Category Archives: Wine Maker’s Corner

My Pre-Harvest Assessment – 2020!

What’s going on with the weather,is this a part of the curse known as “Global Warming”? Whatever it is I don’t like it. First, the season started with unusually cooler weather with occasional rains which are very rare in May in this region. And now we have the longest heat wave and extreme fluctuations in the temperature. During the growing season I routinely check the temperatures in my vineyard. This year one day in June I measured 68 degrees as the maximum temperature; and just last week, on August 20th it was a blazing 117 degrees.

This heat wave is creating fires and power outages with devastating effects for everyone. Groups of fires are burning on all sides of the San Francisco Bay Area. The National Weather Service issued a “red flag” warning through tomorrow afternoon, Monday August 24, due to the extreme fire conditions created by dry thunderstorms, high temperatures, low humidity and gusty winds up to 65 miles per hour. This is happening in August, my friends.

First let me point out the distinction between climate and weather. Climate refers to general conditions that have a pattern of consistency for a specific region, while weather is better used for temporary conditions that might or might not be unusual. The questions are how these erratic weather patterns are affecting our grape crop this year and whether this pattern will be a way of life for the future. Don’t believe if anyone tells you that this is a temporary situation and the weather will normalize. Unfortunately, this is here to stay, and my prediction is that it will get worse.

Listen to this! According to the World Meteorological Organization our planet is on course to experience an increase in the average daily temperature of 5.76 degrees F by the end of the century. While for people our age the end of the century may seem like the end of the world, think about our great grandchildren, what kind of world they will be inheriting from us.

As for the effect of the weather on this year’s harvest, the rains early in the season created an insurmountable quantity of vegetation, covering our vineyards with ugly weeds and excessive amounts of shoots and leaves on the vines, requiring way more hand labor to make the vineyard normal looking.

Earlier in the season, before the onset of this heatwave, I would have predicted that harvest would be coming late this year. Veraison, the change of color in grapes which is a landmark in the development of the fruit on the vines, started at least one week later than normal. My earlier prediction was that harvest would begin at least 2 weeks late, towards the end of September. This heat spike has changed everything. It created a problematic situation, causing the fruit to overripen quickly and some to even dehydrate. From having an abundance of water in the soil early in the season, now the vines are yearning for water and I can’t supply enough.

The first varieties to undergo veraison were Syrah and Tempranillo, with Zinfandel a distant second while the last one was Cabernet Franc and all the others in between. I am anticipating that the Syrah and Tempranillo will be harvested around the middle of September. Let’s not forget the Sauvignon Blanc which is probably a week away from harvest.

Maybe I didn’t sound so positive about the prospects of this year’s harvest. This is far from what I truly believe. Every year we have challenges, some more difficult than others and some outside of our control. We face these challenges with confidence, hard work and a positive attitude. And we have been making great wines from year one in 2001. We will not change our course no matter what the challenges.

Cheers,

Chaim

August 2020

“Thou shall not make but authentic wines” – The eleventh commandment

Recently I participated in a panel with six other winemakers to discuss our views on the different styles of wine. One of the winemakers in the panel, representing a well-known, high-end winery, specializing in producing Zinfandels stated that their style of wine is “authentic,” explaining that their varietal wines are always 100% of one variety. They would never blend in any other variety into their wines, nor would they use any “additives.” I found his latter statement somewhat strange since their wines did not taste like they were lacking sulfur dioxide, which one would notice right away.

Their wines tasted very alcoholic and somewhat sweet and “flabby,” indicating the lack of acidity. The winemaker made it very clear that adding tartaric acid to their wines went contrary to their principles of making wine. This would be considered adulteration. In the US, legally you are allowed to blend into a varietal wine up to 25% of other varieties while maintaining the varietal name of the wine. You are also allowed to add tartaric acid (the wine acid) to affect its pH.

In general, I am very accepting of a diversity in wine styles. I understand why some winemakers make biodynamic wines, organic wines (although they would not taste like normal wines) or 100% varietal wines or whatever else there is, as long as I would find the wine somewhat pleasant to drink. What touched my nerve about this winery was that they claimed their wines were “authentic.”

Authenticity means rightfulness, trustworthiness. These are moral values that probably most of us subscribe and some of us practice. I have a hard time with the concept that a winery would take ownership to morality in making their wines while claiming everyone else’s wines, who don’t adhere to their style, are fake.

First, I thought that this winemaker was using the word “authenticity” as a metaphor or descriptor for their wines. But after questioning him I realized this was more an application of the principle of morality into the wine. Like saying that “it’s immoral to make wine any other way.” In some wine growing regions in the world they have laws that regulate the varietals that you can grow and blend into your wine. Like Brunello di Montalcino must be 100% Sangiovese, and not any good old Sangiovese, but a clone known as “Brunello” which means in Italian “the little brown one.” Undoubtedly, this is being done to gain a marketing advantage for wines produced in that area. This is a common practice used in many other regions in the world and I have no problems accepting this.

We are living in an era of multi-faceted divisiveness. We are divided racially, economically, culturally, by national origin, you name it. It seems like we, the people of this country, have nothing in common. Even wine, our last resort to bring people together, is being used as a divisive tool to separate people in the name of authenticity. Authenticity is a way of life and I have issues when people apply it to physical objects, foods or other commodities. To me this is like they are writing the eleventh commandment, “thou shall not make but authentic wines.”

Cheers,

Chaim Gur-Arieh

July 2020

The Culture of Aging of Wine

In my mind the aging of wine is definitely a culture. Just think about it. Is it so obvious that a wine will improve with aging? Quite the contrary. If you consider wine to be a food, like you should, the quality of all foods, without exception, will decline with aging. That is why food companies must indicate on their labels the expiration date of the foods they manufacture.

I think that the benefits of aging wine were discovered by accident in the old-world wine regions several hundred years ago. In that part of the world the weather during the wine growing season is inconsistent and unpredictable. For a period, you might get a hot spell with day and night temperatures ranging from 80 to over 100 degrees; and following that, the weather may turn rainy and cold with temperatures dropping to 50 – 60 degrees. In this kind of environment, during these extreme conditions, the ripening process slows down and some years winemakers are forced to harvest the grapes before they are fully ripe. This results in astringent wines with high levels of tannins and deficient in fruit flavors.

Necessity is the mother of invention. Our ancestors realized that if they age the wines for a few years in a moderate environment, the tannins soften, making the wine less astringent and giving way to a softer mouthfeel. In addition, with aging, the wines acquire flavor and aroma qualities that they didn’t have before. This occurs through chemical reactions between certain components present in the wine that promote the creation of complex flavors and aromas that can be fruity, floral, earthy, spicy, caramelly or minerally. This quality is unique and distinguishes wine from other foods.

The Culture of Aging Wine” was created for the purpose of making old world wines more pleasant to drink. Contrary to the climatic conditions in the old-world wine regions, the new world especially California, is blessed with a weather that enables the grapes to ripen consistently within the growing season. Depending on the style of the wine, which is determined by the winemaker, new world wines can be fruitier and softer than old world wines and do not require any aging to make them drinkable. It is not an obvious necessity to age new world wines, even though they may benefit from this process. My conclusion is that if our colleagues in the old-world wine regions had not created “The Culture of Aging Wine,” we would not have known that aging wines can also benefit the quality of the wine made in the new world.

Ninety percent of the wine produced in the new world is sold within one year of production, and 99% sold within five years. When aging wines, you need to contend with the age-worthiness of the specific wine, including the variety, the way the wine is crafted, the storage conditions, etc., but you also need to consider the packaging, namely the bottle and the cork. The quality of an aged wine varies significantly from one bottle to the next, especially depending on the condition of the cork. If you store a case of the same wine in a temperature-controlled cellar and you open the entire case after 10-15 years, you will be amazed to discover that every bottle will give you a different wine. In most bottles you won’t be able to pull the cork in one piece. In others the wine will penetrate through the cork and causing the bottle to leak. Obviously in both cases the wine quality is compromised which doesn’t make the aging of wines a positive experience.

Don’t despair! I figured out how I can make wines that can endure their aging process and at the same time also transform themselves to reveal qualities that were not there when they were still young. While some of these wines were outstanding to begin with, they became more complex and subtle. The factors affecting the age-worthiness of a wine are the variety, the viticulture practices and the winemaking techniques. Also consider the fact that since 2007 I have been using a cork that keeps its integrity for 30 years or longer. I am in love with my aged wines and completely sold on this beautiful culture of aging wines.

Cheers!

Chaim,

May 2020

The Art of Blending

I have some great plans for 2020. 

I am putting together a workshop to teach you how to make blends. 

But first listen to this:

The tradition of making blends from different wine varieties, practiced mainly in the old-world wine regions, dates back to at least 500 years.  As an example, all the wines made In Bordeaux are blends that by law must consist of two or more of the following varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot.   It should be noted that in Bordeaux these blends are named after the region or sub-region and not after the name of the variety.  Bordeaux is sliced into 38 sub-regions with 57 different appellations, each one called “Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée” (AOC), governed by laws which dictate the permissible grape varieties, alcohol levels, methods of pruning and picking, density of planting and appropriate yields, as well as various winemaking techniques. 

The two questions that come to mind are:  Why does Bordeaux need such a strong level of government control and why is it necessary to have blends rather than making stand-alone varietals?  The answer to the first question is to maintain the authenticity, uniqueness and exclusivity of each region and sub-region for marketing purposes.  As for the second question, this is like an insurance policy against a common occurrence in Bordeaux that has unpredictable weather, inconsistent from year to year.  Some years, the Cabernet Sauvignon needs more heat-days to reach full ripeness, will be harvested underripe making the wine acidic and astringent.  However, blending this Cabernet with Merlot and Cabernet Franc, requires less heat to reach full ripeness, will yield a somewhat acceptable wine.

So, why do we need to make blends in our region, the Sierra Foothills of California, where the weather is near perfect for growing many different varieties of wine grapes and achieving ripeness every single year?  Given that we don’t have tight regulations for growing specific grape varietals and are not restricted in our farming and winemaking protocols, we have no chance of representing ourselves as an authentic, unique and exclusive wine region like many of the old-world AOCs.  So, why waste our energies and resources to make blends where we can concentrate on making strictly stand-alone varietals?

The answer my friends, is that some of us as individuals and not necessarily as a group from a region have an inner urge to be creative with a strong desire to make authentic and unique wines.  As an individual, I strive to make a varietal wine that will show the identity of the specific variety.  In this case, I feel that I have accomplished my mission when the wine’s variety is identifiable.  Whereas, when I make a blend I have the freedom to create an identity for the wine….and the sky is the limit!  I choose components that act with synergy and harmony layering the flavors and other attributes of wines that are complimentary and can achieve a perfect balance.

Come to my “The Art of Blending Workshop.”  My first one will be on Sunday March 29, 2020.

I will show you how I make my blends. 

You will have 6 single varietal wines to chose from.  You will create your own blend.

  Make 2 bottles to take home.  Cheers!!

Chaim,

March 2020

The Gallery Collection Club – A Historical Perspective

Before I started the Gallery Collection Club in 2003, I looked around to see what other wineries were doing.  I was surprised to find out that all they were doing was packaging 2 – 6 bottles of their regular wines that they were selling in their tasting room every day and shipping them to their club members as club wines.   I decided that my club had to be more distinctive and exciting than other wineries’ clubs. 

First, I wanted my club to be exclusive, by making wines specifically created for the club and released during a special Open House event.  Only club members and their friends were invited to this event.  Furthermore, I wanted this club to have a strong educational component.  Each wine released was accompanied with Winemaker’s Notes, which gave a thorough description of the wine and included in a Newsletter published for this event.  This Newsletter also contained suggested recipes for pairing with the wines.

The most distinctive part of my club was that I created specific categories and made all my Gallery Collection wines to fit one of these categories.  Here is the list of the 5 categories of wines:

  • Holiday Wines – “Proprietor’s Blend”, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Syrah, made every year since 2003 and released in November for the holidays.
  • Wines with a Narrative – The narrative part of this category is in the name that I chose for the wine.  I made many wines that fit this category which I will list only a few:
    •  “Due Amici”, whichtranslates from Italian as “Two Friends” referring to the major two wine varietals in this blend, namely Zinfandel and Primitivo.
    •  “Eulogy”, a wine made from a Syrah, clone 877, that I planted in 2001 showing signs of weakness and eventually after 5 years started breaking in the graft union and dying. 
    • “Padre & Figlio”, which translates from Italian as “Father & Son” referring to Syrah and Petite Sirah, which are the two components of this wine and which are related in this manner.
  • Auto-Biographical Wines – Wines having a connection with my life.
    • Sivan”, my daughter.
    • “Taksim”, the name of the neighborhood that I grew up in Istanbul.
    • “SandFire Red”, the fire that almost destroyed our home and winery in 2014 that started on Sandhill Road and HW 49
  • Off-Beat Wines – Stand-alone non-mainstream varietals, such as “Touriga Nacional”, “Cabernet Franc”, “Grenache”, “Petit Verdot”.
  • Oldies but Goodies – Any of the above wines aged 10 years or more.

It’s a common fact that there is a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sense may lead to an involuntary stimulation of other senses.  My ulterior motive in creating the Gallery Collection Club in this manner was so that my wines would appeal to all your senses and drinking them would make it an unforgettable experience.

Chaim

January 2020

“Noble Grapes” and Other Wine Metaphors –

“Noble Grapes” and Other Wine Metaphors –

Have you ever run across the term “noble grapes” and wondered what it means? I have, many times. And to be truthful I wasn’t so sure what it really meant until I investigated. I did not expect to find out that “noble grapes” is a term used to describe the grape varieties that are most recognized in the world as producing the highest quality wines. After all, to me “noble” means aristocratic, or belonging to a hereditary class with higher status. What does this have to do with wine grapes? Well.…. After all, I am sure you are aware that winemakers always use metaphors to describe wines. Some people call this the winemaker’s language or “winespeak”.

Have you heard that wines are often described as soft or hard, as wimpy or muscular or as elegant or powerful? A few of the following examples will illustrate this point:

    Calling a wine “balanced” means that no single component sticks out.
    Drinking an “angular” wine is like putting a triangle into your mouth.
    An “austere” wine turns your mouth upside down.
    A “complex” wine gives the perception of multiple layers of flavors.
    “Barnyard” doesn’t need explanation.

I dug deeper into the “noble grape” concept and discovered that there is no concensus as to how many varieties of grapes make up the class of “noble grapes”. If you ask the French, who it seems were the creators of this concept, they will tell you that there are seven grapes in the “noble grapes” category, including Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Coincidentally, all these seven varieties happen to be French. As for the Riesling they consider it also French since it comes from the region of Alsace adjoining France, which culturally is neither French nor German.

What an ingenious marketing plan to use a great name with an interesting story while calling a grape “noble” and only seven varieties attaining this status. No wonder the French dominate the wine market in the world.

While the French have had a long run of domination, other old-world countries, as well as a few new world wine countries are waking up and fighting back with their own local grape varieties trying to include them in the so far exclusive “noble grapes” club. The prime examples are Italy with their Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Pinot Grigio and Muscat and the Spanish with their Tempranillo and Grenache.

Some people claim that in addition to great marketing, the original seven “noble grapes” have the ability to please the palates of most people. The question is whether the “noble grapes” are really that much better than the others? As a winemaker I am intimately involved with three of these seven grape varieties and I do consider them as some of my favorites. There are other varieties, such as Tempranillo, Zinfandel, Nebbiolo, Barbera and others that I like as well. The question is whether the “Big Seven” were in the right place at the right time? Sometimes it helps. Cheers!

Chaim

Wine Snobs And Their Cronies

I analyzed this subject very carefully and arrived at the conclusion that there are three kinds of wine snobs: The Regular Wine Snob, the Fake Wine Snob and the Wannabe Wine Snob.  In this article I will describe each one of them at length.

The Regular Wine Snob is a special breed of wine lover that has the need to proclaim his superior knowledge of wine which we are not supposed to question.  He only drinks wines from specific regions and non from others, from specific vintage years and only from a handful of special wineries.   All the others are “haram” (which means forbidden in Arabic).

A Wine Snob believes he knows everything there is to know about wine.  If you offer him a Cabernet, he will ask you for the region.  If you tell him the Sierra Foothills, he will say forget it brother!  If you say Napa, he will ask for the name of the winery.  Even if he approves the winery, he will ask for the vintage year.  If the vintage is younger than 10 years, he will walk away with disgust. 

A Wine Snob buys wines only from wineries that are on allocation and have a long waiting list of at least five years before they will accept you as a customer.  The Wine Snob brags that he has such good connections with all these wineries that he will get accepted as a customer instantly.

Wine Snobs like to talk about their conquests.  One of my Wine Snob friends told me the following story:
“When I visited Bordeaux in 1989, I was invited by the winemaker of Chateau Lafite Rothschild to come and visit him at the Grand Chateau for a tasting from his private collection.  When I got there, the winemaker had a bottle of 1956 Grand Crus Lafite Rothschild, all prepared on the table with two 18th century Riedel glasses, the size of an average melon, and a decanter.  He proceeded to pull the cork, not in one piece but in crumbles and a funky, musty aroma of barnyard and horse blanket filled the air. This is not abnormal for a wine of this age, which incidentally was still totally at its peak to show such wonderful aroma characteristics. 

We waited patiently for almost an hour, without saying even one word, since he didn’t speak any English and in spite of my vast knowledge of wines and winemaking, I can’t say that I mastered the French language either. My winemaker finally poured the wine very carefully and with precision into both glasses.  I proceeded to scrutinize the wine, the best way I knew how, from bottom to top.  First, I watched with admiration the metallic, electric brown color and the thick legs that formed on the walls of the glass.  Then I proceeded to take a whiff, one nostril at a time from both sides of the glass so that I don’t miss even a small molecule of this vastly complex wine.  Then I took a sip to cleanse my tongue, first regurgitating it up and down and from side to side until my tongue felt clean.  The second sip sent me to heaven.  But this is not the end of my story.

My winemaker friend offered me the deal of my life.  He happened to have a second 1956 Grand Crus Lafitte Rothchild in his collection that he would offer it to me to buy.  This wine, which normally sells for $150,000 in an auction, he would let me have it for $5,500”.

Unfortunately, I ran out of space to tell you about the Fake Wine Snob and the Wannabe Wine Snob.  I promise I will do it in one of my next Winemaker’s Corners.

In the meantime, I wish all my winemaker colleagues in the area and my friends, which for the most part, are not Wine Snobs a very successful harvest season.  Cheers!

Chaim,
August 2019

“2 + 2 = 1” . . . . Our Newest Wine . . . . A Fascinating Story . . .

I am very excited to introduce a new wine called “2+2=1.”  This is serious, I am not joking.  It’s the kind of math that only Einstein can understand.  I created this wine in collaboration with JOLO, a very fine winery from North Carolina, recently nominated as one the seven best wineries outside of California.

The name “2+2=1”

denotes that this wine was created:

By 2 winemakers,

JW Ray from JOLO Vineyards & Winery, Pilot Mountain, NC

and Chaim Gur-Arieh from C.G. Di Arie Vineyard & Winery, Mt. Aukum, CA;

Using grapes from 2 wine regions, 

North Carolina and California;

(East meets West)

Creating 1 wine,

unusual one, deserving such an exotic name.

“2+2=1” has four components, one coming from the JOLO Vineyards and the other three from CG Di Arie.  The major wine variety in this wine, Cynthiana (40%) was contributed by JOLO. Cynthiana, which is now also known as Norton, at first was thought to be a different variety.   However, with the advent of DNA testing, it was shown to be identical to Norton, the first Native American variety.  This variety was created in the 19th century by Dr. Norton whose origin goes back to one of America’s founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson.  Jefferson, a wine lover who tried to cultivate a wine culture in his new land, did not know that Dr. Norton was experimenting with grape varieties that could produce the quality wines of the old world.  Dr. Norton, after having a very tragic occurrence in his early life, losing both his wife and newborn child, immersed himself into this project. After his discovery of the Native American grape that would take his name, Dr. Norton commercialized the grape and made it available for purchase.  In 1830, the vines found a home in Missouri, which would become the wine capital of the new country, and Norton the signature grape.  Norton is a hardy variety that is impervious to disease and can survive extreme weather conditions.  This is what made it an ideal wine variety for the kind of environment present in Missouri. 

The other three varieties used in “2+2=1” contributed by C. G. Di Arie are Cabernet Franc (20%) originating in Bordeaux; Zinfandel (20%) from Croatia; and Petite Sirah (20%) from Rhone. It is quite remarkable that these four different varieties coming from different parts of the world can live together so harmoniously and create such a well-balanced wine having one of the most unusual and eclectic flavor profiles.

“2+2=1” will be bottled simultaneously but separately by C.G Di Arie and JOLO in July.  A total of 175 cases will be bottled by both wineries.  At the onset, this wine will be available for sale as futures, only to the wine club members of each winery, with a maximum of two bottles per member, on a first-come, first-served basis.  There will be a release party for the wine in both locations, in Mt. Aukum, CA and Pilot Mountain, NC.  Both winemakers and their families will attend both parties.  Stay tuned ….!

Cheers,

Chaim Gur-Arieh

May 2019

Terroir (Revisited) and how it relates to the culture of aging wine

While I already covered the subject of Terroir in my January 2018 Winemaker’s Corner, I decided to revisit this topic since I feel that I left this article somewhat unfinished.  If you are interested in reading my first article, please visit my blog, which you can find on our website www.cgdiarie.com

The concept of Terroir, pronounced “terwah,” was derived from the French word “terre,” which means soil or land.  It is presumed that the land at which the grapes are grown imparts unique characteristics to the wine that distinguishes it from wines grown elsewhere.   While I do agree with the above statement, I have a few qualifications.  While the Terroir has the potential of defining the character of the wine, there are factors that tend to mask this character: 

Farming – In order to preserve the character of the Terroir, the farming techniques should promote uniformity in the level of ripeness of the fruit.  At harvest time if some of the fruit is under-ripe, while some is over-ripe, the effect of the Terroir will be diminished, making the wine more generic.

Harvest Decision – There are no objectively measurable parameters to determine the level of ripeness of grapes.  Many winemakers use the sugar level as a guide for harvest.  Often times this leads to premature harvest, which will mask the effect of the Terroir.  I make my harvest decision subjectively, by tasting the fruit.

Winemaking Style – The use of excessive levels of oak or making the wine highly alcoholic will tend to diminish the Terroir character of the wine.  

The title of this Newsletter promises to relate Terroir to the “Culture of Aging Wine.”  It is not so obvious that there is a connection between Terroir and aging of wines.

An interesting question that I am always asked is how Terroir affects the character of the wine.   In climates that are consistently warm, with large temperatures drops from day to night, usually the wines become fruitier.  These are the typical climates in “New World” wine regions.  Climates having inconsistently high or low temperatures, with lower temperature drops between day and night, the grapes will have a more difficult time ripening, resulting in wines that are less fruity, higher in tannins and more austere. This is the case in old world wine regions.

The culture of aging wines was created in the old world countries for the simple reason that old world wines are not so pleasant to drink when they are young.   As old world wines age, they become smoother, better balanced and develop more exciting flavors.  While new world wines may also benefit from aging, many people find them quite adequate to drink when they are young.  Ninety percent of the wines produced in the world are consumed within the first year of production.

If you are a winemaker in the new world and you are passionate about making wine, my advice to you would be to try to maximize the character of the terroir but also age the wine for a few years before offering for consumption.

Cheers, Chaim Gur-Arieh

Old Vines Make Better Wines – Myth or Reality

It’s quite common among wine drinkers to believe that “Old Vines Make Better Wines,” since this statement has been traditionally supported by many influential wine magazines and reviewers.  In my opinion, this is not a question that can be answered with a “yes” or a “no.”

I recently purchased 15 different brands of Zinfandel at price points ranging from $10.99 to $19.99.  I was surprised to find out that 10 of them had the “Old Vines” statement on their front label. The wines made with the “old vines” were not consistently dark and complex in character like you would expect.  Some of them were as jammie and fruity as the wines made from the so-called “young vines.”

Unfortunately, there is no legal or commonly accepted definition of “Old Vines.”  Since the name “Old Vines” gives the wine a marketing advantage, it behooves the regulators to establish a definition of “Old Vines.”  In my opinion, vines should be at least 50 years old before they can be considered “Old Vines.”

I think that the generalization of “Old Vines Make Better Wines” can be fallacious.  I have seen some very young vines producing excellent wines.  The Syrah and Petite Sirah that I planted in 2001 have consistently been making excellent wines from the first harvest in 2004.  On the other hand, the Zinfandel that I planted in the same year has been a late bloomer.  It wasn’t until 2012 that these vines started producing some decent wines.

In general, the reasons why old vines have the potential for making good wines are as follows:

  • Old vines have deeper roots, which may have some positive or negative connotations.  The deeper roots go through different types of soil, with each type having some influence on the flavor of the wine.  This could have a positive effect on the complexity of the wine. 
  • As a vine ages, it loses its vigor restricting the amount of fruit bearing capabilities of the vine.  This might have the potential of producing more flavorful fruit that makes better wines.  We can accomplish this in young vines by dropping fruit or restricting the amount of water given to the vine during the growing season.

On the other hand, I will share with you some issues that I have regarding the “Old Vine” statements made on wine labels:

  • For an old vine to produce a great wine at an old age, it had to be producing good wines when it was young.  I don’t believe that getting older will make a mediocre vine produce great wines.
  • When I see a claim on the back label that a wine is made from a vineyard that is 100 years old, I ask myself if the entire vineyard is 100 years old.  I know from my experience that over the years a part of the vines will die.  Like in my vineyards that were planted 17 years ago, about 2% of the vines died, which were promptly replaced.   When my vineyards reach 100 years of age, maybe 50% will have died and replaced.  To be truthful, the claim should be as in the following example:  “About 50% of the vines used in this wine came from 100-year-old vines, with the other 50%, the age is unknown.” 

Obviously, nothing lives forever.  At some point the vineyard that was planted a long, long time ago, will lose all the vines from the original planting.  Should we still call this wine “Old Vines?”  I wonder!

Chaim