Leeland Stanford was not the first to commercially plant in Tehama County, vines arriving several decades earlier. Yet his massive vineyard expansions after purchasing Rancho Bosquejo, becoming Vina Ranch in 1881, resulted in 3,575 acres of vineyard in Tehama County. It was reported as the largest vineyard in the world at the time.
The region is located in the upper reaches of California's Sacramento Valley, with fertile and deep loam soils and blazing summer heat. Varietal selections were not well understood to matching these soils and climate, nor winemaking knowledge sufficient, thus wines were often converted to brandy.
By 1915 Stanford's winery had burned and the final vines were removed. Viticulture then reverted to a scattered home vineyard or two and has only seen several commercial efforts since then.
Cistercian monks of the Abbey of New Clairvaux and a few others have learned to match hot climate grapes such as
Tempranillo, Graciano, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel to this climate with much better results. A handfull of other estate wineries are finding modern success with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It is doubtful that vineyard acreage will return to levels Stanford had develop over 100 years ago.
In the southern Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and Georgia vineyards are small and few, yet the establishment of the Upper Hiwassee Highlands could bring much more.
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