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Pandemic Effects – California and Oregon

Jose, Javier, Julio from Eyrie Vineyards

Jose, Javier, and Julio, long-term employees at Eyrie Vineyards in Willamette Valley

How West Coast wine producers are coping with coronavirus-induced shutdown. Rather admirably in some cases.

California and Oregon have both instituted statewide stay-at-home measures, though such recommendations are far less strict than what has been seen in much of Asia, Europe or New Zealand. Residents are urged to stay at home and only essential businesses are allowed to remain open.

As such closures began, bars and winery tasting rooms, then restaurants (allowing for take-out and some delivery) were among the first businesses to close. Agriculture (including wineries as well as vineyards) has been deemed essential business, meaning wines in barrel and vines getting ready for bud burst and bloom can still be tended. Restrictions on safe social distancing and cleanliness procedures have to be maintained while working.

In Oregon, businesses still operating are required to assign a Social Distance Officer who institutes safe distance procedures or face threat of closure. At The Carlton Winemakers Studio, a co-operative winery in Willamette Valley, for example, a strict schedule has been created dictating when winemakers or their team members are allowed to use the winery. This allows all members of the winery knowledge of who will be there while also restricting the number of people at any particular time.

While wineries and vineyards are still operating, without the most important portion of the US-based wine sales engine – restaurants and tasting rooms – operating, how wineries can afford to maintain operations is another question. Restaurants around the country have closed, with a huge majority of employees from those restaurants laid off. With restaurants largely closed, restaurant wine sales have plummeted, leaving wineries used to selling on-premise with much-reduced income. This has led to ….

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A Few Days in Central Otago

Last week I spent in Central Otago attending their annual Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration in order to speak on the first day of the event but most of all to visit dear friends and check in on current release wines. It’s a favorite region of mine that more than anywhere else feels like going home. While there, I posted photos along the way to Instagram. Here’s the collection.

 

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Feijoa Juice – oh yeah, that’s the stuff. #centralotago #newzealand @pinotcentral

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Mince pie. Super flaky crust, good texture, lots of flavor. Very good. #centralotago #newzealand @pinotcentral

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Most unbearably cute-cute ever on the planet. #centralotago #newzealand @aurumwineslucie @pinotcentral

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Steve Davies of Doctor’s Flat – somehow I have been lucky enough to taste every vintage of Doctor’s Flat Pinot ever made with a mix of vintage verticals and barrel tastings, revisiting again and again the evolution of Steve’s thinking and understanding of the site he farms and the way it responds to cellar choices. Wonderful afternoon to return again to see where Steve and his wines and the vineyard are now, tasting this time 2015 through 2019 (2016 is current release). The site sits on a high elevation terrace overlooking Bannockburn with a bit more wind exposure and a bit more mixed loam than the slopes below for which the region is often known. The 2019 wines feel like the best vintage of Doctor’s Flat he has made. So exciting to see the progression. #centralotago #newzealand #wine @pinotcentral

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Goats at The Last Chance – good morning to you from the family #centralotago #newzealand @twopaddocks @pinotcentral

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Gravely soils and organic farming at Felton Road – Central Otago has the highest proportion of organic and biodynamic farming in New Zealand. Its dry climate means greatly reduced disease pressure. Proper winter freeze helps reduce bug pressure as well. Though neither is absent here. The region has also been sorting soil retention and water retention through moderating how cultivation happens. No till in vine rows has become far more common as it helps prevent soil erosion but whether to till under vine rows varies site by site. By tilling under vine water competition is reduced and therefore the need to add water through irrigation is also reduced. However these are factors within a large complex of elements that change in demand and effect site to site and even block to block. Felton Road has helped lead on organic and biodynamic farming in the region and nationally. Here, a gravely section of Bannockburn in a sub-zone of Central Otago that has profoundly varied soils. #centralotago #newzealand #wine @feltonroad @pinotcentral

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Chickens at Peregrine in Bendigo – checking in on the girls at Peregrine estate in Bendigo. Peregrine keeps chickens in the vineyard to help with pest control as they scratch and eat bugs in the soils before they can become a problem for the vines. The birds’ eggs can then also be used for any fining of the wines keeping the process estate focused. After harvest until bud break sheep also hang out in the vines helping to break up the soil and chew back last year’s growth. Once the green-growth part of the growing season has started again the sheep rotate out to pasture land. In these ways organic viticulture can also build into a full farm model incorporating animals into not just the vineyard health but also even some of the cellar needs. #centralotago #newzealand #wine @peregrinewines @pinotcentral

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Peregrine wines – great tasting through current release Pinot and Central Otago Sauvignon Blanc with winemaker Nadine Cross. Sauvignon Blanc is such a different animal from Central Otago. There are only a few examples but they consistently offer bright acidity like a high watt lightbulb with a diffusing filter softening the edges – tons of luminosity. The flavors here are more mid-toned and mineral too. Nadine’s approach brings flesh to the wine to balance and house the brightness while avoiding ripeness or heaviness. Delicious range of Pinots from Bendigo and Pisa areas of Central with good respect for the fruit and plenty of presence. Always good to see Nadine. #centralotago #newzealand #wine @peregrinewines @pinotcentral

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Valli 2018 Waitaki Pinot Noir from North Otago – utterly ethereal, lifted, beautiful. #newzealand #wine @valliwine @pinotcentral

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Darling Thiefy. #centralotago #newzealand @valliwine @pinotcentral

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Schist in Central Otago – Central Otago is dominated by Schist with small pockets of Shale as well. There are differing forms of schist creating slightly different mineral compositions as they erode too. As Schist ages and erodes the parents materials become the soil of the area with varied architecture and texture depending on soil age and conditions and differing mineral compositions depending on the original parent material and how it has interacted with the weather and surrounding conditions over time. Looking at this Schist wall you can see iron pockets that have oxidized from exposure to air. You can also see pedogenic lime, or chalk, that has a similar effect on the vine as limestone but is formed on land rather than under water. As schist erodes it releases such chalk but in wet regions it is washed away by rain. The dryness of Central Otago means the pedogenic lime has a chance to accumulate in the soils forming chalk bands as seen here when you zoom in more closely. #centralotago #newzealand #wine @chardfarm @pinotcentral

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François Millet, Paul Pujol, Brian Allen tasting Pinots from François, Paul and Occidental from Steve Kistler and his daughter Cate in Sonoma – it is hard to explain what this tasting means to me. Over the last several years I have been lucky enough to spend extensive time with François in both Central Otago and Burgundy, with Paul in Central Otago as well as Oregon and Burgundy, and with Steve and his daughter in Sonoma. Meeting with producers I am listening not just for the facts of what they do but also for how they think about the process, what they imagine their relationship to it, what it means for them, and how all these things line up or not in their literal choices. Over time and multiple visits I kept hearing reverberations in the thinking and approach between these three winemakers from three different countries – France, New Zealand, California – and finally timidly went to each of them to talk through the others’ work and see if they would be willing to do tastings of each others’ wines with me. In July of 2019 Steve, Cate, and I tasted wine from François and Paul alongside Occidental wine there in Sonoma with Paul joining by phone. This week we were able to do the reverse bringing Occidental Pinot to Central Otago to taste wines from François and Paul alongside Occidental while I shared all I could on the details of the work and perspective brought by Steve and Cate. We tasted over several hours talking through the vintages, site details, cellar choices, and what we could see in the wines. It is an enormous honor for me to be trusted to represent peoples’ wines in this sort of way and means a lot to have others recognize the linkages I am witnessing and help make connections across the world between people with such otherwise unique perspectives. Enormous thanks to Steve, Cate, François, and Paul for doing this with me and to dear Brian for hosting. #centralotago #sonomawine #newzealand #californiawine #pinotnoir #wine @occidentalwines @catekistler @paulpujol @pinotcentral

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Boating into distance. #centralotago #newzealand Thanks, Nick, for the photo! @ripponjo @pinotcentral

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Taste the rainbow at Mt Difficulty #centralotago #newzealand #wine @mtdifficulty @pinotcentral

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Final pie in Central Otago. Steak. Very good. #centralotago #newzealand @mme_hammond @pinotcentral

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So very glad to see you, dear Alan. Life of legends. #centralotago #newzealand #wine @wild_irishman_wines @pinotcentral

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The very happiest sort of accident. So good to see you! Curly Girl and Lipstick Club unite! #newzealand @emmajenkinsmw 💕

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Petite Sirah Lightens Up

The reputation, and style, of the humble Durif has been evolving markedly in California.

Known for its brooding flavours and robust palate, Petite Sirah (as Durif is called in California) is sometimes described as the most decidedly California wine. Its wines easily fulfill the stereotype of a full-bodied wine with ripe fruit that is so often associated with California. Even so, it has never achieved the name familiarity of Zinfandel (with which Durif was most often planted in historic California), nor the status of Cabernet Sauvignon (with which Durif is today most often blended). Instead, its reputation in the state has commonly been that of a valued blending variety. Even so, a small but stalwart group of producers from around the state have experimented with and bottled the cultivar as a single-variety wine since its arrival from France in the late 1800s. And since the late 1990s, an avid while modestly sized marketing group, PS I Love You, has worked to promote the grape on its own.

Like any variety, Petite Sirah has been subject to the whims of global trends and the economic pressures they produce. As riper styles took hold in the early 2000s, for example, no other variety did it better or more clearly than Petite Sirah. It’s a style with which the variety is still most often associated.

While Petite Sirah is also grown in Australia (under its original name, Durif) and is seeing a resurgence of attention in Israel, nowhere is it more planted than in California. (Most of its acreage goes to blending. It serves a crucial role in the trend towards non-varietal red blends that has emerged from California in the last ten years.) That said, today Petite Sirah claims a modest 14,000 planted acres (5,665 ha) in the state, but the proportion of young vines on new sites to old vines in historic vineyards has been changing. (There were only just over 6,500 acres/2,630 ha in 2008.) Some of its most valued vineyards are rapidly being lost to the economic pressures of land prices and economic sustainability.

Even as big-bodied red blends have changed the US wine market, the wine world has seen a global shift towards lighter-bodied wines. In California, that shift has partially been inspired by ….

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Visits to Lodi over 2019

Soon after first moving to the North Coast, when I started working in wine, I was able to spend time in Lodi learning about the region. My first visit, local legend Randy Caporoso generously hosted me and drove me around for more than a week of 14-16 hour days. I returned again later that same year for 5 days in harvest. And have been able to continue to visit the region in the years since in pop-ins of a day or few days at a time. Studying Lodi has offered me the opportunity to better think through California history, its history of innovation, and the intricacies of the wine business in general. As a region it has been integral to the success and evolution of California wine, but as a region of growers it has at the same time garnered less attention than other regions, some of which also rely on its fruit. Reasons for this are varied, but regardless, I spent this year spending time with a range of people in Lodi listening to the history of their work, their families, and their knowledge of the region as a way to trace the lines of what is part of a behind-the-scenes legacy of California wine. People have been incredibly generous with their time and I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity. All together, it’s amounted to several weeks in Lodi over numerous visits beginning in May and going at different times until December. Following is a collection of Instagram posts I shared along the way in many of these visits to Lodi. As they are from across this year they include information from multiple seasons as well.

 

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Kirschenmann Vineyard, Lodi – the first time I visited Kirschenmann with Tegan Passalacqua was just after he had purchased the property. He was in the process of identifying varieties growing in the oldest blocks and was considering what might need replanting or grafting over. The oldest sections of the vineyard remain but in a younger vine block he has since established a mix of high acid whites, including the Chenin Blanc shown here. The oldest portions of Tegan’s Kirschenmann Vineyard were established in 1915 by the Kirschenmann family, who also owned and planted other nearby vineyards between 1909 and 1918 in the oxbow area of the Mokelumne River. The soils here are Lodi’s unique sandy loam over chalky calcareous rock. Vineyards in this area close to the Mokelumne River are also influenced by daily afternoon Delta breezes that create a cooler temperature effect than the simple ambient temperature alone implies. The Delta breezes are also regular and strong enough to cause the vine to slow respiration and thus retain acidity. At their strongest, the Delta breezes effectively reduce vigor as well as they have the ability to reduce canopy size and sometimes break canes from the vine. The effect on a well managed vineyard is greater concentration in the fruit with still lots of fresh acidity. #californiawine #lodi #mokelumneriver #wine @ownrooted @turleywine @lodi_wine

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Dogtown Vineyard, Clements Hills (Lodi) – old vine, only ever dry farmed, planted in 1944 primarily to Zinfandel. It‘s a dream of a vineyard, and one of the finest of its kind, one of the first I ever visited years ago where standing there amidst the vines I felt struck by something like quiet nobility. Here, in Clements Hills, the soils are a little more structured, a little more iron rich, pink sandy loam than the sandy loam around the Mokelumne River AVA. The wines are too, a little more structured, just a bit more gun metal. Turley began working with the vineyard in ln 1997. Tegan Passalacqua opened up that first vintage for us to drink a few years ago and it had aged absurdly well, far younger than its vintage would imply. #californiawine #lodi #clementshills @ownrooted @turleywine @lodi_wine

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Dogtown, Clements Hills (Lodi) – here in the Clements Hills AVA the soils have a little more structure – a simple balance of particles with binding power, sand with a bit of organic material with a bit of clay – than the finer sandy loam around the Mokelumne River. Small chunks of quartz can be found amidst the soil here as well, and overall the soil is just a little more pink compared to the more flat taupe of Mokelumne River. The slightly more pink color reflects the slightly higher iron content and the bit more structure its closer proximity to the Sierra Foothills, where the parent material originates. In the background, 1944-panted, head-trained Zinfandel. #californiawine #lodi #clementshills @ownrooted @turleywine @lodi_wine

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Forlorn Hope 2016 Gemischter Satz, Lodi – where is the largest collection of German varieties in North America, you ask? Oh, you know, in Lodi. Forlorn Hope’s Gemischter Satz includes most of that library, planted in sets of a few vines per variety, picked and cofermented into one delicious wine. Full of flavor, carried on a long, snappy spine of acidity. A spine so long it’s even got a tail (that’s the part that snaps, you know, more a whip-whip-whip of acidity snapping in the mouth). Inexplicable yellow, and powder white fruits, savory notes, and a ton of sapidity. A favorite, though admittedly for a bit of nostalgia as I remember when @mdrorick first came upon the German vine library, and also for a bit of admiration that @mokelumneglenvineyards took it upon themselves to build a vine collection like they did, but mainly because the wine is mouthwatering, energetic, and delicious. #californiawine #wine @forlornhopewines @lodi_wine

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Montezuma Hills, Solano County – the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta region spreads across a massive reach of inland California from the western side of the Central Valley all the way to where the two rivers intersect at Suisun Bay, which is essentially an eastern bulb set off of San Francisco Bay. At the eastern side of the Delta region stretches the enormous north-south running Central Valley of California, bordered by the massive wall of the Sierra Foothills on the eastern side and the Coastal Range on the western. The sheer size of the Central Valley means it dominates the inland portion of the state of California. But its size and high temperatures also mean it acts as a kind of breathing apparatus for the state. It is as if the Central Valley moves as the state’s diaphragm, pulling air in and out across the landscape, while the Delta region acts as its lungs filtering and processing that air. As inland temperatures in the Central Valley increase, hot air rises, creating a vacuum effect that pulls colder ocean air off the Pacific to fill its place. That cold air is pulled through the gap of the Golden Gate, across the San Pablo and Suisun Bays, then through the Delta region, high speed along the inland river systems all the way to the eastern wall of the Sierra Foothills. At night temperatures cool and air currents reverse, though at far slower speed. The result is that at night ocean fogs are pushed north from the Golden Gate into Napa and Sonoma counties, and in the afternoon ocean winds race across the Delta, and along the Mokelumne River in the Lodi area. While the inland parts of California are warmer than the more exposed coastal regions, areas like Suisun Valley, the Bridgehead portions of Contra Costa near Antioch and Oakley, and the parts of Lodi along the Mokelumne River remain cooler thanks to the wind guaranteed every afternoon. The Montezuma Hills of Solano County run through this Delta region that stretches up to the western side of Lodi. Here, those hills are covered in hundreds of 415 ft tall wind turbines that help power the state of California, a testament to the intensity of wind in the region. #californiawine #wine @lodi_wine

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Mohr-Fry Ranch, Mokelumne River (Lodi) – driving around Lodi vineyards with Jerry Fry of Mohr-Fry Ranch. The family has been farming Northern California since the late 1800s, originally in the eastern side of San Francisco Bay. After World War II home expansion in the East Bay expanded swiftly pushing agricultural work out of the region. in 1965 the family left the East Bay Area entirely and began farming in the Lodi region with a mix of table grapes, wine grapes, cherries, and almonds. Lodi has been one of the biggest suppliers of each of these crops in the United States at different times. As economies and climates have changed so too have agricultural markets. Since 2012 Mohr-Fry Ranch has consolidated to growing only wine grapes for producers both here in Lodi and elsewhere throughout Northern California. #californiawine #wine @mohrfryranches @lodi_wine

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Owl boxes, Mohr-Fry Ranch (Lodi) – owl boxes through the vineyard are one example of integrated pest control here within what was Devries Ranch along the Mokelumne River. Owls nest in the boxes just long enough to hatch and raise their egg clutch then move on again but while there they help reduce the vole population, thereby protecting vines from the animals, which would otherwise gird the vines or decimate roots. After the owls leave the boxes the Frys gather up the owl pellets left behind and donate them to the local World of Wonders interactive science museum for kids. Local kids are then able to dissect the owl pellets to see what the birds were eating and learn more about their natural life cycle. #californiawine #wine @mohrfryranches @lodi_wine

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Bonnie and Louie Abba, Mokelumne River (Lodi) – both third generation farmers in Lodi, Bonnie and Louie Abba are about to celebrate their 63rd wedding anniversary. Bonnie’s grandparents came to the area from Germany and became well established farmers in the region. In Bonnie’s childhood her family grew what was then one of Lodi’s most important crops, watermelon, which were put on soft hay in train cars and sent across the country to the east coast. Louie’s grandparents made their way to Lodi from northern Italy. In his childhood his family farmed almonds, peaches, and wine grapes. Together Bonnie and Louie have continued to farm wine grapes, today providing premium fruit for producers both in and outside Lodi. But for a time they also grew Flame Tokay, which, until the advent of seedless grapes, were considered the finest eating grape available in the United States. Flame Tokay only successfully grew in Lodi as the combination of Tokay Sandy Loam soils with Lodi’s particular microclimate made the region perfect for the variety. Flame Tokay was also put on train car and sent to the east. The fruit that remained was made into both sparkling and still table wine or distilled into brandy. Today, very little Flame Tokay remains. #californiawine #wine @lodi_wine (But also, do you see these two here? I don’t think I could find a couple more charming.)

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Louie and Joe Abba, Mokelumne River (Lodi) – brothers Louie (here on the left, age 85) and Joe (age 89) Abba grew up helping their father farm almonds, peaches, and wine grapes in Lodi. Into his 90s, their father continued to work his vineyards. To harvest almonds the brothers would have to climb the then-enormous and own rooted trees (today almond trees are grafted often to peach roots and grown lower to the ground) to hit the branches with a mallet and drop the fruit. Peaches were cut in half, sulfured to preserve their color, and dried. Both almond and peach harvesting, hulling, and delivery were done by hand, all physical labor. Even so, wine grapes, Joe explains, were both best and worst to grow. Their father was fastidious in the vineyard wanting everything farmed with care but especially pruning, which Joe hated more than any other activity. But at the end of the season they made home wine together from a small section of vineyard they kept for themselves. And the resulting wine made farming wine grapes the best crop. Louie continued to make wine with his father from childhood until the end of their dad’s life and still makes wine today. Their first vintage on the street they now live was in 1944, making 2019 the 75th harvest Louie will have made wine in that same small section of Lodi. That also likely makes him the longest tenured (albeit non commercial) winemaker in Lodi and surely among the longest tenured anywhere. Incredibly our visit included all of us sharing a bottle of his 2016 vintage home wine while we shared stories, and the wine was delicious. Louie and Joe each continue to farm wine grapes in Lodi today. #californiawine #wine @lodi_wine (Seriously, could you have a more charming photo?!))

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Phil Abba, Louie’s 2016 Home Wine, Mokelumne River (Lodi) – Phil Abba, son of Bonnie and Louie, here pours his father’s 2016 vintage of Zinfandel, Louie’s 72nd vintage making home wine on the street where they live, and 72nd harvest of what they call they Abba selection Zinfandel. When Phil’s grandfather moved the family to this part of Lodi in 1944 the property already had an old vine Zinfandel vineyard planted at the start of the 1900s. As they continued to farm wine grapes on the site they kept several rows of vines planted with cuttings from those original vines, repropagating them as needed from their own cuttings. Over time they came to call the vine material the Abba selection, and have made all of their home wine since 1944 with their Abba selection vines. The 2016 vintage is delicious – full of flavor, with moderate alcohol, a dry, ultra-long finish and nice structural balance. Phil Abba, a 4th-generation Lodi grower, farms alongside his parents but also has worked to advance growing quality in Syrah and Grenache in the area. He sells the Rhône varieties to respected producers from all over Northern California, including Lodi. #californiawine #wine @lodi_wine

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Historic Vineyard Equipment, Mokelumne River (Lodi) – until only a couple decades ago both grapes and cherries were most often harvested into wooden lug boxes like this one (shown in photo 1) still used today by L. Abba, aka Louie Abba, to harvest his home wine. For some California wineries the boxes remained useful into the 1990s as the relatively small size kept grapes from being smashed by its own weight. For vineyards selling fruit to larger wineries for larger blends like those that helped put the state on the modern day wine map such as Gallo’s Hearty Burgundy, grapes would be harvested and consolidated into the back of custom built harvest trucks the locals called gondolas (shown from the back in photo 2). Gondolas of this sort were specific to Lodi and were geniusly engineered to carry between 5 and 7.5 tons of grapes but still be maneuverable in the vineyard. What I love about these long standing growing regions like Lodi with multi-generational farming families is the incredible adaptability with locally wrought ingenuity that is displayed through custom equipment like this. To make the gondola a grower would take the front engine of a commercial truck (these are old enough trucks that they include fully spelled out lettering across the front GENERAL MOTOR COMPANY rather than just GMC), weld an extended scissor axel bed to form the body, then weld the 5-7.5 ton capacity gondola itself and simply set it on the back bed. The weight of the gondola kept it in place. It‘s remaining unanchored meant it could be lifted to dump once it reached the winery. (This sort of on the spot engineering is like what I grew up around in the commercial fishing industry – if you”re the owner-producer you don’t just buy new equipment. You use what you have and make it work – and so there is always a combination of comfort and admiration when i find it elsewhere.) #californiawine #wine @lodi_wine

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Furrow or Flood irrigation – drip irrigation was first invented essentially in the 1970s to help farm food crops in the deserts of the Middle East. It began swiftly entering wine industries around the world (though largely, but not entirely, outside of Western Europe) in the 1980s. Prior to drip irrigation, however, many regions did still water vines via other methods, and some around the world still do water in other ways. Here, we see a glimpse of a method used through much of California as well as parts of South America and elsewhere through the 1970s. Furrows were dug along vine rows with a head berm put the full length of the vineyard at each end, then water was allowed to flood the vineyard from one side either by opening a pipe or by opening a gate from a river, pond, or water race. Very few people continue to use this method in California but some studies are now being done to reconsider how we are using ground water when it comes to agriculture. Paradoxically, the targeted control of drip irrigation for reducing water use might actually be creating a water supply problem. Drip irrigation uses water but not enough to recharge ground water supplies. Flood or furrow water, however, does actually soak back into ground water levels. Studies are looking at to what degree. Producers have also developed other means of trying to aid groundwater recharge. Wetland restoration along sloughs, rivers, and other waterways, for example, return wildlife habitats but also increase groundwater return. In wine regions around the world it is more often the medium to large size wineries that have the means necessary – land ownership, capital to invest, the time to convince lawmakers to maintain habitat laws, and simple manpower – to invest in restoring wetlands and wildlife habitats that help manage groundwater needs as well as other parallel longer-term, multi-generational interests beyond simple production. In this way, it is often the producers with a bit more volume but also a mindset for sustaining their surroundings for future generations that are able to have a more profound impact towards improving the health of their region. #californiawine #wine @lodi_wine

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Wood Duck House – you’ll have to look close against the tree to find it but all along the Mokelumne River people have established wood duck houses to help restore and maintain the bird population. The wood ducks use the boxes only for nesting then after the young fledge go back to living in the surrounding habitat along the river. Here, the Lange Twins have pulled several acres of vineyards planted by their parents and grandparents in the 1940s from directly alongside the river and instead restored it to wildlife and wetland habitat. The wood duck houses are one way that locals have worked to help restore the natural bird populations of the river as well. While visiting this restoration project there were also signs of hawk, deer, other birds, turtles, fish and river otter all having also returned to the area. #californiawine #wine @langetwins @lodi_wine

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Gill Creek Slough Restoration – Gill Creek runs through the Lodi area eventually rejoining with the Mokelumne River. Through the middle of the last century much of the slough area was populated by cows, which effectively cleared the area of natural habitat. The Lange Twins have worked to restore the wetland and wildlife habitat to restore local wildlife and aid in recharging ground water. These areas also ultimately have some cooling effect for an area as well though in small measure. We traveled along a great length of Gill Creek to check in on the restoration progress and found numerous areas like this that have been restored. This one I thought the most beautiful. Where i stood taking this photo (though not visible here) were visible river otter, turtles, wood ducks, hawks. #californiawine #wine @langetwins @lodi_wine

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Flame Tokay – Here, Flame Tokay planted in 1889 in Royal Tee vineyard at Jessie’s Grove, Mokelumne River, Lodi. The European grape variety Flame Tokay was first planted in the Lodi region in 1847 and by the 1900s became one of the top crops of the region and one of the most sought after fruits in the country. The variety was boxed and shipped to the East Coast by train car as a table grape with farmers in the region forming a primary market from the variety. Its popularity was due partly to the fact that the Sandy Loam soils of Lodi combined with the diurnal shift of almost 40 degrees F at the peak of the season meant the variety grown here turned a brilliant scarlet color, and had more pronounced flavor. Lodi soon became the only area in the country to grow it. Farmers would make two to three passes as fruit ripened selling multiple rounds of firm fruit to the fresh-pack, train car market. Then they would pick what remained on the vine as well as any second crop later in the season and sell it to local wineries. Historically, Flame Tokay was used to make sparkling wine, white table wine, sweet wine, and smashed up fruit went to brandy, a testament to farmers in remote areas using whatever they had for food and consumables. In the 1980s, the development of seedless table grapes deteriorated the market for Flame Tokay table grapes. For a time it was still used for wine production but now it is no longer used as a table or wine grape. Today, there is almost no Flame Tokay remaining. Even in just the six years I have been visiting Lodi for wine research the acreage has become almost none existent. The 2018 vintage was the first in the region’s history to not record Flame Tokay in the grape harvest crush report. There simply wasn’t any. A few random vines do still exist mixed into truly old field blends. Those that do, like this one here, are enormous. At veraison this fruit will turn a brilliant kool-aid red. #californiawine #wine @lodi_wine

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High Wire Trellis – expect to see more high wire trellis emerging as it reflects a foundational shift happening in the global wine industry. The system has been developing over the last decade and has become a standard for new vineyards planted to upright varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Petite Verdot. It does not work as well for floppy canopy or rot-prone varieties like Zinfandel, or Petite Sirah, and seems unlikely for Merlot, or Malbec but the verdict is still out there. High wire is still emerging but has been tested in a range of wine regions as a solution to labor shortage issues. It helps reduce the need for hand work, and reduces disease pressure by increasing air flow. Only one training wire at the cordon is used with the canopy allowed to grow and flop without any of the vertical training that has been so common for decades all over the world. The wire/cordon can be put at whatever height desired but currently people here are tending to place it around 6ft. The effect is significant on both farming and quality. On the farming side far less hand work is required as the longer vine trunk makes suckering and pruning clearer and faster. The canopy essentially spreads itself giving dappled light over the fruit zone without excessive leaf pulling. It also shifts the fruit to vine ratio with a few more clusters per vine but smaller clusters with smaller berries, thereby increasing the skin to juice ratio and maintaining structure as a result. The method also works well with machine harvesting, which has become far more common worldwide. I’ve been studying machine harvesters the last several years. The approach has evolved significantly since the first harvesters of the 1970s. Many producers are finding fruit quality comparable between machine and hand harvesting from the same site. Here, Brad Lange and I talking through the evolution of training methods in the region as his team farms everything: head trained old vines, vertical-shoot-positioning and high wire. While the highest end wines while likely never go to machine, it is clear machine use and quality will only continue to increase. #californiawine #wine @langetwins @lodi_wine

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Know Place – go ahead. Pick the world’s most highly regarded winemaker. Eben Sadie, selected by the world’s winemakers as winemaker of the year just last year. Now, ask him, where is your favorite bar in the world. Know Place. That’s the answer. Regional leaders of motorcycle bike gangs, international agents of mechanical anarchy. It turns out once a year they all meet here in the middle of California at a tiny little bar where if you pick just the right day you can select exactly the music you want for that particular day of your life, meeting those specific people arriving together at Know Where bar. But here is the thing. Tegan said, if I am going to post a photo, there better be a monologue. So what you need to know is that many of the pivotal decisions made on California wine really do get made in a bar in the state in the middle of No Where but you are only hearing about it because Tegan asked me to ramble on just like this, way too long. #californiawine #wine @ownrooted @enfieldwineco @sadiefamilywines

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Sustainable Pest Control, Mealy Bugs – mealy bugs are a pest common through most parts of the world as they do well in moist, warm environments. However, a new species especially damaging to vines has taken hold on the West Coast of the US, inadvertently brought over by a vintner who took cuttings from a vineyard in Europe and established them in their own vineyards on the West Coast of the United States. The vintner saw vine collapse in their own site and the pest spread from there. While mealy bugs were not new, this species was and brought with it new viruses that impact vines, some reducing a vine’s ability to photosynthesize, some causing vine collapse. While the infestation took hold in one particular vineyard, the entire West Coast now is responsible for responding to the threat. One area that has been working to find ways to alleviate the issue while preserving efficiency and avoiding chemical sprays is Lodi. Researchers in California have been working with growers in Lodi to demonstrate and test protocols that eradicate or lessen mealy bugs (and thus the viruses) without having to rely on conventional sprays. Here, looking into the canopy of a vine you can see a white tag that is one key example. The tag carries pheromone disrupters that instead of killing any pests disrupt their mating cycle so that they do not breed. As breeding cycles for mealy bugs are relatively short, disrupting them in this way can have relatively swift effect. The tags are placed every several vines throughout the vineyard so require extensive hand labor at the start of the season, but then simply remain in place without requiring further tending the rest of the season. Growers in Lodi demonstrating the approach have found the tags are having a positive impact. They are successfully reducing mealy bug populations without use of pesticides. The region has created an invitation for growers throughout the state and beyond who want to visit such demonstration sites and learn more about both the threat of mealy bugs and how this research is improving sustainable approaches to saving vines without chemical sprays. #lodiwine #californiawine @lodi_wine

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Winter Pruning, Mokelumne River (Lodi) – for many families growing vines in Lodi winter pruning starts in December. Pruning any style of head trained vine (here in what I call a ladder style as the vine is trained vertically in a series of arms resembling a twisting ladder similar to what I always thought Jack’s beanstalk would have had to resemble for his heavenly climb to possibly work) requires hand work, which means a lot of people power to prune any sort of acreage. But many family owned sites or growers can’t manage the cost of a ton of people. So, they just start pruning earlier to allow the many days required for a few people to prune all the vines, rather than a lot of people pruning all the vines in a short time. As long as colder weather has arrived, which it certainly has in Lodi, causing a slow down in the vine metabolism through winter, early pruning like this works just fine. #lodiwine #lodi #wine @lodi_wine

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Jason Eells and Larry Mettler – the Mettler family has been growing grapes and farming Lodi since their arrival in 1899. The family survived Prohibition by shipping boxes of grapes East by rail car to home winemakers to make their legally allowed 300 gallons, growing the Flame Tokay table grapes the region was known for into the early 1980s, and farming other crops. After Prohibition, they became part of the regional winery co-op system that helped rebuild the state’s wine after the collapse of Prohibition. Then, at the end of the 1970s they became growers for one of California’s historically pivotal wineries. Larry’s father Carl Mettler worked alongside his high school friend, Robert Mondavi, to plant and farm some of the region’s first Zinfandel on wire (that is trellis rather than head-trained) for Woodbridge Winery. By the late 1990s, Carl and his children decided to take the next step and start their own eponymous winery while continuing to farm their own vineyards. Eventually they added vineyard management to their business as well. Jason helps oversee farming across their estate and managed vineyards, while also working with the family winery. The integration of multiple businesses united by wine – here, working as grape growers, operating a winery, and also managing vineyards for other owners – is an integral part of the most successful wine families in Lodi. The ability to operate across different aspects of the wine industry provides greater stability through diversification during evolving changes in the industry. #lodiwine #lodi #wine @lodi_wine

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Wild Melons, Lodi – while I have spent a good amount of time in Lodi I have tended to be here between early Spring and late harvest. It turns out if you drive around the region in winter everywhere are wild winter melons covering the ground. The first pile of these I saw I thought it strange someone had tossed a bunch of melons roadside. Then just around the corner there they were again at the foot of a cherry orchard, then down the road under almond trees, then all through vine rows of an unpruned vineyard, until finally I called out to the poor grower driving me around, ‘my god, what’s with all these melons?!’ We spent the rest of the day checking vineyards while also hunting melons and asking long-time locals about local melon history. Here’s what we discovered. No one knows where they came from originally. They simply are wild melons that have been here in winter as long as anyone alive today remembers. The region used to be known for growing watermelons celebrated for how flavorful and sweet they were. But these are clearly not watermelons. In the 1930s and 40s locals called these Pie Melons though no one knows why because they were not used for making pies, as they are not used for making anything. The melons simply grow like a weed all over the region and if they are run over by a tractor in a field the fruit explodes spreading seeds and guaranteeing they will grow again. After a few hours of melon hunting we found this unplanted field absolutely covered in them, pulled over, and decided it was time to cut one open. Behold! The Pie Melon! How are they, you ask? Super juicy. Taste like nothing. #lodi @lodi_wine

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The Delta Region, Lodi – on the far western side of the Lodi AVA, west of Highway 12, lies the Delta region, an agricultural zone actually below sea level and maintained by a series of levies and ditches that are inspected daily and pumped dry during high tidal or big rain events. The Delta is a series of islands in tidally influenced wetlands that would flood for around a quarter of the year before the region created an island-by-island maintenance program. Today, each island has its own maintenance board and an inspector whose job is to check every section of the levies, like those seen here, to make sure no weak spots have created leakage, or worse, the threat of flooding or breakage. Gophers on the dry side of the levy or beavers on the wet side, can dig holes that further erode and could lead to levy failure if not fixed. The board is also in charge of maintaining the drainage ditches within the islands that are designed to help reduce water levels within the islands so as to help ease pressure on these levies that separate the islands. At the far end of the drainage ditch system a pump pulls water from the ditches when needed and releases it back into the broader Delta water ways, the local rivers. We drove and walked the levy system between the islands and Delta land tracts within the Lodi part of the Delta. The levy waterways are full of wildlife – turtles, sandhill cranes, herons and egrets, ducks and geese, a ton of different kind of fish, crawdads, frogs, bugs, owls, bats, and for part of today’s afternoon, two crazy dogs. The Delta is strongly influenced by cold winds blowing in from the Pacific Ocean across the San Francisco and San Pablo Bays. The cooling winds generate power via enormous wind turbines west of the region, and significantly cool the Delta and western Lodi on a daily basis. Breezes typically start between 11 am and Noon, leading to strong wind by late afternoon, then calming to still air an hour or two after nightfall. The result is that though Lodi sits at the entrance to California’s Central Valley it actually is directly impacted by the maritime influence of the Pacific Ocean. #lodiwine #lodi #wine @lodi_wine

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Richard Ripken, Lodi – Richard Ripken earned his Masters from UC Davis in the 1960s going to work with Dr Harold Olmo, one of UC Davis’s pioneering viticultural researchers, helping to create, grow, and vinify more than 200 different crosses of wine grapes to work on more effectively honing variety to place in California. After his work with Olmo, Ripken continued with other intentional crosses of wine grapes to research their growing and winemaking potential in California wine. In the 1970s he started a vine nursery in Lodi, cultivating clean rootstock and bud wood for wineries throughout Northern California at a time most producers and few nurseries paid attention to vine quality at the nursery level. He continued the work he started with Olmo by persistently seeking out new varieties to cultivate and provide to wineries for planting. His discoveries would often begin by visiting international wine regions, falling in love with an obscure variety of the area, and seeing enough regional similarity to decide he would try it at home. As a result, he has worked with more than 50 varieties in his lifetime, not including the wine grape crosses he researched. His varietal choices were largely so unknown at the time he would make home wine from them in order to show winemakers what was possible with new varieties. Eventually, his production volume for these wines approached the legal limit for home wine so the family launched Ripken winery. Many of the more obscure varieties of California connect back to Ripken’s work in his Lodi nursery and much of the varietal diversity found in Lodi today connects back to his work as well. During the 1980s phylloxera crisis that hit much of California, Ripken helped motivate a vine quarantine facility in the state. His nursery served as both the rootstock source and clonal material for many of today’s iconic vineyards of classic varieties in California’s North Coast. Though it is often winemakers that get credit for a resulting wine, figures like Ripken provided the backbone to the state’s vineyard infrastructure that help make wines of recognition possible. #lodiwine #lodi #wine @ripkenwines @kgvm_llc @lodi_wine

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The Maintenance Shed, KG Vineyard Management, the Delta (Lodi) – in my earliest memories I would spend time with my dad in the garage as he hung nets, repaired gear, or did other projects. He had a series of stacked drawer tool cabinets and storage drawers like these for bolts, nuts, and various parts. I loved peering into these storage cabinets and always hoped to have my own someday. Today I still feel most alert, curious, excited, and bashful all at the same time in repair sheds, or garages, and around tool cabinets, like surely the people who know how to use them perform every day feats of magic I have interest in seeing, even if it also makes me feel silly I can’t do such repairs myself and surely no one else expects or understands my desire to hang out with mechanics, repairmen, or in garages. #lodi @lodi_wine

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Old Vine Flame Tokay, Mokelumne River (Lodi) – beginning in the late 1800s the region of Lodi became known for its unique ability to grow Flame Tokay, a table grape variety sometimes also made as part of a field blend for wine, or distilled into brandy. The unique sandy loam soils, cooling breezes, and abundant water produced an expression of the variety that was vibrantly pink and full of flavor in a way no other part of the country could. The vines were grown in a head trained style and vines were kept for decades becoming enormous bush vines full of vibrantly pink table grapes, thus evoking the name Flame Tokay. In the 1980s table grapes intentionally bred to be seedless emerged and the table grape market moved away from both Flame Tokay and for the most part also Lodi. Today, only two small fully Flame Tokay vineyards still exist in the region, alongside a few spare vines still standing in field blend dotted around older vineyards of the area. Here, a glimpse of one of those last two vineyards. These vines were planted in the early 1900s. Currently the grapes are being made into brandy. It is unclear how much longer the remaining Flame Tokay will continue to grow as, just like wine grapes, table grapes must be farmed. Without a market there is no way to cover the great expense of farming. #lodiwine #lodi #wine @lodi_wine

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Tokay Sandy Loam, Mokelumne River (Lodi) – the Mokelumne River AVA within the larger Lodi AVA is primarily covered in Tokay Fine Sandy Loam. The alluvium soils are primarily derived from granitic parent material eroded and deposited by water. While the soil here is deep, it is also high draining with low organic matter and relatively low clay content, thus helping to alleviate potential vigor of some varieties. While water tends to disappear from surface soils, the soil texture and architecture allows vine roots to readily go deep to find water. Here, the soils in winter after a rain. While the soil is darker from moisture it has little clumping and the coarseness of the sand is apparent. #lodiwine #lodi #wine @lodi_wine

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Mokelumne Glen German Vine Library, Mokelumne River (Lodi) – just a quick stop by what i am pretty sure is the biggest collection of German varieties in North America, Mokelumne Glen Vineyard. Years ago on one of first stops in Lodi I bumbled into this vineyard almost accidentally and was completely mind blown by the diversity of varieties planted and how well they were catalogued and organized, several vines of each type marked by a little wooden sign, then larger blocks of a few of the most successful examples. I immediately called several winemakers in Napa and Sonoma I knew wanted to try some unusual varieties and they bought fruit. The next time I returned and tasted wines from the family made from their collection. This trip, just a quick stop to wave at the vines and say hello. The library collection at Mokelumne Glen includes around 50 different German varieties, as well as multiple selections of some, over a 1-acre section of the larger vineyard. Here, the Roter Veltliner. The Koth family, who owns and farms the site, started their collection in the 1990s and have been hunting out and adding cultivars ever since. #lodiwine #lodi #wine @mokelumneglenvineyards @lodi_wine

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Redding Cobbly Clay Loam, Borden Ranch (Lodi) – while the Lodi AVA centers largely around the town of Lodi it actually extends in every direction, including north from San Joaquin County (where Lodi is located) into Sacramento County. The Borden Ranch AVA sits in the far eastern side of the larger Lodi AVA at the southern edge of Sacramento County. In this eastern side of the greater Lodi AVA soils tend to be rockier. Moving north into Borden Ranch soils are largely Redding series, here, Redding Cobbly Clay Loam. These soils were formed through a mud flow essentially sliding downslope from what is now the Sierra Foothills as those mountains were formed. The top layer (shown here in layer 1) is dominated by mixed stones ranging in size, derived from a mix of parent materials primarily volcanic in origin. Over hundreds of thousands of years, from weathering, minerals wash through this top layer into (layer 2) a duripan, a cemented subsurface hardpan. This layer is unbelievably hard (I couldn’t break it with either my hands or feet) and prevents further drainage into the subsoils. As a result, Redding series soils tend to collect surface water that then disappears only by evaporation, not drainage. Beneath the hard pan, (layer 3) rests a subsurface layer of clay loam or cobbly clay loam. (Here layer 3 is clay loam without cobbles.) These Redding series soils trace the eastern side of the Central Valley along the Sierra Foothills in a 15 to 20 mile wide band that stretches from Redding to Bakersfield. The hardpan is impenetrable to plants and so this band of soils remained uncultivated, being used mostly just for pasture or cattle until the late 1980s when the technology to break the hard pan and mix the three layers of soils emerged. Today, Borden Ranch includes a mix of pasture, cattle, almonds, and wine vineyards. #lodiwine #lodi #wine @lodi_wine

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Glacial Depressions, Borden Ranch (Lodi) – if you look closely at the pastures of Borden Ranch on the eastern side of Lodi you begin to notice dips and depressions across the surface. This texture was formed when ancient glaciers scoured the landscape leaving behind bumps and divots in the surface. These depressions are important in that they act as basins when it rains, collecting water that create ecologically unique pools in which an incredibly diverse collection of flowers, plants, insects, shrimp, and reptiles form. The underlying hard pan means the water does not drain from these basins, known as vernal pools, but instead slowly evaporates creating a completely unique habitat for various species that only occur here, in these vernal pools. In this way, the unique geology of Redding series soils found in a narrow band from Redding to Bakersfield is intimately intwined with a collection of wildlife, flora, insects, and reptiles that literally only occur in these pools in this specific part of California. Many species native to vernal pools are endangered including fairy shrimp and tiger salamander. As a result, extensive studies of these wetlands must be done before any development can occur. #lodiwine #lodi #wine @lodi_wine

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Vernal Pools, Borden Ranch (Lodi) – if you follow the shift from yellow pasture grasses to gray coyote thistle in this photo (the change between the two is outlined here in the second photo) you can see the depression in the surface that forms a vernal pool. The vernal pool occurs thanks to a peculiar combination of circumstances. On the surface the depression in the ground was formed by an ancient glacier moving through the region and scouring the ground. Under the surface the soils formed a duripan, or cemented hardpan than keeps water left in the depression from draining. As a result, the divot in the surface retains water until it evaporates. As the water evaporates a different set of plants and flowers grow along the newly exposed ring of ground along the edge of the pool, each inch of evaporation revealing new species of plants. Within the water several species of fairy shrimp breed that only live inside these seasonal pools. Tiger salamander are also found only in this sort of pool. If it is too shallow the water evaporates before the completed life cycle of the salamander and they never appear. If the pool is too deep, bull frogs take up habitat and eat the salamanders. When the pool is exactly the right depth it becomes a breeding ground for tiger salamanders, a rare reptile native to this little part of California. Both fairy shrimp and tiger salamanders are endangered species and these vernal pools are also protected as a result. Though vernal pools appear relatively uninteresting and could easily be overlooked in late fall and winter, in Spring they fill with water and become one of the planet’s utterly unique ecological habitats, as well as a colorful display of wildflowers and plants that feed rare species of insects, birds, and reptiles. #lodiwine #lodi #wine @lodi_wine

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I love the little, intricate details of Autumn. #lodiwine #lodi #wine @lodi_wine

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Oaks in morning fog, Lodi. #lodi @lodi_wine

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Sue Tipton, Acquiesce, Mokelumne River (Lodi) – talking with Sue Tipton about her white Rhône wines estate grown in Lodi. The first visit I had with Sue several years ago she was making just 600 cases and the demand through her tasting room was so great they were only open a few months a year and a couple hundred people were on waitlist to join the wine club. She and her husband make all of the wine themselves and use only fruit they grow on their property but have been able to expand production now just enough to be open year round for the first time this year, and expand the wine club to take care of the wait list. She’s also the first winery in the United States to grow, and now also bottle and release single varietal Bourboulenc. #lodiwine #lodi #wine @acquiescewinery @lodi_wine

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Acquiesce, Mokelumne River (Lodi) – great tasting across the line up of white Rhône varieties and blends from Acquiesce. Great to see her with enough Picpoul Blanc to bottle it on its own now. (The first time i tasted with her she had so little she couldn’t bottle it on its own though i begged her to.) It’s a stand out. Fun too to see her working with some of the other lesser known Rhône varieties. Across the board these are excellent with to enjoy alongside a meal. Here from top left: Sparkling Grenache Blanc made with Methode Traditionelle; Picpoul Blanc; Grenache Blanc; Ingenue blend of Grenache Blanc, Clairette Blanc, Bourboulenc, Picpoul Blanc; Bourboulenc; Belle Blanc blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier; Roussane; Viognier; and Rosé of Grenache Noir. #lodiwine #lodi #wine @acquiescewinery @lodi_wine

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The 2019 Lodi Notebook – there it is, the Lodi Notebook. I‘ve been lucky enough to spend time in Lodi since just after we moved to the North Coast when I started working in wine several years ago. My first visit local legend Randy Caparoso generously hosted me and drove me around for more than a week of 14-16 hour days. I returned again later that same year for 5 days in harvest. Then have continued to visit in a day or couple days pop-ins ever since. Studying Lodi has offered me the opportunity to better think through California history, innovation, and the wine business more clearly than almost any other region. The history and evolution of California wine has been deeply dependent on Lodi grape growing. Being trusted with the time to listen to growers and producers there to trace through the behind the scenes history of the place has helped me better understand everything from farming, to trends, to the grape market, to viticultural practices, to technological change, to wine quality. Lodi doesn’t get as much attention as some regions but there is plenty of substance there to grasp and a unique range of expressions and wine quality to be explored. This year I started doing drive through visits, overnight jaunts, and several multi-day stretches to Lodi in May, hitting several weeks all together, and today filled up the last of my 2019 Lodi notebook. Thank you to everyone in the region who has been so generous with their time. #lodiwine #lodi #wine @lodi_wine

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A week in Walla Walla, The Rocks District

I spent last week in Walla Walla focusing in particular on Syrah and The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater. It’s one of the most distinctive growing regions in the United States that has been quite interesting to follow these last several years, and it was especially insightful to return and again put it in context with Syrah of Washington and Oregon more broadly. The Walla Walla AVA follows the geographical expanse of the Walla Walla Valley, which falls across parts of both eastern Washington and Oregon.

For quick clarification: The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA sits nestled entirely within the larger Walla Walla AVA on the Oregon side of the valley. According to currently defined laws, producers from either Washington or Oregon can source fruit from the Walla Walla AVA and label the resulting wine with that AVA. That is because the recognized growing region naturally occurs in both states. However, since The Rocks District sits only in Oregon, that legal AVA designation can only appear on wines produced and bottled within the state of Oregon. Many of the wineries that bottle wines made from fruit grown within The Rocks District are found on the Washington side of the valley but cannot bottle with the nested AVA on their label. Most then choose to bottle instead with Walla Walla on the label. For that reason, if you are looking for wines from The Rocks District, it is important to know your producers and their designated bottlings.

Following are photos and information I shared via Instagram during my trip to the region.

 

 

 

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The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater, Walla Walla – the Walla Walla AVA crosses through eastern Washington and Oregon almost evenly split by the two states. Nested within the larger appellation of Walla Walla stands The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA, known for its deep and substantial deposit of alluvial basalt cobbles. The region was formed by layers of repeat basalt flows, then powerfully broken and carved by the Missoula floods. The Walla Walla River then eroded and carried basalt stones settling it through the southern part of the valley in a broad alluvial fan. The Rocks District is unique as an AVA within the United States in that it was defined most fundamentally by soil. Its borders circumscribe the area most clearly defined by the continuity of this basalt cobble deposit. Here, the cobbles that are the AVA’s signature at the base of a vine of Syrah in the Funk Vineyard on the southeastern side of The Rocks District. The Rocks District AVA falls entirely within the state of Oregon. The fruit is substantially used by wineries in the Washington side of the larger AVA. #wallawalla @wwvalleywine @wa_state_wine @oregonwineboard @canvasbackwine

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Funk Vineyard, The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater – talking through the impact of number of growth points on a vine in relation to a naturally vigorous variety such as Syrah with Canvasback winemaker Brian Rudin. While growing conditions in The Rocks District are challenging, the soils here also encourage vigor on an already naturally vigorous cultivar, Syrah. Farming choices then become important for balancing vine growth to fruit production. Here, Funk Vineyard has chosen to increase growth points on the vine through a Geneva Double Curtain style of split canopy as well as two reserve canes kept for burying in the winter in case of possible freeze. By essentially giving the vine more to do, the growth of the vine in any particular cane or portion of the canopy is slowed. In the second photo you can see the internodal growth is a desirable fist-width bringing greater overall balance to the vine. At the same time the split canopy spreads the fruit zone and increases cluster count while reducing cluster and berry size, thus retaining concentration in the fruit. #wallawalla @wwvalleywine @wa_state_wine @oregonwineboard @canvasbackwine

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The Walla Walla River, South Fork – coming out of the Blue Mountains, the Walla Walla River powerfully moves rocks and soil through the region creating an alluvial fan of eroded basalt cobbles as it changes course through the southern part of the valley. The power of the river is important for how it feeds and changes the landscape as well as for how it rounds and changes the rocks it deposits along the way. While the South Fork portion of the river is East of The Rocks District it reveals the source of the AVAs unique cobbles. Here, along the Walla Walla River on the South Fork further basalt cobble deposits are visible. #wallawalla @wwvalleywine @wa_state_wine @oregonwineboard

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Long Shadows Syrah Vertical, Sequel from 2003, 2006, 2009, 2012, 2012 Bin 898, 2016, and Cote Nicault 2015 (Washington) – Long Shadows portfolio stands unique among wineries in that for each Long Shadows wine the Director of Winemaking & Viticulture, Gilles Nicault, partners with one of the world’s iconic winemakers to mentor and make the wine. Each wine a different winemaker mentor. For Long Shadows Sequel Syrah, Nicault works alongside John Duval, the famed Barossa winemaker at the helm of Penfolds for 29 years and now for his own eponymous wines. Since 2003, Duval and Nicault have married Duval’s vast library of technical knowledge to Washington’s unique growing conditions to craft Sequel. It is a pleasure to taste the wine back to its founding vintage to see how very well it ages. Seeing the wines side by side a clear evolution emerges but on their own the oldest wines here, now 16 and 13 years old, would appear far younger. #wallawalla @wwvalleywine @wa_state_wine @long.shadows

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The North Fork, Walla Walla – in the southeastern reach of the Walla Walla AVA the North Fork of the Walla Walla River cuts a winding canyon between high elevation slopes of fractured basalt. The area is one of the newest, exciting developments of the region with still only two vineyards planted and more slowly on the way. Set closer to the Blue Mountains and at higher elevation (here in this photo standing at 2000 ft) the area gets more rain than much of the valley and has a longer, more even growing season with cooler days and slightly warmer nights. Soils are derived of eroded and fractured basalt. Zoom in on this photo and follow the treeline on the canyon floor to see the river route of the North Fork. The North and South Forks converge not far from this area to become the larger Walla Walla River, which feeds and carved the southern Walla Walla Valley on the Oregon side. #wallawalla @wwvalleywine @oregonwineboard @wa_state_wine

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The North Fork of the Walla Walla River, 2000 ft elevation Autumn flora on uncultivated land – really beautiful, and varied micro flora at high elevation growing over very shallow soils on fractured basalt. Like a forest of miniaturized plants all growing in intense diversity together. Walking these uncut landscapes gives so many clues as to what is underneath – the change points from wild grasses to wild sage or wild flowers, to mosses and lichen all indicate differing depths of soil (and so also moisture availability), as well as changes in exposure, mineral availability, and soil pH. Love eyeing such details. The beauty in little things. #wallawalla @wwvalleywine @oregonwineboard @wa_state_wine

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The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater – the alluvial basalt cobbles that make up The Rocks District. Here, a soil pit down to about 3 meters that shows how incredibly stony the soils of The Rocks District are. Laid down by the movement of the Walla Walla River, the basalt cobbles have been smoothed and rounded by water erosion. These cobbles descend tens of meters into the earth here, spread in a broad fan through Northeastern Oregon in the southern part of the Walla Walla Valley by the movement of the river carrying the stones downstream from the Blue Mountains and the descending landscape of the valley itself. The Rocks District stands at around 850 ft elevation. As the eastern side of Washington and Oregon are desert and a continental climate, with its cold winters and shorter growing season, vines are not farmed below 800 ft generally as temperatures are not adequate for ripening and winter at lower elevations brings frost concerns. Some frost issues remain still in Walla Walla above this elevation but are threats every few years rather than every winter. During the growing season the basalt stones absorb heat during the day helping to encourage some fruit development at night as well, this extending growing hours in a short growing season. #wallawalla @wwvalleywine @oregonwineboard @wa_state_wine

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Winter Freeze Protection, Burying Canes or Burying Buds, The Rocks District, Walla Walla – winters in the Walla Walla Valley on the eastern side of both Washington and Oregon readily get below freezing temperatures and cold enough to sometimes freeze damage vines. There are two key means of protecting vines from such potential damage, both of which consist of burying part of the vine after harvest and before winter. Here in the first photo, burying a cane or two per vine can be done generally for vines trained with the head of the vine, or base of its canopy, starting a few feet above the ground. A cane from a bud low on the vine trunk was allowed to grow parallel to the trunk and into the canopy during the season. (Some people also use this to address vigor issues by essentially giving the vine more to grow.) After the season, the extra cane is then pulled down and laid flat on the ground under the vine. Soil is then piled over the canes to bury them, often in two stages. Here, the first stage has been buried most of the length of the cane. In the second stage people will shovel dirt over the still exposed part of the cane seen here near the trunk. In the second photo, the vine has been trained with its head, or canopy height, low to the ground. Here, instead of burying canes two buds low on the trunk, at the start of the vine head are buried. Here, the burying process has already been complete and the buds are already buried. In the spring the cane or buds will be uncovered. If any freeze damage has occurred the upper trunk will be removed and the canes or buds will be used to restart the vine. Vines are trained close to the ground as in the second photo to capture more radiant heat from the stones and encourage more savory notes as a result. Vines are trained high to escape more of the radiant heat and retain more fruit character. #wallawalla @wwvalleywine @oregonwineboard @wa_state_wine

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Force Majeure Rhone wines from The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater and Red Mountain, plus The Walls from The Rocks District – awesome tasting Syrah from Red Mountain in Washington grown between 900 to 1250 ft elevation in fractured basalt alongside Syrah from The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater in Oregon grown around 850 ft elevation in basalt cobbles. The regions are about an hour drive apart. The wines from Force Majeure are full of beautiful transparency and sophisticated delicious yes-ness. The Syrahs from Red Mountain versus The Rocks District are insanely different. Impressive transmission of place from winemaker Todd Alexander. #wallawalla @forcemajeurevineyards @metodd @wwvalleywine @oregonwineboard @wa_state_wine

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Cork Sensory Trials – before bottling producers who bottle under cork receive batch samples to select from by doing sensory trials checking for TCA. Corks from each batch are tested simultaneously, separated by batch. The corks are soaked separately (or as here in pairs) in either water or wine (wine usually shows more) and then multiple people independently smell the soaking-glasses in randomized order. Sometimes the corks won’t show TCA character but will still smell off or musty, though with contemporary cork practices and newer technologies this is now relatively uncommon. Here, Valdemar gets ready for bottling later this month, doing their sensory cork trials in preparation. #wallawalla

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Fractured Basalt, McQueen Vineyard, Walla Walla – while stones eroded by water (also known as alluvial erosion) gain rounded edges and smoothed surface, rocks eroded by fracturing such as those broken by earth movement, or being sloughed downhill (also known as colluvial erosion) retain rough edges and surface, as shown here. McQueen Vineyard stands at the southernmost reach of Walla Walla Valley at 1440 ft elevation. Soils here are incredibly shallow and the vines are planted directly into fractured basalt. In most places the soil is no more than 6” deep and throughout, basalt rocks like this appear among the rows and vines. McQueen Vineyard is owned by Doubleback #wallawalla @doublebackwine @wwvalleywine @oregonwineboard @wa_state_wine

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Brooke Robertson, SJR Vineyard, The Rocks District, Walla Walla – winters in Walla Walla include winter freeze that can readily freeze vines and cause lethal damage to the exposed vines. As a result, producers here bury portions of their vines as an insurance policy against such possible freeze. Most bury canes so that if freeze occurs the trunk is cut off and the buried cane is lifted and trained for the new trunk. Repeated trunk cutting of this sort can encourage wood diseases and risks shortening overall vine life even as it protects against total vine loss. Brooke Robertson, viticulturist for SJR Vineyard, has been working to generate a different solution that removes the need to bury canes and cut the trunk. Here, she talks through her MHT training method in front of the already buried vines. She has trained the vines at SJR as head-trained, that is, goblet-style, vines low to the ground so that the full height of the trunk is several inches from ground level (rather than the couple feet height more commonly seen for cordon or cane trained vines). At the end of harvest, then, the entire head of the vine is buried so that all of the spurs of the goblet are covered by the insulating protection of the soil. In Spring, the soil is cleared and flattened again and the vine is pruned in a typical goblet shape but very low to the ground. Here, in SJR Vineyard on the western side of The Rocks District the basalt cobbles are prevalent but soil includes around 20% eroded-basalt loam. The additional soil in the site makes burying the entire head of the vine possible. Robertson developed her MHT training system and burial practice through a combination of studying old bush vines in Europe and Australia while also studying winter pruning and protection techniques for both other vine plants and rose bushes in continental climates around the world. #wallawalla @o_delmas_o @mary_delmas @wwvalleywine @oregonwineboard @wa_state_wine

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Max the cat lives in Walla Walla and is a real nice cat. Hi, Max! 👋🏽! #wallawalla

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Saager’s Shoe Shop, Milton-Freewater – in exploring a wine region it is important to get to know the cultural history of the place too as that informs the farming culture, which influences what is possible in the wine culture. Plus, it is often just charming and fun. Behold! Saager’s Shoe Shop in the heart of the tiny little town Milton-Freewater has been open more than 100 years offering shoe repair and shoes. Walking through the door it had the very same smell as my favorite shoe shop in Montreal that also offered both shoe repairs and shoes. It ‘s a shoe polish, sole glue, and leather kind of smell. The local town includes only about 7000 people, which you wouldn’t think would be enough to support this local shoe shop for more than 100 years, and it ‘s not. People drive to the tiny little hamlet of Milton-Freewater from across the tri-state area – Washington, Oregon, and Idaho – to buy and repair shoes. I took the local’s advice, and stopped into Saager’s. Then left with a pair of the cutest dang rubber boots. #wallawalla @wwvalleywine @oregonwineboard @wa_state_wine

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Milton-Freewater, aka Muddy Frogwater, Walla Walla – turns out Milton-Freewater had a complicated name and a complicated reputation. To make fun of it people used to call it Muddy-Frogwater. Eventually the locals decided to reclaim the name as a jovial positive and set about holding the annual, all local, Muddy Frogwater Festival. Over time, sculptures and paintings of frogs began to crop up all over Milton-Freewater too in celebration of the festival and the goofy name. (Just to be clear, there are no actual frogs in Milton-Freewater. There is plenty of river but it ‘s also a desert.) More recently, though, the success of wine in The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA has shifted public perception enough that the annual festival has changed with it. These last couple years it’s been renamed The Milton-Freewater Rocks! and slowly slowly the frog sculptures have begun to disappear. #wallawalla @wwvalleywine @oregonwineboard @wa_state_wine

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Hiking into the Walla Walla River with geologist Kevin Pogue – the Walla Walla River carries chunks of fractured basalt down from the Blue Mountains into the Walla Walla Valley. As the rocks are carried by the river they are tumbled, made round and smooth, until they eventually deposit along the base and edges of the river, creating stone bars that move the course of the river as the deposits increase. Over time the river undulates back and forth over the landscape depositing these alluvial rocks in fan shape, feeding stones into the landscape, and continuously moving its own channel along the way. In the last photo here you can see the water is moving in its channel all the way to the left side of the image (where the water shows more texture). As the swiftest movement flows along this path, more stones will be deposited through that channel, but as stones are deposited there by the river, the stones left there will also change the river’s path. The channel will move away from the deposits and a new channel will form, then also becoming the flow for greatest deposits. Over and over the river flows and deposits, always moving its own path. #wallawalla @wwvalleywine @oregonwineboard @wa_state_wine

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1930s-planted Cinsault, The Rocks District, Walla Walla – while contemporary grape growing started in The Rocks District in the late 1990s, we know grape growing was being done early in the late 1800s as well. In fact, the wealth of cherry trees in the area give a clue as cherries often grow well in regions that also do well for grapes. Here, vines planted by the Pesciallo family in the 1930s, then known as the Black Prince, or Black Malvosie, and today more commonly known as Cinsault. The vines were left untended for decades, then mowed over repeatedly so that their roots remained intact but their tops were gone. Then around 10 years ago, when the family didn’t mow that section of the yard one year the vines were rediscovered and today are trained up on stakes and tended to by different producers of the region, the oldest vines of The Rocks District. #wallawalla @wwvalleywine @oregonwineboard @wa_state_wine

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Mill Creek Geology, Walla Walla – this road cut far up Mill Creek brilliantly shows the layers of soil deposit and parent material influence common through much of the Walla Walla Valley, and even further in the Pacific Northwest. Zoom in to each of the layers to check out the texture. The oldest layer on the bottom, layer (1), is entirely fractured basalt, set down by partially melted mantle being uplifted as it melts then hardened as it cools closer to the surface. Much of the Pacific Northwest is built on this layer. Then, here, in level (2), the influence of local rivers and streams has eroded and rounded some of that basalt into a layer of alluvial stones often referred to locally as the old gravels as they are deep in the soil. This sort of alluvial old gravels will appear only in specific areas with river influence. Then, a new parent material appears. In the eastern side of Washington and Oregon, and all the way to the eastern face of the Chehalem Mountains even, we see demonstrated here in layer (3), a thick layer of wind blown loess, a silty soil formed from eroded granite then moved far across the landscape by wind. Granite is not native to the Pacific Northwest and instead is blown into the region from further East. This is a fine particle soil but with rough edges as it has not been polished by water. Finally, we see, in layer(4), another localized layer of alluvial stones, more basalt rocks eroded and rounded out of the Blue Mountains, then carried downstream and deposited in this case atop the loess. The depth of the loess layer varies significantly through the greater region, even disappearing in places with significant alluvial influence as the water continuously washes it away. The young gravels alluvial top layer in those areas is much deeper. In many areas of lower elevation, instead of loess or younger gravels, the top layer instead includes a section of Missoula Flood soils overlaying basalt. #wallawalla

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Vietti 2015 Ravera, Barolo – a total joy to drink this wine. So much love for Vietti. On wine trips to various regions I think one of the most important things we can do to pay respect to the region being visited and consider the wines seriously at a global level is occasionally taste or enjoy well respected wines from other parts of the world. The primary focus should be on the local region itself, but then accented by these occasional forays into other wines. Doing so keeps your palate and perspective working at a global level and in doing so keeps open the dance between digging into the details of the local region and considering how that region plays beyond its own local community. #wallawalla @vietti_winery @wwvalleywine @wa_state_wine @oregonwineboard

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Bartolo Mascarello 2010 and Stella di Campalto 2011 Riserva Brunello di Montalcino – such gorgeous counterpoints. #wallawalla

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Cayuse 2014 Bionic Frog Syrah, Walla Walla – opening up the Bionic Frog. Grown entirely within what is now The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater, Bionic Frog from Cayuse is one of the wines that helped first turn attention to the alluvial stones of the old Walla Walla River bed on the Oregon side of the southern Walla Walla Valley. In the late 1990s Christophe Baron was one of the first in the area’s current iteration to plant in the stones, initially struggling to establish vines as standard vineyard equipment was inadequate to the density of the stones. Originally from France, Baron made a simple commitment. Every year he would return to France to meet with producers from the Rhône (where such cobbles also famously appear) and to attend trade fairs to examine new sorts of farming equipment. With these studies he would then bring back to Walla Walla every year one new farming technique, and one new piece of farming equipment in an attempt to continuously, steadily evolve his understanding of growing in his rocky sites. The trick being to maintain a balance of continuity year to year with still intentional improvement. Today, 22 years later, Cayuse proves to be the longest-standing winegrower in the still young sub-zone of the Walla Walla Valley, The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater. #wallawalla @wwvalleywine @oregonwineboard @wa_state_wine

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Autumn in Walla Walla – Fall in Walla Walla is quite pleasant, though much of my week here has been dominated by heavy ice fog that has prevented any sense of the open vistas that otherwise inform this landscape. Trees here include a mix of seasonal species and those that remain green year round, allowing a more textured view through the change towards winter. Spending an abundance of time along the river systems here helps alleviate the anxiety I get being away from water. I grew up along the waterways of Alaska after all. It ‘s hard to shake those foundational needs. Most of all though as the town of Walla Walla has filled in these last few years with a new quality of restaurants to add to those charmers already established (each featuring international wine lists), a bakery, and even a wine bar with an Old World perspective, there is an even greater sense of community warmth, people sharing space together throughout the town over food and wine. There has been an unmistakable increase of excitement and global perspective in the wine community here in even just the last four years. A surge in producers and viticulturists with experience in other parts of the world moving into the region and adding to the tenacity and hard work the founding wineries have put into establishing Walla Walla. It ‘s a feeling of the energy building, on the verge of an elemental shift like water as it heats just before the bubbles begin to pop from boiling, or a sprinter in the blocks with their body pulling tight as the starter counts down to launch the race. #wallawalla @wwvalleywine @wa_state_wine @oregonwineboard

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Mission and Pais Re-evaluated, part 2

In the second half of her two-part analysis of this recovered grape variety, Elaine looks at some current examples of wines now being made in California and Chile. See also part 1.

Tegan Passalacqua, pictured below, is one of the founders of the Historic Vineyard Society, and is arguably one of the most quietly influential winemakers in California. He serves as both vineyard manager and winemaker for Turley Wine Cellars while also making his own small production Sandlands wines. But his work for Turley involves driving throughout the northern half of California, not only tracking the Turley vineyards but also getting to know old-vines sites and the families that own them across the state. He has regularly played matchmaker between old family vineyards and winemakers looking for unique, affordable options. His scouting ability has, importantly, helped grow the Turley Zinfandel portfolio and has also helped him find unique sites for his own Sandlands label. [For the story of someone who plays a slightly similar role in South Africa, see Jancis’s article on Rosa Kruger – JH]

In 2017, Sandlands released a mere 50 cases of Mission from the oldest vineyard in North America (pictured with part 1), planted in 1854 in the Shenandoah Valley in the Sierra Foothills. It took Passalacqua several years to convince the site’s owner Ken Deaver (pictured top right) to sell him grapes. The Sandlands 2017 Mission is my favourite California example of this varietal, exemplifying a perfect balance between allowing the variety’s rusticity while delivering a clean wine with interest. It’s juicy and bright with notes of rose tea and just a bit of that tactile tannin. A perfect charcuterie wine at 12.9%.

Passalacqua also delivered an equal amount of fruit (the equivalent of 50 cases of wine) from the same Mission vineyard to the new …. 

To keep reading this article, head on over to JancisRobinson.comHere’s the direct link to the article: https://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/mission-and-pais-re-evaluated-part-2. You’ll have to sign in with a subscription to keep reading it.

A subscription to JancisRobinson.com is £8.50 a month or £85 per year ($12.20/mo or $122 a year for you Americans) and includes searchable access to the new 4th edition of the Oxford Companion to Wine ($65) and the 7th edition to the World Atlas of Wine ($50) as part of the subscription costs, as well as interactive discussions on the Purple Pages. Click here to sign up.

Mission and Pais re-evaluated, part 1

Mission Vine planted in 1854

A historic grape variety is emerging from obscurity in California, at the same time as in southern Chile. See part 2 tomorrow.

Mission is arguably the most disregarded yet historically important variety in North and South America. Known as País in Chile and Criolla Chica in Argentina, there are also small plantings in Mexico, where it is known as Misión. In Argentina, it was believed for years to have grown from the seed of an imported Vitis vinifera vine, a uniquely South American variety even if not exactly indigenous. But in 2007, DNA profiling proved that theory untrue. It is Listán Prieto, an almost vanished vine native to central Spain and still found to a limited extent on the Canary Islands.

While the variety established wine growing in the two New World continents, once other Vitis vinifera arrived it was disregarded because its wines were seen as too rustic to be taken seriously. Historic texts describe it as ‘sailors’ wine’, as if sailors don’t care what they drink. Its characteristics certainly seem to work against today’s fine-wine trends. It often has an acidity problem. In the Canary Islands, they say the wine is too bright and shrill, while in California its acidity tends to be dangerously low. Its wine is often lacking in colour or concentration. And its naturally rustic tannins tend towards not merely rough but a sharp character that is exacerbated by whole-cluster fermentation and not alleviated by extended hang time. The wine’s tannins remind me of the feeling of being licked by a cat.

Yet, Mission is going through a bit of a California revival. A (very) few producers have continued to make fortified Mission with an allusion to the historical beverage Angelica. But the last few years have seen producers again making dry table wine from the variety not only from historic vineyards but also from newly established plantings. It’s a trend that parallels a movement in Chile, where producers are sending ….

To keep reading this article, head on over to JancisRobinson.comHere’s the direct link to the article: https://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/mission-and-pais-re-evaluated-part-1. You’ll have to sign in with a subscription to keep reading it.

A subscription to JancisRobinson.com is £8.50 a month or £85 per year ($12.20/mo or $122 a year for you Americans) and includes searchable access to the new 4th edition of the Oxford Companion to Wine ($65) and the 7th edition to the World Atlas of Wine ($50) as part of the subscription costs, as well as interactive discussions on the Purple Pages. Click here to sign up.

Two Weeks in Hong Kong, Manila, Singapore, and Japan

In the second half of October I traveled Hong Kong, Manila, Singapore, and Japan giving seminars and some wine dinners along the way. It was my first visit to each of the island nations and I had a lot of fun meeting people along the way and tasting local foods. Following is the collection of photos I shared to Instagram while traveling.

 

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Wan Chai, Hong Kong – colorfully painted residential buildings in the old Wan Chai area of Hong Kong. #hongkong

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Spring Deer Peking Duck – dinner at a locals’ favorite, Spring Deer, in Tsim Sha Tsui of Kowloon. #hongkong

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Star Ferry, Hong Kong – crossing Victoria Harbour to Kowloon on the Star Ferry, looking back at Wan Chai, Hong Kong. #hongkong

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California Chardonnay Seminar, Hong Kong – dude. My name is giant. #hongkong

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A History of California in 8 Wines: A New Look at Chardonnay, Hong Kong – my enormous gratitude to the incredible job the team here in Hong Kong did at putting together a California wine event and hosting me for the seminar. It was an honor to speak to Hong Kong’s wine trade and media, to present such an incredible line up of wines, and to learn more about the interests and enthusiasms of the people here. It was so much fun to speak with attendees after. My deep thanks to Stony Hill, Hanzell, Ramey, Clendenen Family, DuMOL, Matthiasson, Sandhi, Ceritas for letting me take your wine across the Pacific to tell this story. It was an incredible set of wines to taste side-by-side and a unique opportunity to share them with the people here in Hong Kong. Thank you. Wines: Stony Hill 2011, Hanzell 2014, Ramey 2016 Hyde, Clendenen Family 2015 Le Bon Climat, DuMOL 2016 Estate, Matthiasson 2014 Michael Mara, Sandhi 2015 Sanford & Benedict, Ceritas 2017 Charles Heintz. #californiawine #hongkong #wine @california.wines @calhkwine @stonyhillvineyard @hanzellfarm @rameywinecellars @jimclendenen @dumolwinery @matthiasson_wine @sandhiwines @rajatparr @sashimoorman @jraytek

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Morning Pastries, Hong Kong – this is my undoing: in many ways I care far less about eating than I do about tasting and trying things. So this morning while going for a croissant to eat with my coffee I had to also grab the sweet potato bun (front left) and the corned beef bun (front right) because what on earth do those taste like?! The sweet potato bun I still can’t quite solve but liked. It is hollow on the inside (surprising) and very mild in flavor (common to the morning buns here) while just a hint sweet on the inside (also slightly surprising). The entire inside also was fuzzy-red just like you see on the outside and how on earth did they accomplish that?! My best guess currently is that it is made of potato flour, slightly sweet, and shaped like a sweet potato, rather than that it is made of sweet potato. The corned beef bun was exactly what you’d expect: a fluffy glazed bun with corned beef inside. So, you know, yum. #hongkong

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View of Hong Kong from the Peak Trail, 1400 ft / 427 m – traveling to Hong Kong has been a dream of mine since my teens so being here now feels like a genuine privilege. I didn’t expect how incredibly green the city is. There truly is no other city in the world simultaneously so urban and so verdant. The skyscrapers of Hong Kong are surrounded by wild green mountain forests – hiking through the mountain park eventually you turn the corner and there is only mountain forest (as shown in photo 3 here) – and then between the island of Hong Kong and Kowloon there is the water. The haze in these photos is early morning weather, not smog. The city and landscape a feast for the eyes. #hongkong

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The Peak Tram, Hong Kong – riding the incredibly steep Peak Tram back down the mountain into Hong Kong. #hongkong

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So kind. Thank you! It was lovely to meet you and so nice to speak with so many attendees afterwards. Thank you for having me in beautiful Hong Kong! 💕 #repost: @kalai804… A History of California in 8 Wines: A new look at Chardonnay 🇺🇸 What a privilege to attend such an informative masterclass. Elaine Chukan Brown speaks with poise, in-depth knowledge, focus, and humor, taking us on a journey of California’s wine industry from the early pioneers of post-Prohibition, to adapting Burgundian winemaking techniques, to understanding its unique terroir and different micro-climates. The 8 wines presented were so different, and the one that really made an impression on me was the Sandhi Sanford & Benedict 2015. The reductive nose, sharp acidity, salinity, and “minerality” definitely does not fit the typical California Chardonnay profile. And it’s refreshing to know that winemakers are doing what they feel are right, instead of following the same formula that’s worked in the market for years. Thank you to all the wineries that gave their wines for us to taste. 🙇🏻‍♀️👍🏼👍🏼 #winelover🍷 #californiawines #californiawine #wineeducator #winegeek @hawk_wakawaka @calhkwine @california.wines @sandhiwines @rajatparr @sashimoorman

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Four Seasons Hot Pot, Hong Kong – fantastic food, local tradition. Hot pot three ways, with one pot split in two sections (here in the pot in the front of the photo, so impressed by that). Each section or pot has its own broth type but then you also order the kinds of ingredients you want to cook in those broths – specific vegetables or roots, meat types, tofu, and mushrooms – and you cook them yourself on your cook-table to eat not as soup exactly but as cooked meats, vegetables, roots, or mushrooms flavored by the broths you’ve chosen but then flavored even more by your own personally made dipping sauce. The food cooked in hot pot is cooked in broth, then served to your individual plate and once you receive it, you choose how to eat it. You can have it as is from hot pot or, more likely, dipped into your own individual concoction of soy sauce flavored with garlic, green onion, sesame, peanut, hot chile as you like. When you go out for hot pot and order you are first handed the ingredients and utensils to make your own dipping sauce. Then later you are given your hot pot with broth and ingredients to cook. Every personal dipping sauce is unique. Enormous thanks for including me in hot pot (and not making me cook any of it). The food was delicious, and you were right. My dipping sauce just kept getting better as the meal went on. #hongkong

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Breakfast, Hong Kong – last breakfast soup in Hong Kong (this visit). #hongkong

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Sweet Buns, Hong Kong – OHMYGOD I LOVE THESE. One of the things I love about traveling is finding new treats to try. Here in Hong Kong even the sweet buns are not too sweet, which works so well for me. I love these. In the front here is the lotus seed bun – all puffed dense bun on the outside with only just slightly sweet lotus seed paste on the inside. Do not try to cut this. It is for biting. On top is the sesame bun. The inside is filled with a sesame seed paste slightly sweeter than the lotus seed paste but here surrounded by a crisp, savory, toasted sesame outside that moves your mouth from crunch to squish and all through yummy. These are awesome. I love how aware of texture food culture is here. #hongkong

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So very glad you enjoyed the seminar and the wines! Thank you for your thoughts and insights on the seminar. #repost: @openwines.hk… A History of California in 8 wines: A new look at Chardonnay by Elaine Chukan Brown 喝葡萄酒,酒的顏色、香味、口感和餘韻等感官上的表現固然重要,但如對酒莊背後的歷史和葡萄園的風土有認識,將會更添樂趣。 昨天參加了一個由California Wines主辦,Elaine Chukan Brown女士主講的大師班,內容包括了八枝來自美國加州不同產區的Chardonnay,每枝酒都展現不同風格,令參加者充份認識到加州的Chardonnay,已擺脫了一般誤傳的,只是單一以豐滿的果香、木香和澎湃的酒體取勝,而可以是典雅幼細,有美國特色、Burgundy風格的白葡萄酒。 Brown女士詳盡細緻地講解,從加州的Chardonnay如何從十九世纪初的酒禁後的陰霾走出來,業者如何挑選不同風土的葡萄園,釀製出他們追求的風格,再讓參加者印証他們面前八款的Chardonnay,把他們對加州Chardonnay的認識和味覺享受,引導至一更高的層次。Brown女士的大師班,可算是筆者過去一年參加過的試酒會中,收獲最豐的一次。筆者原本已是加州Flowers酒莊的Chardonnay擁,經過這次大師班,更加相信加州不同風格的Chardonnay,必有一款合讀者的口味! #californiawineshongkong #masterclass #chardonnay @calhkwine @california.wines

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Outdoor Houseplant Market, Manila – a huge square full of houseplant vendors, open only after dark. #manila

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Breakfast Sweet Cakes, Manila – Treats local to the Philippines to try! from top: Sapin Sapin, Biko Pandin, Cassava Cake. These are small bite, only very slightly sweet treats to finish a meal. The texture varies between them but they do all tend towards sticky-squishy. The Cassava Cake is of course ground cassava root, which I quite like as it has been a good option for me when my diet is restricted from grains. There is just a slightly granular texture here. The Biko Sanpin I believe is tapioca. It is the stickiest-smoothest of the three and obviously colorful. The Sapin Sapin I believe is cooked and shaped sweet rice. It is the sweetest of the three, though still only slightly, and is also the most granular texture. Pleasant across the board. I love trying these local foods. Yay! #manila

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Orchids around Manila #manila

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Pacific Grouper, Manila – an incredible dish of Pacific Grouper served with greens and broth. The flavors here were delicate, subtle, and incredibly elegant. This dish was nothing but a pleasure. It was deboned, then portioned table side. As my bowl was handed to me our server explained the fish cheeks (I was raised to recognize fish cheeks as the best part) are offered to the woman at the table in recognition of her beauty, and because it is believed the fish cheeks also enhance her beauty. What I have seen of Manila culture has been quite charming. The people here are so kind, and I would say even loving in their simple, everyday interactions. It has been disarming and refreshing to receive. Thank you. #manila

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Night palms of Manila #manila

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Welcome to Singapore (this is all live flowers). #singapore

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Both Christmas and Valentine’s Day in Singapore #singapore

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Yam Pau, Singapore – my tour of the buns of Asia is almost complete. Here, a yam paste squish bun. Beautiful. #singapore

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Cantonese Food, California Wine, Alaska King Crab – three of my worlds smashing together in Singapore. #singapore

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Ferrari Dinner, Ritz-Carlton, Singapore. #singapore

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Koi Pond, Changi Airport, Singapore – so many beautiful gardens inside the Changi Airport. #singapore

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Selecting Dinner, Tokyo #tokyo

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Sashimi, Tokyo – incredible. #tokyo @somm_antics @dierberg

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