes Humboldt a unique and beautiful place.”
Vineyard partnerships have also been a major factor as Terragena sources grapes from additional vineyards in addition to their estate grown fruit. The partner vineyards are all under 20 acres (many are less than 5 acres) as well as being owned by family farms. “I have been fortunate to mostly work with very experienced and knowledgeable grape growers. We often end up sharing knowledge, growing techniques and ideas.”
Many of these partnerships have turned into friendships, which really is the embodiment of “Craft Wine” or small producers collaborating together to lift each other up. “I like to think of it as a philosophy, when someone buys a craft product they are directly supporting a person of passion and purpose. Those dollars provide the consumer with something unique, and the producer with the means to continue living a dream,” said Chris.
For 2020, Terragena will continue to focus on growing their direct to consumer relationships while maintaining its foundation of distribution via local retailers in the Humboldt area.
For Chris Buchanan, being a winemaker is not an easy path, but working with nature and off the grid agriculture is what makes life interesting. “Adventures aren’t easy, but nothing easy is ever as rewarding as something challenging,” said Chris, “ The success is never as sweet to the one who has not failed a 100 times.”
2017 Nebbiolo this beautiful light red- a bit of banana and apricot on the nose. Grapefruit and a little bit of vanilla round out this brightly acidic wine. Clocking in at 12.7%, this wine shows balanced tannins while showcasing the uniqueness of Humboldt County’s coastal influence on this Italian noble grape.
Sourced from Lost Coast’s Dragon Vineyard In Humboldt County this wine is known as the “finish line wine” as it is the last grape to get picked, typically around Halloween. Supply for this was wine was limited to 27 cases due to the fires near the vineyard.
2017 Abbasi Vineyard Pinot Noir- a medium cherry red color with strawberry and a touch of peach flavors really coming through on this wine. At 13.5% ABV, this wine shows a tremendous amount of balance between acidity and flavor. Sourced from the Abbasi family farm, this wine can be opened now or hold it for several years- it goes great with a beef burrito and all the fixings.
2017 Wiley Vineyard Pinot Noir an earthy light red with beautiful aromatics. You get a little bit of spice, with a touch of cinnamon as the terroir is really coming through on this food-friendly wine. At 12.8% ABV, this wine is a departure from some of your more full bodied North Coast California Pinot Noirs. Sourced from the famed Wiley Vineyard in the Deep End of Anderson Valley, the wine truly shows off the varietal’s diversity in expression. Drink it now or hold it back for up to five years.
2017 Father and Son Blend this field blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc has black cherry with subtle hints of vanilla that provide for a nice youthful wine while preserving the bright acidity. Sourced from the Holden-Mapley Vinyard in the Alexander Valley, this cool climate blend shows both aromatic complexity and delicate flavors.
The name of this wine is both a tribute to the family and that the winery will live on for generations as well as pays homage to the parent child relationship of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
2017 Chardonnay a nice lean wine with bright acid. Some nice floral aromatics on the nose in conjunction with apple and pear touching down on your palate. At 13.1%, this wine has more of a Burgundian feel to it. Sourced from the Abbasi Vineyard in the Carneros region of Sonoma County, you can drink this wine now or hold it back for the next 10 or more years.
2017 Riesling developed in a dry style has crisp and light textures to it. Planted in 1976 on a two acre block at Wiley Vineyard situated in Anderson Valley near Philo- these older vines produce a lower production yield result in a lovely sweet flavor very much seen in American Rieslings.