It’s a two-man show at Indian Peak Vineyard in Manton, Calif. Well, to be honest and exact, it’s a one-man and one-woman show in the form of Fred and Donna Boots, who own and operate the boutique grape growing and winemaking operation at the foothills of the beautiful northern Sierra Nevada Cascades, home to the Lassen Volcanic National Forest.
Looking east from the Boots’ property, visitors see the majestic Lassen Peak, then turn around and enjoy a view that encompasses the breadth of the Upper Sacramento Valley and west to the Trinity Mountain Range.
It’s hard to beat such an experience; however, Fred explains, “Do it with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon in your hand and it gets even better.”
When the couple bought the property on Forward Road in 1999, it was rocky, brush-covered ground. Right away, Fred began the arduous task of clearing six acres of the 10-acre property in preparation of planting a vineyard.
“Having a vineyard was something I always wanted to do,” said the self-taught winemaker. “I really never thought I’d be able to do it, but we thought, ‘What the heck,’ and decided to take the chance.”
The couple quit their jobs, Donna working for the Tehama County Conservator and Public Guardians Office and Fred a long career in construction.
“It was such hard work. It began when I was 54 years old and I could pretty much do all the work myself,” Fred said. “I planted it all myself. When I hit 60, I needed a bit of help. When I hit 65, I needed a lot of help, and now that I’m 71, I find I can do very little myself.”
However, his heart is still in it as he lives a dream come true.
With Fred getting his hands dirty, Donna has been busy running the clerical end of things.
“I do all the bookkeeping, keeping up on rules, regulations and compliance, ordering supplies and paying the bills,” she said.
By 2004, the couple built Indian Peak’s winery building and were living on the property by 2005, moving from their home in Cottonwood.
According to Fred, there are two things that brought them to the Manton area when they decided to open a vineyard.
“First is the temperatures; it can be 105 degrees [F] during the day in August and at night down to 55 degrees [F],” he said. “I like the Bordeaux varieties, and you really need big temperature swings to develop the flavors in the Bordeaux varietals.”
As Fred talks about the origins of the Bordeaux varieties of grapes in France, his love the of winemaking is palatable, right along with its hard work, sacrifices, stresses and sobering realities.
“I planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot first on the six planted acres,” he says. “70% is in Cabernet, with a little of each of Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and to really mix things up a bit, I threw in some Cabernet Blanc to produce a white wine.”
Indian Peak’s grapevines thrive on the rich volcanic soils in the region.
The vineyard’s tasting room is homey and welcoming in its simplicity.
Fred says they don’t need anything fancy as the wine sells itself.
“We have had so many truly loyal customers over the years,” Donna said. “Many who have become some of our closest friends. Along with that, we have been host to people from all around the world.”
To share that point, the tasting room is home to a world map littered with dots representing people who have visited Indian Peak from across the globe.
“No two guests are the same, and we really try to make everyone feel like this is right where they need to be,” Donna added.
To keep things simple and provide the couple with the time it takes to successfully operate a vineyard and winery, the Boots live in a fifth-wheel travel trailer adjacent to the building housing the tasting room and winery.
“That provides a lot of convenience,” Fred says.
There was a time when Indian Peak had another partner in the mix, the Boots’ daughter, Christie, and her husband, Trevor, who successfully ran the marketing side of the operation.
However, when Christie passed away, life in the vineyard became a bit difficult on many levels.
Down but not out, the couple laced up their boots and kept going, serving their lovingly created wines, holding special tasting events, annual stomping of the grapes, annual blessing of the grapes and much more.
When visiting Indian Peak, guests are first welcomed by a tall, wooden statue of an Indian warrior at the entrance to the 2,400-square-foot tasting room winery.
The building contains the tasting room, offices, lab room, bottling room, bathroom and storage for tanks, barrels and wine.
In Manton there are “Red, red, red volcanic soils abound.…,” thanks to volcanic Mt. Lassen, which has helped to provide 28 different soils. These are mostly characterized by gravelly loam and sandy loam found throughout the region, and the soils in general are well draining.
The top Tuscan formation created a significant aquifer within the Battle Creek watershed providing ample annual water.
Indian Peaks Vineyard has dedicated water rights from the state of California, allotted 1.3 decreed miners inches of water, equal to approximately 11 gallons per minutes (GPM). The source of the water is springs and snow melt from Mt. Lassen to the east. The water is delivered from the mountain by the Crooker-Harrison Water Ditch, which serves several neighboring properties, as well as the vineyard.
The water is then distributed throughout vineyard acreage through a drip irrigation system.
American Viticultural Area
The Manton region has been designated a Vineyard American Viticultural Area (AVA) since August 2014, designating it as a wine grape-growing region in the U.S. distinguishable by geographic features, with boundaries defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
The Federal government officially sanctions the effort to identify truly one-of-a-kind winegrowing districts through its system of “American Viticultural Areas” or “AVAs.”
When appearing on a label, these legal place names impart to the consumer important information and guarantees about the wine’s origin. By law, to use one of these official site designations, 85% of that bottle’s grapes must have been grown within the AVA’s boundaries.
Created in August 2014, the Manton Valley AVA consists of 9,800 acre and now Indian Peak Vineyard and Algian Vineyard.
Estate Bottled means the winery listed on the label owns or controls 100% of the grapes that went into the bottle, and the wine was crushed, fermented, finished, aged and bottled all in the same place, and that place must be located in the same viticultural area. Indian Peak falls under this category with Fred and Donna doing all the work to produce award-winning wines.
Other varietals, such as Zinfandel, Syrah and Chardonnay, are purchased by the Boots from other local vineyards in Tehama and Shasta counties.
Fred said all the wines are crushed, fermented, barrel aged and bottled on location at the winery, and he personally oversees and makes knowledgeable adjustments to the entire process.
He especially enjoys his “job” when he gets to pull the wine from the barrels to test it.
Indian Peak Vineyards has won gold, silver, and bronze medals in international competitions and at the state level for several of its wines.
Indian Peak offers free wine tasting hosted by the Boots where everyone is encouraged to bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the beauty of the surrounding Sierra Nevada.
The winery can accommodate groups of up to 30 people for special events.
Wine tasting is by the glass with a volume discount and an even larger discount for wine purchase by the case.
“I like to believe we quite possibly offer the best wine tasting available,” says Fred.
“You never know who you will meet next and how they may enlighten you or speak to your soul,” Fred said, “or just simply share a recipe sometimes in these casual conversations about winemaking, types of grapes and the benefits of growing grapes and producing wine, all with your very own hands and heart.”
Because the Boots’ are no longer spring chickens and the work of keeping up with the vineyard is difficult and never-ending, the couple has decided to call it a day and have placed Indian Peak on the market.
“Sometimes, the thought of leaving the place is really difficult, but after a hard day’s work, it doesn’t sound so bad,” Donna added. “Especially for Fred, this has been a dream come true and we wouldn’t have done it any other way. Some of our best memories are planted right here in this soil.”
Fred sits back and opens a bottle of one of his favorite Bordeauxs, pours it into a glass and offers a toast to Indian Peak Vineyard, a two-man, oops, a one-man and one-woman, never-too-old-to-take-the-chance success story.