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California family farming: succession and progression

From matriarchs and patriarchs who planted their first vines more than 160 years ago to current – and future – generations, California family farming is an important part of the state's wine industry. Clare Tooley MW looks at what it means to be family owned, and recommends a selection of wines from pioneering estates.

‘Family owned’ is often presented as a badge of honour in introducing a winery or estate, a little like ‘old vines’ or ‘special cuvée’ on a wine label. It’s a tool regularly used when selling wine to consumers – that being family owned equates to higher values and a commitment to better quality.

The concepts of pride of ownership, legacy, continuity and longevity (rather than instant gratification) are deeply engaging. They speak to our core humanity and desire for perpetuity. Story is all, and a story about real people is likely to generate a more visceral audience reaction – and a more compelling reason to buy a wine – than a tale of soil, clones or rootstocks.


Scroll down for Clare Tooley MW’s selection of wines that celebrate California family farming



California family farming: wines to try from pioneering estates


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