California Chenin Blanc vineyard listed as heritage site

  • Tuesday 20 May 2014

One of California's oldest Chenin Blanc vineyards has been listed by the state's Historic Vineyard Society, as part of efforts to preserve the region's winemaking heritage.

Chalone chenin

Diageo’s Chalone Vineyard has been listed as the oldest estate of Chenin Blanc vines in Monterey County that is still producing wines.

Planted in 1919, the vineyeard pre-dates Prohibition in the US and is one of the oldest Chenin Blanc sites in California, said the state's Historic Vineyard Society (HVS), a non-profit body.

Its move is part of a wider strategy by the HVS to register California's oldest vineyards, following concerns that part of the region's wine heritage may be lost as demand for the state's wines prompts fresh vine plantings.

Chalone Vineyard, above the Salinas Valley in the mountainous Chalone AVA, still produces a limited edition wine, usually around 3,000 bottles per year, from a 3.79-acre plot of chenin growing on clay-loam and sandy soils.

The plot was first planted by the original owner, Lucious Charles Tamm, when his family became homesteaders in the Gavilan mountains. It survived Prohibition because its grapes were sold for sacramental wines

‘This is an acknowledgement of a special heirloom vineyard,’ winemaker Robert Cook told Decanter.com. ‘It’s an honour that the Society has acknowledged the treasure that we have, which is one of the oldest chenin vineyards in the world’.

To qualify for a HVS listing, the vines must be still in production, with at least one-third of the vines dating back to the original planting date, which must be no later than 1960. There are currently 68 registered Historic Vineyards in California, with the oldest a five-acre plot of Zinfandel vines at Siliver Oak Vineyards in Alexander Valley, Sonoma, dating back to the 1870s.

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