Located just 20 miles from the Monterey Bay, Eden Rift is the oldest continually producing vineyard in California. Planted in 1849 by Theophile Vache, the 120-acre estate rests on the San Andreas Faultline and is part of the Cienega Valley AVA. The winery is located just two miles from famed Pinot Noir producer, Calera whose founder Josh Jensen sought out the limestone and dolomite-rich soils. Before Josh, early vintners procured some of the first Pinot Noir planting in California at Eden Rift beginning in 1860. Post prohibition, the focus on Pinot Noir & Chardonnay was lost until Christian Pillsbury acquired the estate in 2016. Christian assembled a team of young industry professionals starting with winemaker Cory Waller to once again create some of California’s most vivid energetic Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The extreme terraces and diverse terroir in a single contiguous valley make California’s oldest estate vineyard it's most exciting new project.
A native son of San Francisco, Christian grew enamored of early California history as a young man. More precisely, he became captivated by the early wines of California, for they struck him as living archives; liquid time- capsules, that harkened back to a more rugged, adventurous time in the Golden State’s history. His first apartment in San Francisco consisted of a simple coffee table, a chair, a bed and cases of wine, many of which he acquired at the wine store where he worked, stocking shelves. His paychecks at the time were spent almost entirely on feeding his then-nascent fascination with wine.
Ambitious and inquisitive, he became a serious student of the world’s benchmark wines after meeting the inimitable Martine Saunier of Martine Wines. Representing such iconic brands as Rayas and Leroy, Martine became Christian’s mentor and profoundly shaped his relationship to the enological world and his place within it. More recently, he played an integral role in Coravin, the maker of a sophisticated wine preservation tool, where he helped establish the brand across Asia.
After visiting the Cienega Valley, Christian became aware of the land upon which Eden Rift stands today. Intrigued by its vibrant history and the calcareous, granitic, limestone and mineral-rich soils throughout, his intuition compelled him to believe that Burgundian varieties would and should again thrive in this isolated, wind-swept mountain canyon.
Raised in the town of Hollister--- just a few miles as the crow flies from Eden Rift---Cory grew up exploring the forests, canyons and river beds of the Cienega Valley. To this day, he knows the back roads of this remote appellation like few others. He counts local farmers, ranchers and fisherman in nearby Monterey Bay among his cadre of friends and colleagues. To describe him as non-interventionist winemaker would be an overstatement, for Cory possesses a strong point-of-view. While vine health is crucial, Cory favors the fruit of vines that struggle profoundly to produce smaller, yet clearly delineated yields. In the cellar, neutral vessels, native yeasts and varying degrees of stem inclusion, play a strong role in a wine’s elévage, as he prefers to transmit the voice of a site, over a heavily stylized approach. His mentors in wine include Tony Soter, Josh Bergstrom and Jim Prosser, of Oregon. He performed stages at New Zealand’s Neudorf and Martinborough Vineyards, and was Assistant Winemaker at the neighboring, iconic estate, Calera.
There are two reasons for a winery to identify vineyard designate wines, as Eden Rift Vineyard has now done five times. Both reasons are in response to opportunity, but the opportunities are different. The first reason to have a program like this is in response to marketing department reports and focus groups, the second is in honor of the relentless call of the vineyard. As you can hear from the way I frame the choice, our story is certainly the latter.. Continue »
It's a funny thing, this winery business. Four years ago, when we took leave of our good senses and better judgement, we started down the path of creating what would become Eden Rift Vineyards. An old, incredibly beautiful, heavily tarnished estate in which we invested our dreams, sleepless nights, ambitions, future, and an avalanche of cash... Continue »
When you look at the way history is treated in the world, it’s often treated as something in the past, but history is not past us; the creation of history is in progress all around us. The present is a momentary fulcrum where potential events are confirmed and plans become memories. It doesn’t slow or wait while you try to catch up. The wine business feels this march especially acutely, as vintages come, and come, indifferent to whether or not you’ve successfully recruited interns... Continue »