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What constitutes a high elevation vineyard in California?

In California, a high elevation vineyard is anything over 1,200 feet. Barnwood’s Cabernet Sauvignon’s vineyard is located at 3,200 feet above sea level and definitely qualifies as a high elevation vineyard. In Argentina’s Salentein Vineyard in the Mendoza Valley you will find three very high elevation vineyards, ranging from 3,400 feet to about 5,500 feet. It is rumored that in South America there are two vineyards being planted at 9,000 feet. High elevation vineyards fruit is reported to have tougher skins that add color and smaller grapes with more flavor. “Bacchus amat collet.”

What growing practice is used when vineyard manager relies only on rainwater for irrigation?

The practice is commonly known as dry-farming. Using the dry-farming method, newly planted vines are irrigated only until they create an extensive root system. After the roots become established, all irrigation lines are removed and the vines are left to fend for themselves. For future moisture, vineyard managers rely only on natural rainwater and they trust it will create a stronger vine with a deeper, thicker root system. The vineyards practicing dry farming believe it stresses the vines, lowers the grape tonnage and produces smaller berries with more intense varietal characteristics because they are not plump with water.

What does “Bacchus amat colles” have to do with high elevation vineyards?

In Europe, high elevation vineyards fall in the path of ancient vineyard sites, due to a long standing reverence for mountain-side cultivation. The Romans had a saying, “Bacchus amat colles,” or, “Bacchus loves the hills.” Bacchus, the god of wine seemed to bestow special blessings on grapes cultivated on high elevation slopes. Armed with this knowledge, the Romans planted their vineyards throughout Italy, Germany, France, Spain, and Austria— and all the other territories they conquered— on mountain slopes still renowned today for producing excellent fruit.

Originally published in our Gold Wine Club's The Wine Wizard, Barnwood Vineyards edition.