The SOMM Journal

April / May 2016

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Page 28 of 108

28 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } APRIL/MAY 2016 { #indiesomm } ONE OF MY FAVORITE THINGS ABOUT Los Angeles is its amazing, hodge-podge history. But when I hopped in the Jeep and headed Downtown to attend a vine prun- ing at the Adobe Avila—L.A.'s oldest stand- ing residence—I might as well have been in a DeLorean, because we took a turn that went back roughly hundreds of years. Allow me to explain, or better yet, I'll have J. Wilkes Consulting Winemaker and Brand Ambassador Wes Hagen explain. After all it's the Miller family and J. Wilkes wines that are donating Hagen's time; being seventh-generation Californian famers themselves, they get the whole wine cul - ture and history thing. While Wes told us the story, he stood in the Avila Adobe cour tyard, between what looked like the trunks of two lazy trees leaning on the side of the timeworn building, resting their limbs onto the per - gola over our heads. (Spoiler aler t—those trees were vines.) "The Avila Adobe was completed in 1818, and historical research has indicated the vines were planted no later than 1921, making this one of the oldest grapevines in the New World, and maybe even the oldest New World grape - vine that has Vitis vinifera parentage. The vine has basically been neglected for quite some time, but the 200th anniversary of the Adobe is coming up and Los Angeles archivist and home winemaker Michael Holland invited me down to take a look and see if I'd be interested to find out if we can revive the vine in a production sense. As a third-generation Angeleno, I felt I owed it to the history of Los Angeles to help restore this vine. "Considering the fact that we were growing grapes here in Los Angeles when Napa was all prunes, I like to say that L.A. is the beginning of the New World wine industry. Not to mention that I've been making wine and pruning vines for about 25 years, so I am willing and able to help. You can really see the effects of drought on this vine. Tiny berries, tiny clusters, at about 18 or 19 Brix, so they're not even ripe enough to work for Champagne. But I'd bet the root depth is 25 to 30 feet and probably picking up some very interesting stuff. Mike Holland was able to find the ripest clusters this year and make three gallons of wine. He stopped the fermentation at 14% sugar with white brandy and made angelica [a sweet fortified dessert wine usually made in California, and normally from the Mission grape], as a nod to the history of the Los Angeles wine industry. My goal is in 2018 to make a full barrel of wine from this vine; eventually I'd love to do a 1,000 pounds off this one vine. Today is basically one of the first days of pruning and I'm giving out cuttings to keep this vine alive and spread the history." Wes then handed each of us a small bundle of shoots. Later that day, for the lucky few who stuck around, Wes broke out a small plastic vessel containing a few precious ounces of the angelica made from the Mission/ Red Palomino hybrid, aka Criolla grapes. I've never had anything like it; as I said in the #sommjournal Instagram, the intense candied cranberry profile was "a high-acid transcendent sip of history." And the best part is, the shoot I got that day is now growing—and budding—in my backyard. Viva Los Angeles! #indiesomm, #adobeavila, #jwilkes Wine Editor Jessie Birschbach talks about anything off the beaten vineyard path and encourages us all to be #indiesomms. Instagram with the hashtag #indiesomm, and we'll regram our favorites! The Avila Adobe Vine by Jessie Birschbach / photos by Jessie Birschbach . . . and eventually you! J. Wilkes Consulting Winemaker and Brand Ambassador Wes Hagen. Wes Hagen prunes with the help of his Little Brother from Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Union Station is in the background. A vine from the historical mother- ship (Mission/Red Palomino cross) budding in my yard! The horse in the courtyard of the Avila Adobe can't wait to taste some of that angelica.

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