Wine Tour: Six Sigma Ranch Making great wine is a an art and a science. At Six Sigma Ranch a statistician owner has calculated a winning formula for delicious handcrafted wine. BY TOURING & TASTING
Photo courtesy of Six Sigma Ranch
Wine at Six Sigma Ranch ages in their barrel room.
“ Six Sigma principles do not replace the creativity and art of winemaking. Instead, they provide a framework for measuring how close we are to our intended vision for each wine.”
At Six Sigma Ranch in Lower Lake, California, art is science—and perfecting the art of wine begins in the vineyards. Owner Kaj Ahlmann, a practiced mathematical statistician, applies the Six Sigma philosophy to the old-world art of winemaking in order to handcraft each bottle of wine to be as good as the next.
The management practice of Six Sigma focuses on the pursuit of perfection. However, one must not be fooled into thinking that quality is all about control. Out of the 4,300 acres that make up Six Sigma Ranch, just 50 acres have been planted to grapes. By selecting only the very best sites, Six Sigma produces grapes that express the unique character of the ranch.
Strikingly picturesque, the balance of the acreage is dedicated as a nature preserve through a conservation easement donated to the Golden State Land Conservancy. When the Ahlmann family acquired the ranch in 2000, one of their top priorities was to create a sustainable ranch with vineyards nestled into nature. "Our love of nature is our driving force," says Kaj. "We integrate the vineyards with native vegetation, making the grapevines a part of the natural landscape."
This same attention to detail is carried through the entire winemaking process. "Six Sigma principles do not replace the creativity and art of winemaking. Instead, they provide a framework for measuring how close we are to our intended vision for each wine," says Winemaker Matt Hughes. Matt joined Six Sigma Ranch as its first full-time winemaker in 2009 after spending 10 years in the industry perfecting his craft.
The Six Sigma Pinzgauer all-utility vehicle gives visitors a breathtaking high-altitude tour of a small portion of the ranch. The rugged ascent culminates at the Diamond Mine Vineyard, where Lake County diamonds glitter in the volcanic soil, not far from the spot Kaj’s beloved, rare Tempranillo gets its start.
At Six Sigma Ranch, meticulous attention to science and tradition produces wines always worth enjoying.
WHAT TO BUY '08 Tempranillo - $42
Sweet black cherries, mission figs, blueberries, spice
'07 Cabernet Sauvignon - $42
Black currant, dark roasted coffee, bittersweet chocolate, licorice