Bob Dykhouse will tell you he has “dirt in his veins,” having grown up on a small farm, but when he purchased his De Luz property, he had no intention of starting a vineyard—let alone one that would provide grapes to some of the most discerning winemakers in San Diego.
He bought Peaceful Oaks Ranch in 2003 after a seven-year search for the perfect property. The 350-acre ranch previously known as “The Old Bleaker Place” had been neglected for many years and nature had taken its toll, but Dykhouse saw the potential and was ready to take on a new challenge after spending most of his life in the engineering and tech industries.
The property required a lot of clean-up and remodeling work, and then Dykhouse began his foray into farming. He started by growing his own all-natural feed and raised a small herd of cattle for beef, but soon realized that the cowboy life was not for him. He then put in some time researching the history of agriculture in the area and discovered that the neighboring ranch had successfully raised 125 acres of Muscat grapes in the early 1800s. Given that his own property had sandy loam soil with excellent drainage, as well as an abundant aquifer providing exceptional water, Dykhouse decided to try his own hand at growing grapes.
Having decided to concentrate exclusively on growing red wine grapes, he planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Zinfandel grapes on 8.5 acres of his property. He jumped in with both feet and learned everything he could about growing grapes using the latest technology and best practices to produce top-quality, artisan grapes. He is intimately involved in every aspect of the growing process and pays attention to the details, or as Dykhouse likes to say, his grapes are “farmed with love and hands-on care.”
“The grapes are an extension of my passion for doing things the best that can be done,” says Dykhouse, “I engage several consultants to give me guidance. Each brings a measure of experience that I may not have. I have learned that if you ask three ‘experts’ the same question, you will get at least four different answers. I use what fits my vineyards and practice.”
I also treat winemakers as my partners. I like them to walk the vineyards during the growing season to see how the vines develop and are lovingly cared for, as well as share their experiences in the vineyard. As harvest approaches, I prefer having the winemaker tasting the fruit to decide when to pick. I have instruments to measure physical characteristics such as sugar content and acid, but I cannot measure flavor. In an ideal relationship, the winemaker walks the vineyard, sampling grapes to get just the right flavor before picking.”
When asked if he is a wine connoisseur himself, Dykhouse replies, “I wouldn’t consider myself a connoisseur, but I do like good wine. I have learned that when you find a wine you like, you should get to know the winemaker. If he or she moves on to another winery, you can expect the taste to go along.”
Dykhouse is now in his 12th year growing grapes for San Diego wineries. Winemakers appreciate his attention to detail, the artisanal quality of his grapes, and his use of the latest scientific practices in grape growing. His grapes have been used in multiple award-winning wines, including those by Fallbrook Winery, Blue Door Winery, Toasted Oak Winery, Sblendorio Winery, and others. He is a member of the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) and the San Diego County Farm Bureau.
To contact Bob Dykhouse about purchasing his grapes, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.