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The one universal truth in wine is that there are no universal truths about wine. That is one of the reasons it’s such a maddening and magical pursuit. Recently I read yet another article on the subject of whether “old” vines make better wine. That simple question immediately brings up at least three central disputes that deepen the discussion.
What is “old”?
What is “better”?
Did the vine’s age make the wine?
In addressing the first question, we must rehash a debate (or deception) that’s been going on since Zinfandel’s resurgence in the late 1970’s and up to this day. The phrase “old vine”, much like “artisanal”, “hand crafted”, “small lot”, “Reserve”, or “natural wine”, has no legal definition. Which is funny, seeing as how there are so many rules about commercially fermenting grapes in the United States that we have an Entire Government Agency enforcing them. Yet some of the most common, most used (and misused), and deceptive terms in the industry can simply be used with no context or accuracy. My rule of thumb is that if I would not describe a person as old at a certain age, I would not describe a vineyard that way either. 30? No way! 40, 50? Not even close. 147 (like the Original Grandpére Vineyard here in Amador County), you bet!!
Better is even a more subjective question because we all desire something different from a glass of wine depending on when we are drinking it, where we are, and how our tastes vary. It’s fair to say that old vines tend to produce more intense wines, richer on the palate, possessing more layers of complexity, and expressing a spicier, weightier mid palate than wine from young vines. But does that make the wine “better”? On a warm summer afternoon, I’ll take a cold bottle of Rosè over a 100-year-old red Zinfandel every time. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that old vines produce a unique category of wine.
So back to the main question – Is the age of the vine the reason these old vineyards are so esteemed? There is one school of thought that says as a vine ages it deepens its root structure and moderates its productivity creating an availability of resources and a balance that makes for great wine. There is, however, another possibility. Perhaps the vineyard is old because it was great to begin with. Over time most vineyards are eventually replanted to respond to the needs for new or different varietals or because the vineyard is failing in some way. But if year in and year out a vineyard is producing great wine, why tear it out? So perhaps it’s not that the these vineyards are great because they are old, but they are old because they are great!
We'll let you be the judge. Try our Original Grandpére Zinfandel and let us know what you think.
I just returned from a sales and wine club trip to Hawaii and it was a great reminder of why we make so many darn wines. The wines that were deliciously appropriate in the 40 degree rainy weather when I left California were certainly not the same ones that were appealing in the sun and sand (and humidity!) of Hawaii. Why every restaurant in Hawaii is not carrying Andis Sèmillon is a mystery to me and a current life goal!! : )
It's funny how much you learn about your own creations when experiencing them in a different environment. Here in California I love the Sèmillon for its weight on the palate and the low tones of fig and beeswax in the aromatics. In Hawaii I love the floral, white flower aromas and the refreshing crispness when it hits your palate. It's fun to see the same wine in such different facets, like seeing a painting or photograph you know well and love under different light. Context changes things.
The other great discovery on this trip was that Cabernet Franc is back and back in a big way. We've made Cabernet Franc since the inception of Andis and the truth is we always had a bear of a time getting people interested in it. We source the fruit from an amazing, high elevation vineyard and age it in our concrete egg tank; it's one of our most beloved wines. That said, you gotta sell the stuff! It got to the point last year that Jenae and I recommended to Andy that we discontinue the program. : (
Andy’s response was classic:
Andy: But it’s good wine
Jeane and Mark: For sure
Andy: Then why would we stop making it? People will come around.
Sure enough they did! Starting in December, sales of the Cabernet Franc have skyrocketed and all the cool kid bloggers are posting stories about how Cab Franc is THE wine for 2016. So many other producers had already given up hope that we found ourselves in the fantastic position of being one of the very few belles left at the ball. Proof yet again that perseverance and a dedication to great wine generally pays off in the end.
Spring is a joyful time in Amador. While the beauty of the Foothills shouldn't be taken for granted any time of the year, there's a unique joy and energy in the renewal of the land and the vineyards in Spring. The deep green of the hills return, the flowers burst forth, and on a very happy and personal note this Spring, I’m coming home to Andis as Winemaker!
I have so missed the winery, the wines and most of all, the wonderful people who grow, create, and drink our Andis Wines. Thank you for your continued patronage. Without you, none of this would be possible. And boy let me tell you, we have some exciting new plans and projects in the works for 2015 and beyond. Stay tuned!!
In the meantime, I hope you'll stop into the tasting room soon and say hello! I look forward to seeing you all again friends!
The very first bottle of wine Andis ever sold was to our good friend and neighbor, Isy Borjon. He came into the tasting room 5 minutes after we opened for the very first day and bought a bottle of Barbera, took it back home and drank it with his family that afternoon.
With every bottle of wine opened and enjoyed, a small story is lived - a relaxing evening, a beautiful afternoon at the winery, a date night, a memorable dinner. That first bottle, that first story, is a perfect way to begin. Here, almost 4 years later, there have been over 150,000 of those small stories lived while enjoying a bottle of Andis wine. We've heard some of those stories from across the globe – pictures of Andis in Egypt, Africa, Mexico, South America, and Europe (check out our Fan Page). It's just amazing all the places and all the stories those bottles have been a part of.
Last week Andy and I were in Seattle pouring the wines at Canlis (view from Canlis at right), one of the truly great restaurants, not just in Seattle but anywhere in the United States. They were gracious enough to add our Semillon and Grenache to their wine list. Now Andis will be represented alongside some of the most amazing wines on the planet. Next week we'll be in New York City pouring at a few of the most incredible restaurants there – such a privilege.
We feel so fortunate that people have enjoyed the wines so much and made us a part of their lives. It all started with one bottle, who knows where it can go from here!