Overlooking the Cachagua region of Carmel Valley, (“Cachagua” is believed to be an Indian derivative of the French “cacher” and the Spanish “agua” – “hidden waters”), and framed by the dramatic surrounding hills, lie the beautiful vineyards of Massa Estate, formerly Heller Estate and Durney Vineyards. The vineyards are planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir, Petite Sirah, Malbec and Petit Verdot at an altitude of 1200 – 1500 feet.
The vineyards are essentially dry-farmed. The roots of the vines descend deep in the loamy, sandy soil in search of the underground “Cachagua” springs. These stressed vines produce outstanding luscious fruit, which are then skillfully crafted into the extraordinary wines. The Cabernets have been described by wine reviewers as “super-rich, with lots of tannin and explosively long finishes”. In addition, the great variation in daily temperatures at the vineyard (which are sometimes 40 degrees in a twenty four hour period) helps to produce these exceptional age-worthy and full-bodied wines.
The vineyards have been certified 100% organic since 1980s. Neither herbicides nor pesticides are used in the production of the grapes. This certification was granted after three vintages of clean farming although organic practices have been in place since the original plantings by the Durney’s in 1968. The winery itself was certified organic in 2012.
In 1982 the Carmel Valley Appellation was approved by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol and Tobacco. Heller Estate was a pioneer in developing the viticulture in the area.
Sculpture gardens have been added to the vineyard property and at the tasting room in Carmel Valley Village. The sculptures were created by Toby Heller; an internationally known sculptor of large works. Her piece “The Dancers”, a fifteen-foot high, bronze sculpture overlooking the vineyards, inspired the Heller Estate motto “Dances on Your Palate” as well as the design for the labels.