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Los Angeles Vintners to Pick Historic Grapes this Weekend

For most wineries in California, this year’s harvest season has been wrought with complications, frustrations, and sometimes outright danger. While wildfires burn up and down the state, and with the logistical and health concerns of a global pandemic in the background, the 2020 vintage will not soon be forgotten. With the challenges of the current moment heavy on the mind, a small group of Los Angeles based wineries are looking to the past, and will soon harvest grapes from some of the oldest known vines in California, as well as a recently discovered, turn of the century vineyard, all right here in L.A.

The Los Angeles Vintners Association, founded last year by a group of wineries who are reviving the city’s viticultural, and winemaking past, have begun work on a project for Mission San Gabriel focused on the venerable vines that still remain on the Mission’s grounds, including the famed Ramona Vine, a cross between Mission grape and Vitis Californica,  believed to be planted in 1775, making it the oldest known grape vine in California, and second oldest in the country. “The Ramona Vine, and several other old vines on the property are extremely important to our history, and preserving and caring for them properly is a priority as we head into next year’s celebrations,” says Terri Huerta the Mission’s Director of Development, referring to 2021, the 250th anniversary of the mission’s founding. “I reached out to these guys and they came right out to have a look.” Mark Blatty, of Byron Blatty Wines who initially took the call, jumped at the chance to work with the historic vines. “These vines are living pieces of history, and for us it was a no-brainer. As one of the founding winery members of the Los Angeles Vintners Association, shining a spotlight on L.A.’s viticultural history is one of our priorities, and getting a chance to work with these vines is a real privilege.”

The group of three wineries, Byron Blatty Wines, Angeleno Wine Company, and Cavaletti Vineyards, are now consulting with Mission San Gabriel, and will take cuttings from the Ramona vine this winter, to propagate them for addition plantings on the property as part of the Mission’s renovation, and will also harvest what fruit they can from the vines this year. “We’re going to make some Angelica the way the priests did back in the day,” says Dickson, co-owner and winemaker for Angeleno Wine Company, whose downtown LA facility will process the fruit when it comes in. “What an honor to be able to make wine from these very old, very sacred vines,” says Angeleno’s Co-Founder Amy Luftig Viste. “It is awe-inspiring to walk among these survivalist vines that have endured the siege of time, disease, fires, prohibition and neglect - both at the mission and the Schoolhouse Vineyard” she muses, referring to the groups other new project, revitalizing one of L.A.’s oldest known vineyards.

Earlier this year, winemaker and owner of Cavaletti Vineyards Patrick Kelley, was pouring wines for customers in his Moorpark winery and tasting room, when one of his patrons mentioned an old abandoned vineyard next to the school he attended in northern Los Angeles County. After some research and a bit of sleuthing, Kelley discovered what was left of the oldest known vineyard in the county, the Munz Family Vineyard in Lake Hughes, planted by area pioneer Eli Munz in 1899. The ancient vineyard, now 120 years old is planted to Mission grape, which was largely popular at the time, had been abandoned in the 1950s, and has since been subjected to bulldozing, a lack of irrigation, fires, and utter disrepair. Yet some of the vines are still very much alive.

“They’re survivors,” says Kelley, who has now struck a deal to care for the vines with the local school district that owns the property. “After 70 plus years of being abused it’s amazing to see that they’re still thriving, and with a little love and care we feel that we can bring these vines back to full production in a year or two.” Overall, Kelley estimates that there are roughly 300 hidden vines on the property amongst the brush and chaparral, and he’s begun the arduous task of staking and pruning the vines one by one, enlisting the help of his fellow L.A. Vintners. The group will look to make their first full harvest from the Munz Vineyard next year, once they have had a chance to observe how the vines respond to how they were pruned this spring.

 

About The Los Angeles Vintners Association

Long before Napa and Sonoma, Los Angeles city and county was the birthplace of California winemaking before being decimated by a series of events in the late 1800’s including vine disease, urbanization, and later prohibition and the Great Depression.  Numerous small vineyards continue to exist throughout Los Angeles County and a small group of local winemakers have been bringing the culture of winemaking back to Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Vintners Association is dedicated to reviving and revitalizing the rich history of Los Angeles winemaking, and highlighting the true potential of Los Angeles terroir. Through our events, campaigns and fundraisers, LA Vintners works to bring Los Angeles wine, and the region’s extensive wine history to Angelenos throughout the area. This includes preservation efforts of significant historical sites, protection of natural resources, and the overall sharing and enjoyment of Los Angeles wine culture. https://www.lavintners.com/

About Mission San Gabriel

Founded in 1771, Mission San Gabriel Arcángel is the 4th of California’s historic 21 missions founded by St. Junipero Serra.  Since 1907, it has been stewarded by the Claretian Missionaries who established schools and cemeteries on the historic campus.  On September 8, 2021, Mission San Gabriel Arcángel will celebrate the 250th anniversary of its founding and looks to unveil the repair and reconstruction of the historic Church’s roof and building after the devastating fire on July 11,2020.  For more information regarding Mission San Gabriel, please feel free to contact Terri Huerta, Director of Development & Communication, at 626-457-3035 or via email at communicationsmgr@sangabrielmission.org.

About Angeleno Wine Company

With a focus on unique varietals, Angeleno Wine Co aims to push the boundaries of what Southern California wine growing can be.  We partner with small vineyards in the beautiful, remote corners of Los Angeles County such as Agua Dulce and the Antelope Valley. We only work with vineyards that farm sustainably and source our grapes from land that is special for different reasons.  Tannat, Graciano, Godello, Loureiro, Treixadura and Alicante Bouschet are some of the unique varietals that Angeleno makes into wine every year. Our wines are naturally made in our downtown Los Angeles winery and are 100% vegan. We strive to make wines that are elegant, balanced and that express Los Angeles' unique character: a growing region where the desert meets the sea. https://www.angelenowine.com/

About Byron Blatty Wines

Byron Blatty produces limited-edition, handcrafted red wines that feature sustainably farmed, family-owned vineyards in Los Angeles County. With an annual production of 800 cases, the winery works with small lots of as many as fifteen different varietals from vineyards all over Los Angeles, to create complex red blends, as well as a rosé, and its first white wine which was released this summer. Byron Blatty is available through the winery’s website, select restaurants and wine bars, and boutique wine shops in the greater Los Angeles area. If terroir is a sense of place and the expression of its character, Los Angeles has never been expressed this way before. https://byronblatty.com/

About Cavaletti Vineyards

Cavaletti Vineyards was founded in 2016 to focus on farming and expressing unique vineyard sites in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. Our “hands-on in the vineyard and hands-off in the winery” philosophy creates classically styled wines that reflect the dramatic beauty of Southern California. Cavaletti Vineyards produces 1200 cases per year and their wines are available at restaurants, wine bars, and wine shops through Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. Cavaletti Vineyards’ winery is located near historic downtown Moorpark. https://www.cavalettivineyards.com/


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