The Story of Pillow Road
Pillow Road Vineyard
Pillow Road is located in Sebastopol's historic Gold Ridge District, an area first regarded for renowned botanist Luther Burbank's successes in growing more than 800 varieties of fruits, flowers and vegetables. Our vineyard today pays homage to an era when the Russian River Valley was filled with flourishing apple orchards, endless country roads and small family farms, genteel country refinement and time-honored traditions.

Proprietors Pat and Anne Stotesbery, creators of Ladera Vineyards in Napa Valley, soon became interested in the finesse of California Pinot Noir. In March of 2006, after scouting multiple vineyard sites, Pat and Anne visited the Pillow Road location, a small Pinot Noir vineyard lined with old Gravenstein apple orchards. Immediately taken back to their roots, Pat and Anne knew that the area would perfectly complement their family farming traditions and trusted that the Pillow Road story would be a true tribute to one of California's most celebrated agricultural areas.

The Pillow Road Vineyard is located just west of the town of Sebastopol on the southern edge of the Russian River Valley. It consists of 11 acres of which 9 acres are planted to vines; 7 acres to Pinot Noir and 2 acres to Chardonnay. For premium fruit, and to reflect the true finesse of California Pinot Noir, the vineyards include clones 4, 777, Swan and Calera.

Situated only 15 miles from the coast, the Russian River Valley's calm foggy mornings, clear afternoons and cool breezy nights provide an idyllic climate for growing Pinot Noir. Pillow Road's vineyards are nourished by the rich Gold Ridge sandy loam soils. The sand allows the soils to drain quickly during a wet spring, while the loam holds on to a marginal amount of water to self-irrigate the vines throughout the growing season, without either over-invigorating or stressing the vines.
Our Wine
After years of tackling Napa Valley's rugged mountain fruit, Proprietors Pat and Anne Stotesbery, who are also the creators of Ladera Vineyards on Howell Mountain in Napa Valley, soon became interested in the finesse of California Pinot Noir.

In March of 2006, after scouting multiple vineyard sites, Pat and Anne visited the Pillow Rd location, a small Pinot Noir vineyard lined with old Gravenstein apple orchards. Immediately taken back to their roots, Pat and Anne knew that the area would perfectly complement their family farming traditions and trust that the Pillow Road story is a true tribute to one of California's most celebrated agricultural areas.
Lone Canyon
Look northeast from the town of St Helena, and you’ll see the west facing slopes of Howell Mountain rising high above the Napa Valley floor along the eastern side of the Silverado Trail. Howell Mountain vineyard sits across the broad summit of a ridge of that mountain, and in spite of altitudes ranging from 1,600 to 1,800 feet, the terrain is rolling and gentle.

It’s a scene that looks remarkably peaceful for a mountain with a volcanic past. The volcanic soils are evident, however, in the deep red color of the soil that is part of the magic of Howell Mountain. The valley fog doesn’t reach these elevations, but in spite of full days of sunlight, high temperatures at this altitude are cooler than those at the valley floor. While fruit development lags behind the valley floor in the early part of the year, we catch up in ripeness later in the year when we are bathed in sunlight and the valley floor is still covered in Pacific fog. 

In 1982 Howell Mountain was officially designated as California’s first sub-appellation within Napa Valley. By that time, it had been recognized as a unique site for prized and prestigious vineyards for over a century.
Howell Mountain
The thirty-inch-thick stone walls of the Brun & Chaix Winery were built under the direction of Italian stonemason Frank Giugni by Chinese workers who had originally been brought to California to cut the right-of-way for the railways through the solid granite of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The stone used in the winery came from a quarry near Angwin Creek on Howell Mountain.

Since each floor had its own ground level entrance, grapes could be brought by wagon to the top level for crushing, allowed to flow by gravity to the middle level for fermenting, then to the bottom floor for barrel storage. They saved not only the costs of pumps, they saved their wine from the damage pumping can cause. When crushed fruit is pumped, grapes and stems can be broken and undesirable tannins released into the juice and resulting wine. After fermentation, gravity-flow introduces less air and is more effective at separating the solids from the clear wine.

When we bought the property in 2000, we were determined to preserve not only the craftsmanship of the stonemasons, but the intention of the winemakers. The old stone winery, though listed in the official book Ghost Wineries of the Napa Valley, is no ghost. It is one of very few such structures that not only has been restored, but returned to its former glory as a gravity flow winery.

We have built new technologies into the winery renovation as well. The size and configuration of the tanks is also very diverse— from small open-top fermentors, using a punch down device, to medium size closed-top tanks, which utilize traditional pumpovers.

All our wines are aged for about 2 years in French oak barrels tucked safely in our underground caves, where they are racked by gravity as often as taste determines. Our renovation includes almost 18,000 square feet of caves dug into the rock, connecting to two portals (one built in 1886) on the bottom floor of the winery.

Tours of our historic winery are available by appointment.