French Terroir In Your Backyard

Cote Rotie

Introducing the Côte of Fair Play.

Fair Play isn’t really a valley—it’s a Côte or Coteau (the hillside or the “foothillside”). Our Côte shares various similarities with the Côte-Rôtie appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) in France.

Like the Côte-Rôtie, Fair Play features granitic and slate soils, steep slopes and extreme temperatures, making it ideal for growing Rhone varietals. Almost all of the vines of the Côte-Rôtie are planted on metamorphic rocks, where the pressure and temperature combine to create three different terroirs—mica schists in the north, Gneiss to the south, and migmatite at the south-eastern tip.

Similarly, the unique terroir of Fair Play features an array of microclimates due to the varying elevations and extreme temperatures of our region. On the hilltop, the soil is too thin for wine grape production, while the plains at the bottom of our Côte feature soil that is too fertile to produce wine of any quality (though it is good for growing tomatoes).  Instead, it’s where the slopes are pronounced that the Grand Cru grows.

The finest Grand Cru grows with the best sun exposure and drainage.  The yields are limited by law; the French believe quality has everything to do with quantity.  Yields for the Premier Cru are a maximum of 40 hectoliters per hectare, about 2.3 tons per acre.  The Grand Cru is even more restricted at 35 hectoliters per hectare, about 2 tons per acre.  Most Grand Cru spend 18-24 months in French Oak, a process that we perpetuate in our wineries.  At Charles B. Mitchell Vineyards and Winery by the Creek, all of the grapes are grown with excellent sun exposure, mostly facing south-southwest and in well-drained granitic soil.  Traditionally, we trellis and prune for about 2 tons per acre to better control yields and quality.

Fair Play winemakers have taken advantage of the region’s unique terroir and similarities to the Côte-Rôtie to produce perfectly balanced and robust Rhone wines. It no surprise that one of Charles B. Mitchell Vineyards’ most highly rated wines is a Syrah, the most prominent varietal of the Côte-Rôtie. With each high quality vintage, the Sierra Foothills continues to cement itself as the Rhone capital of California and the Cotê of Fair Play, its gate.

Welcome to the Côte of Fair Play.