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You cannot plant an old vine but we can relate to who did.

California (State Appellation)

HR9 Supports (CA) Historic Vineyard Society

A noble effort to identify and preserve California'a very oldest vineyards has been celebrated with the passage of HR9 by the California legislature early in the 2013 session. Driven by the Historic Vineyard Society, this effort is just taking wings.

by Roger King
May 9, 2013



A California based group of vintners, growers and interested consumers, known as the Historic Vineyard Society has picked up a meaningful acknowledgement with the passage of resolution HR9 in the California legislature. While HR9 did not prescribe any legal protection of old vineyards or vines, it is a meaningful and proactive acknowledgement by lawmakers in California to the relevance old wine grape vines hold in the state.

The Historic Vineyard Society had pushed to make this acknowledgement a reality while it continues to seek old vineyards to register into their database. According to their website historicvineyardsociety.com the rational and purpose is defined; “HVS (Historic Vineyard Society) is a non-profit, 501 C-3 organization dedicated to the preservation of California’s historic vineyards. HVS’s Mission is accomplished through educating the wine-drinking public on the very special nature of this precious and depleting state, national and global resource.” The registry objective is also defined; “Compile a comprehensive, fact-based and consistent directory of California’s Heritage Vineyards.” Requirements for registration include; “A currently producing California wine vineyard , original planting date no later than 1960, and at least 1/3 of existing producing vines can be traced back to original planting date."

A volunteer project management team of initial organizers is comprised of David Gates (Ridge Vineyards), Mike Officer (Carlisle Vineyards), Jancis Robinson (author and wine critic),Tegan Passalacqua (Turley Wine Cellars), Morgan Twain-Peterson (Bedrock Vineyards), Mike Dildine (info@historicvineyardsociety.org).


Old vines have long been noted for producing prized wines. They tend to produce more concentrated fruit as a function of their old age. Restricted circulatory systems (sound familiar), limited cluster counts and smaller clusters and berries are often cited as reasons. While there is no legal or TTB definition of what constitutes an old vine, the Historic Vineyards Society definition above is a great start.

Given the long history of wine grape growing in California it is not surprising that old vineyards exist throughout the state. It is likely the largest concentration of historic old vines in North America exists in the state. To date the Society has been able to gain registrations from 26 of California’s AVA from Southern California to Northern California, identifying 217 vineyards and gaining registration of 57. There are many more that need to be identified and brought into the database. The Board of HVS hopes the passage of HR9 will encourage California growers and winemakers to engage and register

Clearly the economics of the California vineyard industry are playing a tough role. New vineyards have the potential to produce significantly higher tonnage than these old survivors and as growers are compensated on weight (price per ton), the urge to remove an old block of vines to replant new is significant. Those winemakers dedicated to working with old vine fruit know the only recourse is to compensate those growers at higher levels, and many do precisely that.

Bob Biale of Robert Biale Vineyards in Napa is such a winemaker. Biale has sought and worked with old vine fruit for many years and celebrated in Sacramento last month with Assemblyman Tom Daly representing Anaheim and Santa Ana, who sponsored the resolution HR9. He singled out Daly’s chief of staff David Miller for his direct efforts with the Historical Vineyard Society to write the bill.

The Historic Vineyard Society is a great model to help preserve aspects of California’s regional diversity within the US wine industry. Interested wine growers and consumers should take note of these efforts and work to grow the awareness of these efforts. Contact the Society at(831)747-0255.

photos courtesy Historic Vineyard Society

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