Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

What elevation constitutes a mountain vineyard?

By Jessica Yadegaran
Wednesday, July 29th, 2009 at 3:49 pm in Corkheads.

Parral + Montañas Vineyard

The Food and Wine section was tight today, so my reference to what is being done on an academic level in the United States with mountain viticulture was left off of the cover story on mountain wines.

Randle Johnson, Bill Easton and others from the U.S., Australia and Argentina converged in Lake County two years ago at Elevation of Wine, an international symposium on high altitude viticulture and winemaking. They will meet again next year in the same place.

Winemakers, vineyard managers and viticulturists from Australia, Argentina, and the States met for one day to discuss the characteristics and qualities of winegrapes grown at high elevations and if  wineries should market these wines as originating from high altitudes, much the way they market sustainable or cool-climate wines. Are customers interested?

From my chats with Johnson and Easton, it appears that no major guidelines were reached as to how high a vineyard should be before we can call it a  mountain vineyard (or a hillside one). Such guidelines are firmly in place in Europe, but not here yet. When I asked Johnson, he said, “I’m going to say 500 feet.” Seems low, but perhaps they’ll reach a consensus when they reconvene in 2010.

The most comprehensive coverage I’ve seen of the 2007 symposium is by Jim Gordon of Wines & Vines. I suggest you give it a read.

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  • El Jefe

    My vineyards live between 1800 and 2200 feet. I’ve never thought of them as “mountain” vineyards! And 500 feet really does seem like making a mountain out of a molehill….

  • Jessica

    I know, right? That’s what I thought, Jefe.