March, 2016 Edition

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Rockstar Winemaker - Mark Adams

Winemaker Mark Adams returned to Paso Robles and started Ledge Vineyards.

There is an ease and focus to Mark Adams as he talks about
Ledge Vineyards while standing outside of his childhood
home off of Vineyard Drive.
The same can be said of the wines that are being put out by
the Templeton High School graduate under the Ledge label and
garnering high marks and critical acclaim. His 2012 Adams Ranch
Syrah received 93 points from Decanter and was No. 6 on its Top 10
Californian Syrah list. The same wine received 92-94 points from
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate – “This is an up-and-coming estate
that needs to be on everyone’s radar!”
All five of the Ledge wines reviewed by the Wine Advocate
received scores of 92-94.
“We have been blessed with reviewers who really love the wines,
which is nice because they are only going to get better with maturity
of the vines and also of the site as I become a better farmer, and a
better winemaker and figure out how to blend all of the fruit that
comes off the place,” Adams said.
A little more than a decade ago, Adams returned to his old
stomping grounds with his wife Ciera in tow and moved into his
parent’s adobe-style home that sits at the back of the property on
the westside of Vineyard Drive. His parents live in a new home on
what has become the Adams Family Ranch and enjoy being able to
watch their youngest son raise his growing family.
Adams left behind a high-paying gig in Southern California as a
sound effects editor at Sony to be with family and friends, many of
who were still in the area working in the wine industry.
“I’m just thrilled to be farming the ranch and have my mom and
dad here,” Adams said. “My daughter just runs around here all of
the time. Her cousins are out here. It just reminds me of when my
brother and I were young. I’ve always been writing songs about this
place my whole life. It’s just always been home.”
The working part of Ledge Vineyards sits below the two houses
on a unique plateau of sandstone. The east-facing vineyard, planted
to mostly Syrah with a sprinkling of Mourvedre and Grenache,
covers roughly 8 acres of the 40-acre farm in the Willow Creek
District of the Paso Robles AVA.
“It’s a neat little pocket,” Adams said. “We like that it is different.
It makes the wines taste a little different, gives a little bit of
personality.”
With little to no budget and the help of friends

Ledge Vineyards is in the Willow Creek District of the Paso Robles AVA. Winemaker Mark Adams is a Templeton High School graduate.

and family, five
acres of Syrah was planted in 2005. Adams said they “just slammed
everything into the ground and prayed for rain. We really needed
it to rain.”
Fortunately, the rain came, the vineyard took hold and produced
its first vintage in 2009. It continues to be head-trained and much
of it is own-rooted because as Adams explains, “we just didn’t have
a budget so we just did what we could to get by.”
If not for the consistent prodding of childhood friend Justin
Smith, who is the well-respected winemaker of Saxum in Paso
Robles, Adams Ranch could have been a walnut orchard. Adams started in the wine industry working part-time with Justin at Saxum
and on its famous James Berry Vineyard, which is visible on the
opposite side of Vineyard Drive from the Adams Ranch.
“Justin encouraged me to plant grapes,” Adams said chuckling at
what could have been. “At first I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to be
the follower you know.”
Adams is still at Saxum and grateful for the opportunity to work
with one of Paso’s legendary winemakers.
“He is the greatest, a great friend and a great teacher, I could not
ask for a better situation,” Mark said.
Each year, a little more is planted under vine but Mark is content
to take it slow.
“Sustainable. The idea is not to slam the whole property into
grapes right away,” Mark said. “It’s the family ranch. We are going
slowly, just an acre or two a year of new planting. Slow and steady
for sure.”
Adams uses some of the Syrah from the James Berry Vineyard to
produce 70 cases under the Ledge label. The current release of 2013
wines consists of a James Berry Vineyard Syrah, an Adams Ranch
Vineyard Syrah, a Dante Dusi Ranch Zinfandel, a Vineyard Drive
Red Blend of Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache,and a G2 Grenache
Blanc. In all, Ledge produces less than 1,000 cases that are heavily
allocated to the wine club.
Adams describes his approach to winemaking as minimalistic.
“Very hands-off. Feel based. I tend to ferment everything wild. A
lot of whole cluster,” he said. “I’m trying to be a good steward of
the land and have a sustainable winery. I’m not looking to make 100
point wines and be on the cover the hottest magazines everywhere.
I just am happy and content to be working a beautiful ranch in the
heart of an amazing scene.”

Ledge Vineyards does not have a tasting room; tastings are by
appointment only. For more information,
visit ledgevineyards.com.