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Reply to "Where Have All The Century-Old Vines Gone? (The Hidden Story)"

Originally posted by Peter "Vine Master":
I hope the tides change! Smile

I’ve never done this before & wish to respond the first 9 comments I‘ll give a few details:
Thank you everyone so far! I agree with most of your points and…

cdr, I didn’t mention it before but I only use Organic materials, & spent my life out there learning what is healthiest for the environment – wines are a reflection of where they are grown – that is the reason specific vineyards & viticultural areas are listed on wines so I’ve always strived to know every inch of the land & have been out in it, in every kind of weather condition, hour of the day, & season. Not too far from me thousands of acres that were cared for by farmers are getting covered like you saw in Rancho Cucamonga only here we need those lands to slowly absorb the heavy rain water we usually get & I see horrific torrents of water slamming down the Russian River & it’s tributaries with any Rain fal, & at a time, when we actually have less acres in farming, & there is extreme attention to erosion control in Vineyards (Wine growers know they need to keep their good soil to have a good vineyard) Some extremists want to blame the Farmers for the flooding! It’s the high-density asphalt!

In Sonoma County most of the growers ~80% have less than 40 acres & most of them average less than 15 acres. In the family farming that puts the fruits & vegetables in the grocery it is rare to see “family farms under 200 acres!

Sandy Fitzgerald, TORB & most of pointed out QUALITY


There are a some old vines that either are not well farmed & some for example have survived deep clay soils with high water tables & just can’t match the quality we get on our shallow sandy loam.

I use many words here but I’m highlighting 25 years here, I have been told that many times what I grow is the best – I know I am at least near the top:
I started reviving our old vines in 1984 & for 8 years nursed very weak vines to a much better health with the help of a white Zin contract which required sugar levels about 45% of what we wait for in the good stuff. While many took the opportunity to put on mega crops I did increase ours a bit but used the opportunity to allow the vines to add an extra 6 weeks of trunk building strength each year ….in the early 1990s I started making some wine to find out & show what it can do by itself. I soon had multiple wineries buying some off this tiny block.

>>> One entered it in the California State Fair in 1995 & was honored as the Best/ Sweepstakes Red wine of the entire show.
That year we contracted the rest with another winery who has many sources of acclaim:

>>> Parker: Over the last 10 years+ has only once given it an 89, & once the rest have been 90 to 94, in 1998 The wine Spectator put the vintage down as a disaster except for 2 Zinfandels that mad it in to the 90s ours got a 91.

>>>They entered our Zin in The Sonoma County Harvest Fair a couple of times: won the The Sweepstakes Best Red wine of the show & I was personally honored As Grower also- The other time It took A gold & was Judger for The Sweepstakes again.

>>> I also happened to make some my self that year & over the courts of 2 years I entered it in to all the top 12 USA (blind) competitions & won a Gold or better in every show…..
….. Dose 15 years of independent consistent top ratings mean anything?

azprwb & Sticky2
You both ask about Life span. How long a vine will live depends on the conditions of it’s environment & care. In our area on the lighter soils a few years of abandonment or even marginal care can kill a vine as they & the weeds will dry the ground to the point their roots won’t support any life. (Wise dry farmers have to gauge our practices on the season to make the sure we produce grapes & survive the dry season, which is at least 4 to 9 months without rain) My father who passed away in 1984 was about to pull out the decrepit old vineyard would be amazed to walk it in 2007 because of my hands on labor the same vines look far healthier than they did in 1972 when he bought the place. If I don’t drop dead or quit – both serious possibilities right now, & there is no serious economic incentive to continue my diligence they’ll die or decline on a par with what ever input they get: 1 to 5 years? Baring the importation a non native invasive pest or urban invasion, most may be able to be pampered to produce great fruit another 90 years? The oldest vines are in the New World & are around 120.

OVER CROPPING: In the central valley where the under $5 dollar wine “California” appellation wine is grown, a grower planning to pull out the vines after harvest may indeed allow a giant crop & may under some circumstances sell it for something – usually not wine. Here in wine country to crop a vine to the point of killing it -well I have seen people do this, it takes only one season to kill a vine this way & the fruit comes down when the farmer pulls the vine out because nobody here would except such __crap_ to be nice.

Two notes on azprwb ‘s, comments: Wherever a grower is, to sell their grapes they must meet certain standards & it is simply not possible to meet quality standards & carry life threatening quantities of crop at the same time. * At Least Not On A Mature Vine! * It takes 4 to 7 years for a vine & it’s roots to come into full maturity & in the late 90’s during the big planting boom many tried push serious production on 2 to 3 year old vines. Hundreds of acres died tiring to make an early crop (and made 0). There absolutely is no incentive to do this!

In this area good standard vineyards can average 5 to 7.5 tons per acre. The high end stuff -$60 to $160+ Pinot Noirs & Cabernets are encouraged to stay below 4 tons but the top Quality Old Zinfandel which takes much more effort to farm average 0.5 to 2.5 tons per acre.

Vines must be in balance to give a good quality crop too much or to little is a problem.

Sandy Fitzgerald

I addressed Quality above & I agree that some wines are over priced but those that consistently produce the top quality & are rare, special, and actually cost much more to grow & make deserve to be at the top.

Thank you!
Before I had two kids it was O. K. to eat beans & drive a very old car.

Those of us who really like Zinfandel know that certain American writers knock off 5 points just because it is Zinfandel & only comes from the USA! Most of the best usually don’t bother to send in their best Zins…


When it crosses the ocean, exchanges for the weaker dollar, gets marked up… I’ve never seen Grange under $100 & recently saw it in the $260 range! Of course I’ve never bought it, as I have never had a car with less than 100,000 Miles & fewer than 9 years old. I am not trying to get rich but would like a third bedroom so my little boy & girl could have separate rooms.