The reason for Riesling

We could just give you the obvious answer on why we make Riesling. We love it. It's not only our belief that this *terpene-rich grape is the most dynamic, the most transparent, and the most exciting; many of the world's top sommeliers and wine critics consider it the greatest white wine grape of all. However there is quite a bit more to the story than pure affection.

The history of California viticulture goes back to the 1700's when Spanish missionaries brought their imported grapes here up from Baja California, Mexico. The first variety planted here earned the acronym 'Mission" grape; today also known as Listán Prieto which originated in the Castilla-La Mancha region of Spain. Up until around the 1850's, the Mission grape was virtually the only variety planted in California.

 Early photo of the Mission grape, Santa Barbara, circa 1875.

Early photo of the Mission grape, Santa Barbara, circa 1875.

The "Gold Rush" that began in 1848 brought in a wave of immigration from the eastern U.S. and abroad. While most '49ers' failed to amass a fortune in gold, they discovered other areas California offered an opportunity to strike it rich; the abundance of fertile ground. As with many immigrants, these original entrepreneurs brought with them important pieces of cultural heritage to their new homeland. One of these pioneers, Agoston Haraszthy, is credited with introducing the first vitis vinifera vines to the state (he imported over 100,000 cuttings!) in 1852. One of his greatest early success's was Riesling.

Riesling enjoyed a massively popular era in California, the U.S., and Europe for over one hundred years (1850's-1960's). At times in this era, the greatest Riesling's were higher in price than the fabled wines of Bordeaux. Riesling was one of the most widely planted varieties in California, from the Santa Cruz Mountains to Napa. If history shows us any indication of future results, as we believe, we are once again betting on this grape to pave the path ahead.

 Early California winemaking pioneers de-stemming white grapes and loading the press, circa 1930, 

Early California winemaking pioneers de-stemming white grapes and loading the press, circa 1930, 

As climate change continues to spur the unpredictability of weather and extreme weather events (with the notable exception we continue to get warmer annually), there are few white grapes better suited to withstand the impacts than Riesling. Here's some data to back the claim: it's drought-tolerant, has extreme winter hardiness, buds late, good heat tolerance, ripens late, has very high acidity, and can be made in more styles of any other wine grape. Much like it was done long before us, it's our mission to pioneer the new age of California Riesling.

 

*Notes*

Terpenes are the family of chemical compounds found in the skins and responsible for the exotic aromas of Riesling (one of the many reasons we macerate Riesling on its skins prior to pressing). In fact, Riesling has one of the highest concentrations and diversity of different terpenes of any other grape. These terpene aromas range from rose (linalool) to grapefruit (geraniol) to petrol (TDN or, 1,1,6-trimethyl-1,2-dihydronaphthalene.) Terpenes and terpenoid aromas are directly related to acidity, pH, and the environment (i.e. where it's grown, how it's farmed, winemaking practices, ripeness etc.).  These are the chemical markers that vividly show the diversity of the grape through aroma.

 Extracting terpenes...

Extracting terpenes...