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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Who Says Terroir Doesn’t Matter?

There is one thing we have all have been told about the grapes that make up wine. Location matters. Terroir matters. The same vines planted in different soils will produce different grapes. Not just in quality or quantity, but the actual taste of the grapes, and ultimately the wine, will be affected by the soil and other materials the roots grow in and through.

According to a story I saw in the New York Times entitled “Turning Cemeteries Into Wine at a California Diocese”, chardonnay and pinot noir vines were planted 10 years ago at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Hayward California as a less expensive and more water-frugal alternative to grass.  At $17,000 an acre for grapevines, versus $50,000 an acre for grass, it seems like a no brainer, plus the vines produce grapes while grass only produces hay fever.

The Holy Sepulchre cemetery grounds in Hayward, CA

The plan was to mix all the grapes together and make a rose alter wine that one Diocese official said, “Didn’t really have to be all that good”. They worked with Shauna Rosenblum, winemaker for urban winery Rock Wall Wine Company, to make the wine from the cemetery grapes. Both she and Jim Ryan, the general manager at Rock Wall and a consulting winemaker, were amazed at the quality of the grapes and approached the Diocese about making a serious wine.

And it seems to have worked. This year, a Bishop’s Vineyard cabernet sauvignon won a silver medal at the Monterey International Wine Competition, and Its cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel both won silver medals in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

Now I haven’t seen the score cards or tasting notes, but has anyone mentioned notes of varnished mahogany or walnut, with a nice cement vault minerality? If terroir matters what tasting notes do you get in the cemetery? 

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