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8 • October 2018 • UPBEAT TIMES, INC.


THE


BOUNTY


In Wine Country, It’s Our Mission to Be Informed


By Jo Diaz of Gyserville, CA. jo@diaz-communications.com


OF


consumed. And then,


SONOMA her


jelly


was always on our Thanksgiv- ing table.


Thomas Jef- ferson tried ever so hard to make wine from Native grape varieties, like the Con- cord grape. He didn’t succeed with Native va- rieties. It’s said that


many of W


ine grapes are part of the American landscape, includ- ing the now obscure


Mission grape. Because it’s the first Vitis vinifera grape to al- low for successful winemak- ing, let’s dig deeper in our viti-


cultural history.


So, I begin… I used to wait patiently, under my grand- mother’s arbor, for her Con- cord (Vitis


labrusca) grapes


to ripen in Maine’s sunshine. She’d then make her Concord jelly, from whatever I hadn’t


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them just tasted “foxy.” Not a fine wine de- scriptor, and it wasn’t until Vi- tis vinifera was


introduced to American soil


that we began to make wine in earnest. It was the introduction of the Mission grape on Ameri- can soil that began our true fine wine history.


Role of the Mission Cultivar


The


Mission Period pre- California (1568- 1662)


- The earliest winemak- ing in the continental US is cred-


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8 • October 2018 • UPBEAT TIMES, INC.


ited to the Spaniards of Santa Elena, South Carolina around 1568. The first wine grapes in New Mexico were planted by Franciscan missionaries at Mission of Socorro on the Rio Grande about 1626. In 1662, Franciscan fathers came from Mexico into El Paso Valley, Texas, where they established the San Ysleta Mission. They came with cuttings of the Mis- sion grapes, strapped to the backs of their pack mules. Be- cause the climate there was so drastically different from the


of Alta California. It is he who’s known to have brought the first mission grapevines from Baja, California in an arduous, over- land expedition to San Diego. Padre Serra established


21


missions stretching 650 miles along El Camino Real from San Diego to Sonoma, today’s California Coastal Highway 101. Each site was set at a one- day’s walking journey apart, and became way-stops for Cal- ifornia’s first tourists. It helped to facilitate trade and commu- nications.


COUNTY


United States’ East Coast, the grapes flourished under these perfect, viticultural conditions, i.e., dry, hot, stony soils. The earliest


successful viticulture


was established in the sev- enteenth century in the great Spanish province of New Mex- ico, stretching from El Paso, Texas to the Pacific Ocean. The Mission Period in Cali-


fornia (1769-1834) - In the 1700’s, New Spain (Mexico) was home to many Spanish missionaries, who were de- termined to convert the “new world’s heathens” to Christian- ity. Establishing a mission had specific criteria; i.e., the site must not only be near woods and water, but it must also be on a rise of ground so that mis- sionaries could clearly see the arrival of ships.


Spaniard Father Junipero Serra had a dream of founding a chain of missions up the coast


to be of Mexican and/or South American (Argentina)


The mission grape is believed origin,


related to the Spanish Criolla, and the Pais varietal of Chile. (Criolla means that it is a New World scion from an Old World parent, which has adapted to new condition.) In the early 2000’s when I first wrote a re- port on this variety, there were 36,872 acres


planted to the


Mission variety. Prior to being planted in California, the Mis- sion was first grown in Mexico for 200 years. The grape flour- ished in California, producing a sturdy vine that didn’t require staking, and ripened well in al- most any climate. The excep- tion was Mission Dolores in San Francisco, whose climate was, and still is, consistently cool and damp.


The missionaries’ contribu- tions to the wine industry were many:


• Brought the


Mis-


sion vine to Califor- nia • Trained growers and wine- makers • Proved that


Cali-


fornia is a world- class


winegrape growing region • 1986 -- 1,800 acres lo-


cated in California • Links the modern industry to its origins


• Likes hot country • Is very productive, yielding good, off-dry wine • The Mission grape remains a significant crop in California, though rarely seen as a varietal name • Created a profitable business, a glimpse of how the future might become • Much easier to preserve in difficult conditions than low- ... continued on page 24


“It doesn’t matter where you are coming from. All that matters is where you are going.” ~ Brian Tracy


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