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

>The prices for the most prestigious wines of the world commonly start in the $150 range & go up into the multiple hundreds per bottle & even beyond.
>The big American magazines for American consumers have room to print pages & pages of ratings for wines from small Obscure Foreign Labels that are $200+, $300+, $600+ even over $1,000 & they sell here!

Not Just from the Old World European, but from also the “new world”, Americans do pay hundreds of dollars per bottle for the most special new world wines for example Australia honors & preserves their heritage; Old Vines in a wine called Grange (when Americans were planting Zinfandel @ the end of the nineteenth century, they were planting Syrah.) Scattered in small blocks, the USA still shares the distinction of having some of the oldest vines in the world but we do not honor them in a way that will motivate people to continue farming & preserving them as they deserve. If fact, we are encouraging their destruction! I recently saw a “big” Zinfandel issue from one of the big wine magazines that mentioned the current owners of a great 100+ year old block near me here in Sonoma County‘s Russian River Valley, with who’s grapes a particular “winery” started with & build his reputation, was “going to do something else with the block” --- Another highly acclaimed rare old block gone & the magazine didn’t elaborate! It’s the same predicament that even those of us who’s grapes have helped wineries get the highest Zinfandel Ratings for well over a decade are in.---I know exactly what is happening & why: they will probably re plant it to Pinot Noir!
1) These old blocks are far more costly to farm than a modern conventional Vineyard.
2) It is easier to get the price for the fruit between double & triple that of 100+ year-old Zinfandel & somewhere between double & quadruple the yield!

---Bottom line trade an obsolete, hard & expensive to farm vineyard that has a low profit margin (if profitable at all) with one that costs less to farm & has a far greater return. (In other areas of Sonoma County it might be planted to Cabernet but the results are the same.)

The sad thing is that Americans will easily pay hundreds of $ for Pinot Noirs & Cabernets from these new vineyards of which there are many thousands of similar acres while the 100+ year old Zinfandel that was truly rare un-replicate-able & quickly disappearing from the finest growing regions as fast as ever. Buyers, & consumers are still shy to see Zinfandel even near $50 & wineries don’t want to bother marketing the truth not to mention that there is no legal definition of “Old Vine” & since some perceive that name to have a value, the grape source can be over 100 or “nearly 20” … These blocks of 100+ year old vines are mostly not owned by the wineries. Even though they know the fruit source is their most important factor in the quality of their wine, American wineries first market their brand & winemaker &/or owner – preferably the stuff they own & control - some also like to abuse undefined terms & names – ink is cheap vineyards are expensive.
-----I heard there is a move by the TTB to possibly make “Old Vine” mean 40 but vineyards planted in the 1970’s, though probably obsolete by today’s standards, had the benefits of a tremendous amount of pre plant technology, a foundation far more easily updated, the use of modern powered machines, & at that time most were planting the big commodity Davis clone of Zinfandel that has giant clusters, little color & low flavors--- It was great for white Zinfandel. This really wouldn’t help the image of vineyards that were growing before the Model T was introduced!

…. Everyone down the line is to blame for the situation but
Let’s put it in fair perspective:

If we were to start from an old & commonly used as a fair; bottle-price-formula, for wine grape pricing & base the per ton price for the Old Zinfandel grapes simply on what they would get in this neighborhood for the top $ Grape; Pinot Noir, on the same land, not consider the extra labor & fuel to run the obsolete field & the fact that it yields less than ¼ to ½ the fruit. As priced in the California Grape Crush Report for 2007, extrapolating everything evenly, going backwards the bottle price would be $103 and if you consider everything else in order to be 100% fair to the farmer we are talking double that. Not everybody’s daily wine but squarely in the ballpark! With all the modern Pinot Noir & Cabernet going in that range & above, shouldn’t America’s truly Rare, Finest, & Oldest at least be in that range too? (With Grange in the $200s shouldn’t our own be between $103 & $206?) If we continue to treat the finest 100+ year Old Vine Zinfandels as low class, an American wine treasure will disappear forever.
Original Post
We must be to close to election season. Some people want higher taxes regardless.
To me the problem with your filibuster is:

1. Since some wines are overpriced, these other wines should be overpriced also;

2. You seem to be asking for higher prices for the "old vines" wines regardless of actual quality! I drink some "ov'ers" that are wonderful. I've drank others I wouldn't buy regardless of price.

A concept you may not like is that higher taxes/prices is not always the answer. But that's IMO.
Peter,

Economics aside, I applaud your defense of the "old guard" farmers who have kept their family heritage vineyards in the ground. The sad thing is that the technology of viticulture has improved to the point that many very high quality wines are made from young vines. The average wine consumer has little or no regard for vine age and since our "wine boom" in the United States is a relatively recent phenomenon, many new plantings and new "wineries" get most of the hot press.

Sad, but true.

I honor your work and the work of your neighbors and those who came before them.
Rancho Cucamonga, to the East of Los Angeles. had a proud wine grape growing history. Some of those vines were planted at the turn of the century. What were once gorgeous, ancient bushes of Carignan, Petite Sirah or Zinfandel, are now warehouses, parking lots or UPS truck garages. Are we the better for this happening? Who can say. The families had to face the realities of the modern wine industry. They sold their land and gave up a way of life that is a very important to California's history.

The references to "the Family Farm" that Congress tosses around is a sick joke. The ancient, mostly immigrant owned and run wine grape vineyards truly are the Family Farms and they have lost the game of economics. Although I am a free market guy and believe the consumer decides the fate of each and every business, I cannot help but be sympathetic to the tough choices these people face.

Many wine lovers talk about the significance of vine age in wine making and the historical importance of these old sites is fascinating and inspiring, but the consumer has decided and Peter may be feeling a little left behind and forgotten. When one turns down the checks with a lot of zeros to preserve a Family heritage and a genuine love of the land and feel they produce something truly unique and special for the consmer, it can be puzzling that the price that the consumer is willing to pay are far short of what the hard work and TLC are worth. Meanwhile, every retired dentist and business mogul can start up a label and be completely removed from the process except for the check writing and immediately jump to the front of the line to the consumer at absurd prices.

I know this is the way of the world. I know that the laws of economics are at work.

It's just sad in a way, at least in my book.
quote:
Originally posted by cdr:
Rancho Cucamonga, to the East of Los Angeles. had a proud wine grape growing history. Some of those vines were planted at the turn of the century. What were once gorgeous, ancient bushes of Carignan, Petite Sirah or Zinfandel, are now warehouses, parking lots or UPS truck garages. Are we the better for this happening? Who can say. The families had to face the realities of the modern wine industry. They sold their land and gave up a way of life that is a very important to California's history.

The references to "the Family Farm" that Congress tosses around is a sick joke. The ancient, mostly immigrant owned and run wine grape vineyards truly are the Family Farms and they have lost the game of economics. Although I am a free market guy and believe the consumer decides the fate of each and every business, I cannot help but be sympathetic to the tough choices these people face.

Many wine lovers talk about the significance of vine age in wine making and the historical importance of these old sites is fascinating and inspiring, but the consumer has decided and Peter may be feeling a little left behind and forgotten. When one turns down the checks with a lot of zeros to preserve a Family heritage and a genuine love of the land and feel they produce something truly unique and special for the consmer, it can be puzzling that the price that the consumer is willing to pay are far short of what the hard work and TLC are worth. Meanwhile, every retired dentist and business mogul can start up a label and be completely removed from the process except for the check writing and immediately jump to the front of the line to the consumer at absurd prices.

I know this is the way of the world. I know that the laws of economics are at work.

It's just sad in a way, at least in my book.

Well said.
quote:
Originally posted by GreenDrazi:
It’s Zinfandel - what do you expect?


Snap!

You got it in one. Old vines don't mean a damn unless the vines are capable of producing top quality wine.

In Oz, at the farm gate, old vine Shiraz grapes commands a far higher price than Grenache from vines of the same age. That cost differential generally flows through to the price of the wine.

FWIW, as an aside, Grange can come from young vines if the fruit is good enough. The fruit for Grange can be sourced from anywhere in Oz.

In Oz, top quality Grenache from 100 year old+ vines is normally between $40 - $65 a bottle with only a very few above that price. Shiraz from vines of the same age probably start at $65 and average close to $100. Many go way higher.
quote:
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

QUALITY! QUALITY! QUALITY!

ABSOLUTLY!
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.

cdr
Thank you!
Dom'n'Vin'sDad
Before I had two kids it was O. K. to eat beans & drive a very old car.

GreenDrazi
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…

JMatthews
Ditto

TORB
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.
quote:
Originally posted by azprwb:
The life cycle/span of vines in the US is shortened in part because of overcropping year after year. Or so I'm told.

You can't eat your cake and have it too....

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

QUALITY! QUALITY! QUALITY!

ABSOLUTLY!
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.

cdr
Thank you!
Dom'n'Vin'sDad
Before I had two kids it was O. K. to eat beans & drive a very old car.

GreenDrazi
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…

JMatthews
Ditto

TORB
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.
quote:
Originally posted by azprwb:
The life cycle/span of vines in the US is shortened in part because of overcropping year after year. Or so I'm told.

You can't eat your cake and have it too....


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.
quote:
Originally posted by Sandy Fitzgerald:
We must be to close to election season. Some people want higher taxes regardless.
To me the problem with your filibuster is:

1. Since some wines are overpriced, these other wines should be overpriced also;

2. You seem to be asking for higher prices for the "old vines" wines regardless of actual quality! I drink some "ov'ers" that are wonderful. I've drank others I wouldn't buy regardless of price.

A concept you may not like is that higher taxes/prices is not always the answer. But that's IMO.


Sandy Fitzgerald, TORB & most of pointed out QUALITY

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.


QUALITY! QUALITY! QUALITY!

ABSOLUTLY!
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 course 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?
quote:
Originally posted by cdr:
Peter,

Economics aside, I applaud your defense of the "old guard" farmers who have kept their family heritage vineyards in the ground. The sad thing is that the technology of viticulture has improved to the point that many very high quality wines are made from young vines. The average wine consumer has little or no regard for vine age and since our "wine boom" in the United States is a relatively recent phenomenon, many new plantings and new "wineries" get most of the hot press.

Sad, but true.

I honor your work and the work of your neighbors and those who came before them.


Thank You!
quote:
Originally posted by cdr:
Rancho Cucamonga, to the East of Los Angeles. had a proud wine grape growing history. Some of those vines were planted at the turn of the century. What were once gorgeous, ancient bushes of Carignan, Petite Sirah or Zinfandel, are now warehouses, parking lots or UPS truck garages. Are we the better for this happening? Who can say. The families had to face the realities of the modern wine industry. They sold their land and gave up a way of life that is a very important to California's history.

The references to "the Family Farm" that Congress tosses around is a sick joke. The ancient, mostly immigrant owned and run wine grape vineyards truly are the Family Farms and they have lost the game of economics. Although I am a free market guy and believe the consumer decides the fate of each and every business, I cannot help but be sympathetic to the tough choices these people face.

Many wine lovers talk about the significance of vine age in wine making and the historical importance of these old sites is fascinating and inspiring, but the consumer has decided and Peter may be feeling a little left behind and forgotten. When one turns down the checks with a lot of zeros to preserve a Family heritage and a genuine love of the land and feel they produce something truly unique and special for the consmer, it can be puzzling that the price that the consumer is willing to pay are far short of what the hard work and TLC are worth. Meanwhile, every retired dentist and business mogul can start up a label and be completely removed from the process except for the check writing and immediately jump to the front of the line to the consumer at absurd prices.

I know this is the way of the world. I know that the laws of economics are at work.

It's just sad in a way, at least in my book.


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!
quote:
Originally posted by JMatthews:
quote:
Originally posted by cdr:
Rancho Cucamonga, to the East of Los Angeles. had a proud wine grape growing history. Some of those vines were planted at the turn of the century. What were once gorgeous, ancient bushes of Carignan, Petite Sirah or Zinfandel, are now warehouses, parking lots or UPS truck garages. Are we the better for this happening? Who can say. The families had to face the realities of the modern wine industry. They sold their land and gave up a way of life that is a very important to California's history.

The references to "the Family Farm" that Congress tosses around is a sick joke. The ancient, mostly immigrant owned and run wine grape vineyards truly are the Family Farms and they have lost the game of economics. Although I am a free market guy and believe the consumer decides the fate of each and every business, I cannot help but be sympathetic to the tough choices these people face.

Many wine lovers talk about the significance of vine age in wine making and the historical importance of these old sites is fascinating and inspiring, but the consumer has decided and Peter may be feeling a little left behind and forgotten. When one turns down the checks with a lot of zeros to preserve a Family heritage and a genuine love of the land and feel they produce something truly unique and special for the consmer, it can be puzzling that the price that the consumer is willing to pay are far short of what the hard work and TLC are worth. Meanwhile, every retired dentist and business mogul can start up a label and be completely removed from the process except for the check writing and immediately jump to the front of the line to the consumer at absurd prices.

I know this is the way of the world. I know that the laws of economics are at work.

It's just sad in a way, at least in my book.

Well said.


Ditto
quote:
Originally posted by TORB:
quote:
Originally posted by GreenDrazi:
It’s Zinfandel - what do you expect?


Snap!

You got it in one. Old vines don't mean a damn unless the vines are capable of producing top quality wine.

In Oz, at the farm gate, old vine Shiraz grapes commands a far higher price than Grenache from vines of the same age. That cost differential generally flows through to the price of the wine.

FWIW, as an aside, Grange can come from young vines if the fruit is good enough. The fruit for Grange can be sourced from anywhere in Oz.

In Oz, top quality Grenache from 100 year old+ vines is normally between $40 - $65 a bottle with only a very few above that price. Shiraz from vines of the same age probably start at $65 and average close to $100. Many go way higher.


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.
quote:
Originally posted by Sticky2:
So what is the lifespan of vines for various varietals? Is there a point where the vine dies of natural causes? What is the age at which a vine no longer produces quality fruit? Is it preferable to have vines a little too old vs. a little too young?


Sticky2 & azprwb
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
quote:
Originally posted by Peter "Vine Master":

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.


Peter,

I never said Grange was $100 a bottle. (That sounds aggressive - its not intended.) Its more expensive in Oz than in the US due to demand. Grange is but one wine that comes out of Oz and as I said, it does not necessarily have to come from old vines.

I fully appreciate the work and cost involved in producing old vine material, but they are still Zin grapes. You can't make a silk purse out of a sows ear, no matter how good the sow. That is the problem you face.

In terms of cropping levels, in Oz the red cropping levels are different to the numbers you quoted.

The red stuff that is grown in the Riverina ( many of the cheap wines that are marked "product of SA Australia") are cropped at around 5-6 tonnes but that stuff sells from $10 to $20 approximately.

In the Barossa the average $25+ wine is cropped at less than 4 tonnes to the acre. Much of the stuff that costs over $40 is around 2 to 3 tonnes per acre. Many of the very old vines crop at from .5 to about 1.5 tonnes to the acre.

I can understand your frustration, but you are growing Zin and therein lies your commercial limitation.
The fact that it's zin doesn't mean that it can't be quality wine. Just because zin wasn't planted in France in the 1700s and classified doesn't mean it's a lesser grape - there is much more to life than cab, merlot, pinot noir, syrah, and chardonnay.

But there has been a lot of branding done for the other grapes - by individual chateaus and wineries and various governments and trade organizations, in concert with writers.

But all that said, if the market won't pay the price, that's the end of the story. Frankly, raising the price of zinfandel will probably do less to help the survival of old vines than lowering the price. If critics knock off a few points just because it's zin, and you have a $100 zin vs a $100 cab, and the first is 90 pts and the other one is 95, the zin is going to end up in the remainder bin, discounted to get it out of the store.

Moreover, although I kind of agree with cdr - I understand the pressures but it's still kind of sad, how necessary are old vines for quality wine anyway? There is a lot of research in this area and aren't the average ages of vines in Bordeaux something like 40 years? They replant fairly regularly don't they? If so, does that mean they're making poor wine?
quote:
Originally posted by GregT:
Moreover, although I kind of agree with cdr - I understand the pressures but it's still kind of sad, how necessary are old vines for quality wine anyway? There is a lot of research in this area and aren't the average ages of vines in Bordeaux something like 40 years? They replant fairly regularly don't they? If so, does that mean they're making poor wine?


Old vines can/will give you a level of complexity that it is very difficult to achieve with young vines. Having said that, there are more and more examples of young vines producing fantastic fruit.

Torbreck is a very good example. The Descendants is just one wine they produce from young vines.

How do they (and others) do it? The answer is viticulture. Bloody good viticulture.
quote:
Originally posted by GregT:
There is a lot of research in this area and aren't the average ages of vines in Bordeaux something like 40 years? They replant fairly regularly don't they? If so, does that mean they're making poor wine?


It is my understanding that after 20 years the yield of the vine decreases while flavor increases. I don't know if it is true but I've heard that the reason the average age is 40years is because of the yield, production needs, and that the older vines tend to be utilized in the more prized bottling. Would love for an expert on this to educate further. I could be completely wrong.
quote:
Originally posted by TORB:
quote:
Originally posted by Peter "Vine Master":

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.


Peter,

I never said Grange was $100 a bottle. (That sounds aggressive - its not intended.) Its more expensive in Oz than in the US due to demand. Grange is but one wine that comes out of Oz and as I said, it does not necessarily have to come from old vines.

I fully appreciate the work and cost involved in producing old vine material, but they are still Zin grapes. You can't make a silk purse out of a sows ear, no matter how good the sow. That is the problem you face.

In terms of cropping levels, in Oz the red cropping levels are different to the numbers you quoted.

The red stuff that is grown in the Riverina ( many of the cheap wines that are marked "product of SA Australia") are cropped at around 5-6 tonnes but that stuff sells from $10 to $20 approximately.

In the Barossa the average $25+ wine is cropped at less than 4 tonnes to the acre. Much of the stuff that costs over $40 is around 2 to 3 tonnes per acre. Many of the very old vines crop at from .5 to about 1.5 tonnes to the acre.

I can understand your frustration, but you are growing Zin and therein lies your commercial limitation.


Ric,

On the tonnages & categories they are pretty much the same here although, to be complete there is also a category of wines below $10 that really come from the hot Central Valley where they can easily push tonnage to around 15 maybe 20 tons with really no flavor... & some truck the juice up here so they can say it was bottled here & hope some notice a Sonoma or Napa town on the label.

You are right excellent wine can come from younger vines - a neighbor cloned their famous Old Vines & planted it near us at about the at same elevation in the same kind of soil & we have. It is vary good, dose very well & gets very high scores but it is a different flavor profile from both their old stuff & ours both of which tend to score a bit higher (if scores really means anything) it gets good Money & produces about 4 tons per acre compared to their old stuff @ 0.5! That bit of difference is what makes the old stuff a bit more special.

I know as I've replied above their Old vines in either poor locations & farmed poorly that make poor wine but ours has consistent 15+ year record of Awards & ratings at the very top as I outlined to Sandy Fitzgerald above.

I dare say if the varieties & history were reversed so our Great Old stuff was Syrah & yours was Zinfandel. The most influential American writers would be touting Zinfandel & we would be saying it's only Syrah maybe because it’s an import from a place Americans like to visit…
quote:
Originally posted by GregT:
The fact that it's zin doesn't mean that it can't be quality wine. Just because zin wasn't planted in France in the 1700s and classified doesn't mean it's a lesser grape - there is much more to life than cab, merlot, pinot noir, syrah, and chardonnay.

But there has been a lot of branding done for the other grapes - by individual chateaus and wineries and various governments and trade organizations, in concert with writers.

But all that said, if the market won't pay the price, that's the end of the story. Frankly, raising the price of zinfandel will probably do less to help the survival of old vines than lowering the price. If critics knock off a few points just because it's zin, and you have a $100 zin vs a $100 cab, and the first is 90 pts and the other one is 95, the zin is going to end up in the remainder bin, discounted to get it out of the store.

Moreover, although I kind of agree with cdr - I understand the pressures but it's still kind of sad, how necessary are old vines for quality wine anyway? There is a lot of research in this area and aren't the average ages of vines in Bordeaux something like 40 years? They replant fairly regularly don't they? If so, does that mean they're making poor wine?


Very good points,

The score thing is exactly why many Zin producers build their following in a certain area & don't get widely known unless they are sure they have a great relation ship with the top writers. They won’t risk sending a bottle that may not show it's best on the day it's tasted (or might be up against the ones that are "pre-favored"... If you read them carefully they pretty much admit it!)

As to why the average Age of their vines being 40 -that would actually bolster the argument that some Old is needed because here in the Sonoma County & Napa County areas we've under gone massive replanting since the early 1990s and the average vine age is probably closer to 14 or 15 years!
quote:
Originally posted by cdr:
Peter,

I believe we have met. Are you the Peter that spoke at a viticulture symposium at Davis (I think it was Davis, but i's been a while?) I may have attended an event where you spoke elsewhere. I learned a lot from you and admire your love for your vineyard.


It is possible. I don't do many "talks" but I have been to many Vit & Wine events over the years.
Peter
quote:
Originally posted by TORB:
quote:
Originally posted by GregT:
Moreover, although I kind of agree with cdr - I understand the pressures but it's still kind of sad, how necessary are old vines for quality wine anyway? There is a lot of research in this area and aren't the average ages of vines in Bordeaux something like 40 years? They replant fairly regularly don't they? If so, does that mean they're making poor wine?


Old vines can/will give you a level of complexity that it is very difficult to achieve with young vines. Having said that, there are more and more examples of young vines producing fantastic fruit.

Torbreck is a very good example. The Descendants is just one wine they produce from young vines.

How do they (and others) do it? The answer is viticulture. Bloody good viticulture.


Exactly!
quote:
Originally posted by vin:
quote:
Originally posted by GregT:
There is a lot of research in this area and aren't the average ages of vines in Bordeaux something like 40 years? They replant fairly regularly don't they? If so, does that mean they're making poor wine?


It is my understanding that after 20 years the yield of the vine decreases while flavor increases. I don't know if it is true but I've heard that the reason the average age is 40years is because of the yield, production needs, and that the older vines tend to be utilized in the more prized bottling. Would love for an expert on this to educate further. I could be completely wrong.


It all depends on the vineyard site & viticultural practices - detailed farming!
A vineyard in a poor location &/or poorly farmed no matter how old will not give you great grapes. Now, all things being as equal as possible the older vines do tend to add a bit more complexity.
I have long held the belief that great wines are made in the vineyards. Nowdays, that belief is sometimes shaken.

I have seen, over the past 15 years, such an explosion of wine manipulation devices(cone spinners, reverse osmosis, concentrators, and ole mega-Purple, etc.)that, in fact, sometimes turns out excellent wines from not so good fruit. Sometimes, the product tastes like some Frankenstein created monster, but other times a quite worthy product appears. These devices are becoming common in many wineries, indivdually or collectively. I don't know where it goes from here, or sometime what the definition of wine is. But we are seeing some mad scientist/winemakers, with young fruit, create some interesting compounds.
quote:
Originally posted by Sandy Fitzgerald:
I have long held the belief that great wines are made in the vineyards. Nowdays, that belief is sometimes shaken.

I have seen, over the past 15 years, such an explosion of wine manipulation devices(cone spinners, reverse osmosis, concentrators, and ole mega-Purple, etc.)that, in fact, sometimes turns out excellent wines from not so good fruit. Sometimes, the product tastes like some Frankenstein created monster, but other times a quite worthy product appears. These devices are becoming common in many wineries, indivdually or collectively. I don't know where it goes from here, or sometime what the definition of wine is. But we are seeing some mad scientist/winemakers, with young fruit, create some interesting compounds.


I have seen those things too & at a serious cost they can help "clean-up" wines by removing some "bad" components but they cannot add complexity that the grapes didn't have to start with. Usually this stuff is used on a small portion of a large blend of a mid-priced wine.
quote:
Originally posted by Peter "Vine Master":

I dare say if the varieties & history were reversed so our Great Old stuff was Syrah & yours was Zinfandel. The most influential American writers would be touting Zinfandel & we would be saying it's only Syrah maybe because it’s an import from a place Americans like to visit…


Peter,

Disagree completely with this one. Syrah/Shiraz has a glorious and respected history in France where it is highly regarded and has a reputation for producing high quality wine that can be long lived. That has been the case for a long time, and with good reason.

With equally good reason, Zin does not have that reputation and is unlikely to ever achieve it.

Merlot is a wonderful grape when blended, but the number of "great" Merlots can be counted on one hand, possibly one finger. Wink Grenache is in the same camp. Wonderful blended but will rarely make wines that can rival the classic Cabernets or Shiraz wines.

And that's the commercial reality and why old vine Zin grape prices are lower than other varieties.
PETER; You've been down in LALA land a bit to long. I think you might be surprised at the mumber of high end wines using mega-Purple, etc.

This is especially the case with the new wines that go for that ripe fruit flavor and hang on the vine until late Oct. early Nov. The alcohol is usually to high and they have to get it down. Then it doesn't have the tannin stucture to support the fruit and along comes mP. This by all accounts is happening with high end wines almost as much as mid range wines. Why do you believe there is such a battle with wineries to put mP added along with sulfites on the bottle?
Peter,
While I have enjoyed reading your posts filled with deep felt passion and commitment (and we are all deeply indebted to you and other winemakers), these expressions and actions (and very old vines) can not overcome the fact that most wine lovers have found Cab, Pinot Noir and Syrah to be, as a whole, better varietals than Zinfandel.

This doesn’t mean that Zinfandel isn’t thoroughly enjoyed and I hope you continue pursuing this passion.
quote:
Originally posted by Peter "Vine Master":

I probably will eventually but this is the first time I've done anything like this I like hearing everyone's opinion.

But I have written enough that I can easily be figured out; in one of my responses I did outline my history & accolades.


Peter, please just tell me and don't make me do any type of research. I am on my summer vacation for cryin' out loud!!!! Big Grin

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