Mark Adams, Owner and Winemaker
Mark Adams is a Templeton native, raised on the estate where he is now growing Rhone varietals. A childhood friend of Justin Smith, Mark began his career among the vines at James Berry Vineyard and in the cellar at Saxum. During his college years, Mark would take back to school cases of hand-bottled shiners: the first James Berry Vineyard Rhone blends called – “Barn Red” and “Farm Red”, giving him a glimpse of what was to come, not only at Saxum and James Berry Vineyard but at the Ledge Estate, the Adams Ranch Vineyard.
Origins of Ledge Estate
In 2003 Mark returned to the ranch and soon after planted the first block of what would become the Ledge Estate, a flat, 40 acre property at 1230’ elevation on the west side of the Willow Creek District, composed of sandy loam, rolled sandstones and clay. He collected thousands of Estrella Syrah cuttings from the Bone Rock terraces at James Berry Vineyard and with the help of several college friends, planted 4 acres in the spring of 2005. Included in these cuttings were a small amount of Alban clone Grenache and Mourvedre. Most significantly, he began to work as Justin’s assistant at Saxum and James Berry Vineyard, learning the ways of the vineyard and of the winery.
Ledge had their first estate harvest in 2009, the Adams Ranch Vineyard Syrah (92 pts Tanzer), which is field-blended with a small amount of Grenache and Mourvedre. In 2010 the first full block of Grenache was planted, and the wines began to take on a personality of their own, influenced not so much by winemaking style, but by terroir. The wines are a bit lower in alcohol and have a trademark freshness and complexity due to the sandy soils and neutral oak aging. Always exposed to experimentation at Saxum, Mark began playing with whole cluster inclusion, wild yeast fermentation and neutral oak aging. By the time the 2010 and 2011 vintages were in bottle, Ledge wines had carved out a reputation for being uniquely elegant and some would say old-world in nature.
The vineyard is continuing to expand with field blends and massale propagation in mind. The Ledge Estate currently has 15 acres under vine (largely own-rooted) with three different clones of Syrah (Estrella, 747 and 7), Alban clone Grenache and Spanish Garnacha (814), French Mourvedre, Spanish Montastrell and Roussanne 468.
With over 10 acres still plantable, Ledge has a flexible plan to expand with the varietals allowed in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, beginning with the inclusion of Cinsaut, Counoise, Muscardin, Vacarese and Terret Noir. These will likely be followed with a small program for white wines made from Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Clairette and Picpoul. Some of the Roussanne will also be co-fermented with Syrah.
Mark continues to assist Justin Smith at Saxum and lives on the Adams Ranch with his wife Ciera and Daughter Elizabeth in the very home he grew up in. His parents are also on the property, just a jog away, over looking the young vineyards.
Ledge sources fruit from several premium west side wineries including James Berry Vineyard, G2 Vineyard, Dante Dusi Vineyard and the Rolph Family Vineyard.