Saving Old Vineyards - Economics vs Heritage

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Sean Devaney
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Re: Saving Old Vineyards - Economics vs Heritage

#51 Post by Sean Devaney » November 22nd, 2018, 10:46 am

Thanks for this post Drew. I really enjoyed the Reichwage wines at the HVS tasting back in April. Definitely a producer to watch out for.

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Drew Goin
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Re: Saving Old Vineyards - Economics vs Heritage

#52 Post by Drew Goin » December 10th, 2018, 3:56 pm

Here is a cool article about the intervention of smaller wineries, saving old-vine sites that might otherwise have remained unrecognized as potential viticultural gems. Though not every vineyard purchased is old, I am including the piece here as 2 of the author's subjects did step in to farm or purchase (or both) locations that could have remained unrecognized...

Winemakers Collage.jpg
"Clockwise from top left: Tegan Passalacqua, Matthew Rorick, Morgan Twain-Peterson (at left) with partner Chris Cottrell, Matt Naumann" - photo from GuildSomm

Guild Somm
"Interview: Expats of Napa & Sonoma"
by Kelli A White
September 21, 2017

"...To shed some light on the complexities of becoming a vineyard owner in contemporary California, I interviewed four winemakers who have settled in five distinct regions—Matt Naumann, General Manager of Hudson Wines; Morgan Twain-Peterson, MW, of Bedrock Wine Company and Under the Wire; Matthew Rorick of Forlorn Hope; and Tegan Passalacqua of Turley Wine Cellars and Sandlands.

"...Kelli White: Tell me about the property you purchased.

"Morgan Twain-Peterson: Our first purchase was eight acres of own-rooted Zinfandel planted in the 1910s in the Mokelumne River AVA in Lodi—just vines in really poor shape. We knew the potential quality of the area, as we bought fruit from our friend Tegan Passalacqua’s 'Kirschenmann Vineyard', located about 20 feet away.

"The second purchase was earlier this year when, after several years of friendly negotiations, we bought 'Evangelho Vineyard' in Contra Costa County. For me, this is a jewel of California—incredibly healthy, own-rooted Zinfandel, Carignan, and Mataro planted in the 1890s on deep banks of beach sand along the Sacramento River Delta. It has 36 acres under vine and a few small structures on it.

"...Tegan Passalacqua: I purchased [the 'Kirschenmann Vineyard'] from the granddaughter of the person who planted it; that was the summer of 2012. It is a 20-acre plot with 19 acres of vines and an old trailer, located on the east side of the Mokelumne River in Lodi, about a mile down the road from no place. Fifteen acres of the vineyard were planted in 1915, primarily to Zinfandel with some Carignan, Mondeuse Noir, and Cinsault. The other four acres were originally English walnuts, but in 1991, they planted Zinfandel and Pinot Grigio. I kept the Zinfandel, grafted two acres of the Pinot Grigio over to Chenin Blanc, and ripped out three-quarters of an acre that I am replanting to rootstock.

Tegan vineyard.jpg
"Passalacqua's 'Kirschenmann Vineyard' in Lodi" - photo from GuildSomm

"...KW: How did you find your vineyard, and what made you decide to buy it?

"...MTP: We found the vineyard in Lodi, which we have named 'Katusha’s Vineyard' as it had no name, when we saw a 'for sale' sign on it. A walnut grower was about to purchase it for the land and was going to rip out the vines, which naturally pissed Chris [Cottrell] and [me] off, knowing the potential quality. We made a couple of calls and had an all-cash offer in and accepted in a few days.

"'Evangelho Vineyard' we had worked with since 2011 and had become the largest buyer of fruit, so it was a natural transition. However, we also wanted to buy it [because] almost every vineyard in the area is for sale right now, in the hopes a developer will come in. This was a rare vineyard we could afford and protect from the continued eastward Bay Area sprawl.

"...TP: In 2004, I was introduced to this area—there are no less than 12 old-vine vineyards in close proximity. In 2010, Turley started buying Zinfandel from the neighbors. I was overseeing the farming and the then-owner of my vineyard admired the work. Her name was Holly Laske, a Kirschenmann. She and her brother had owned the vineyard, but he had died of cancer in 2004.

"I floated the idea of buying her vineyard, and we set up a meeting. I did my math and presented my number, but it was too low for her. The next morning, I was driving to work, and my phone rang. It was her. She said to me, 'When I drove by the vineyard last night, I just suddenly knew that my grandfather, father, and brother would have wanted you to have it, so if the offer still stands, it’s yours.' I fought back tears when I heard that.

"...KW: Why didn't you buy in Napa or Sonoma? Was cost the main reason?"

Read the rest of this amazing article here.

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Drew Goin
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Re: Saving Old Vineyards - Economics vs Heritage

#53 Post by Drew Goin » February 26th, 2019, 5:54 pm

Drew Goin wrote:
May 18th, 2018, 4:51 am
Alas, another ancient vineyard is suffering from housing needs to accommodate population growth...this time, in Mendocino County!

Ukiah Daily Journal *UPDATED 8/23/18*
"Ukiah Declines to Support Ag Protection for Lovers Lane Vineyards"
By: Justine Frederiksen
March 10, 2018

"The Ukiah City Council Wednesday declined to support barring development on more than 100 acres of vineyards along Lovers Lane.

"'One hundred and 33 acres is a lot of land … and forever is a long time,' said Vice-Mayor Maureen Mulheren, referring to an agricultural conservation easement that would have forever blocked development on the property owned by Mendo Farming Company, which includes Paul Dolan and his son Heath. 'I'm concerned about tying the hands of the community to a piece of agricultural land that 10 years from now might be determined to not be as fertile or as necessary.'

""This is an opportunity for the Ukiah Valley to preserve farm land and to bring a million dollars into the county," said Ann Cole of the Mendocino Land Trust, which requested and received a conditional award of $1.17 million from the state to pay the owner of the property for agreeing to forgo future development.

"...Baldwin said in his view, the easement 'seeks to bamboozle all of us to achieve a dangerous precedent for paving over farm land whenever the economically powerful claim a housing crisis.'

"'I'm certainly open to considering this at some point if the project for the housing doesn't go through, or even if it does go through,' said Council member Steve Scalmanini. 'But as it is tonight, I'm very reluctant to support half a loaf, when the whole thing was there at one point. I'd rather go for the whole thing.'

"'I withdrew my application (when I learned some acres were being excluded) because I believe it is in the community's best interest to include all of the agricultural land in the conservation easement north of Lovers Lane, not just a few,' said Ray, describing some of the 23 acres being considered for development as 'heritage vines that were planted over 50 years ago, and they should be preserved, not plowed under.'..."

Ukiah Daily Journal
"Ukiah Declines to Support Ag Protection for Lovers Lane Vineyards"

I found this article last night while surfing the interwebs...

Ukiah Daily Journal
"Easement on Lovers Lane Vineyards in Ukiah Donated to Mendocino Land Trust"

by Justine Frederiksen
January 18, 2019

"About 133 acres of vineyards along Lovers Lane in Ukiah have been protected from development after a 'conservation easement' was donated to the Mendocino Land Trust by Paul Dolan and his partners in the Mendo Farming Company.

"Described by Ann Cole, executive director of the Mendocino Land Trust, as 'Plan B', the donation of the easement on the 133.5 acres was at least the second attempt to permanently protect the land. A previous attempt by the land trust to purchase an easement at 610 Lovers Lane with $1.7 million from the state’s Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program was blocked when it did not receive enough support from the Ukiah City Council.

"...'This project was a unique opportunity to protect vital farmland within the City of Ukiah’s sphere of influence,' said Cole in a press release announcing the donation, which was made on Dec. 26, 2018. 'We are pleased that the landowners are eager to protect this historic farmland, even in a time when we know that housing is also important, as we must maintain our critical soils and precious agricultural areas.'

“'In addition to preserving prime farmland, the protected vineyard provides important scenic agricultural value to the Ukiah residents who live in the area,' said Doug Kern, director of conservation for the Land Trust. 'The historic vineyard is also used informally on a daily basis by the local public for walking, which will continue to be allowed.'..."

SALC Program Agricultural Conservation Easement Grants: Lovers Lane Vineyard

Mendocino Land Trust
Agricultural Land Conserved at Lovers Lane in Ukiah Valley

Oh, and here is an piece addressing earlier efforts to preserve the historic site:

Ukiah Daily Journal
"Land Trust Looking to Protect Much of Ukiah Lovers Lane Vineyards"

by Justine Frederiksen & Ukiah Daily Journal
March 6, 2018

The "Lovers Lane Vineyard" has been a source of grapes for Harrington's old-vine Carignan:

Lovers Lane Vineyard - from Harrington Wine

SF Examiner
"New Generation Reviving Longstanding Carignan in California"

by Pamela S. Busch
August 8, 2014

"...Harrington Carignan 'Lover’s Lane Vineyard', 2012 (Mendocino County):

"Local vigneron, Bryan Harrington sources his carignan from a Depression-era organic vineyard in Ukiah. It has a bit of weight, but the bright acidity keeps it from feeling fat. With blue fruits, dried leaves, herbs and moderate tannins, it is reminiscent of the best carignans from the Languedoc — Roussillon region of France. No suggested retail price."

Harrington Wine website:

What potentially could sew confusion in the wine-drinking public is the identity of this specific geographical nook. There are several Ukiah growers who reside in Lovers Lane, and there is more than one vineyard that includes "Lovers Lane" in its name:

Mendocino County Winegrapes & Wine Blog

• Profile: "Lovers Lane Vineyard"

• Profile: "Rosewood Vineyards: Lovers Lane"
Last edited by Drew Goin on September 11th, 2019, 3:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Drew Goin
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Re: Saving Old Vineyards - Economics vs Heritage

#54 Post by Drew Goin » February 27th, 2019, 7:10 pm

California's Department of Conservation released a survey of the changes in agricultural land acreage (mostly losses) between the years 2000-2008. Comprehensive data for individual counties is available in this large downloadable report:

California Department of Conservation
"2008-2010 California Farmland Conversion Report"

published in 2014

"...During the 13 biennial reporting cycles since FMMP [Farmland Mapping & Monitoring Report] was established, nearly 1.4 million acres of agricultural land in California were converted to nonagricultural purposes. This represents an area larger in size than Merced County, or a rate of nearly one square mile every four days."

Download link (2.9 MB PDF)

Press Democrat
"Statewide Farmland Loss Felt Least in Sonoma County"

by Guy Kovner

"Vineyard manager and grape grower Duff Bevill at his Dry Creek Valley home ranch amongst Chardonnay vines he planted in 2012 to replace vines planted in 1986. Photo taken in Healdsburg, on Wednesday, July 2, 2014" - photo by Beth Schlanker

"...The net loss of irrigated farmland amounts to a sliver of Sonoma County, which spans about 1 million acres, and about 0.15 percent of its 80,000 agricultural acres. Sonoma had the smallest net loss among the 47 counties included in the report, ranking it just behind 10 counties — including Mendocino — that had net gains in irrigated farmland.

"...The recession limited net urban growth to 473 acres in the county during the report period. Most of the growth was in new housing, schools and schoolyards. The county’s urban growth ranked fourth in the San Francisco Bay Area, behind Santa Cruz with a net gain of 737 acres, San Mateo with 638 acres and Contra Costa with 629 acres.

"...Tim Tesconi, executive director of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, said the recession that began in 2008 brought local development to a virtual standstill.

Urban growth boundaries also have limited sprawl and protected agriculture, he said.

“'Our farmlands are sacred,' Tesconi said. 'We’ve done a really good job.'

"But the pace of urbanization is 'likely to speed up again as the economy gets stronger,' John Lowrie, assistant director of the Conservation Department’s Division of Land Resource Protection, said in a press release...."

In reference to the above statement, many old-vine sites in Sonoma, Contra Costa, and other counties gain a tenuous "stay of execution" during economic downturns, as landowners often must wait for more prosperous times and an increased interest in commercial development.

This gives readers an opportunity to consider the priorities of those who have a choice between preserving a viticultural heritage site and seeking a more profitable use from the land.

Although conservation easements may be offered to landowners as means of keeping ancient vineyards in the ground, the incentive is not always sufficient. I do not understand the situation sufficiently to comment on how to improve the situation.

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Drew Goin
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Re: Saving Old Vineyards - Economics vs Heritage

#55 Post by Drew Goin » March 11th, 2019, 5:46 am

This article falls more under "heritage" than "economics", but the two are almost always intertwined...

National Museum of American History
"Grape Gluts and Mother Clones: Prohibition and American Wine"

by Paula J. Johnson
May 24, 2018

Wine Postcard_0.jpg
"Postcard, around 1910s. American Food History Reference Files, Division of Work and Industry."

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Drew Goin
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Re: Saving Old Vineyards - Economics vs Heritage

#56 Post by Drew Goin » September 11th, 2019, 2:57 pm

Fox 40 News
"Lodi Growers Ripping Old Vine Zinfandel Vines Out of the Ground"

by Dennis Shanahan
September 11, 2019

"...Growers FOX40 spoke with said they are battling rising labor costs and changing tastes in the market. There is more global competition these days and the trade war with China is also making it hard to ship wine overseas.

"Lucas also pointed out the governments of some other counties where zinfandel grows subsidize grape growers.

“'We don't have that benefit in California, nobody really helps us,' (David) Lucas (of Lucas Winery) said. 'We're out here with these old vines, tending them and hoping that people will enjoy the fruits of the vine's labor.'..."

This article features a short news video in addition to the text information.

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