Pouring the Gold at the Los Angeles International Wine Competition 2014
Located on Historic Route 66 near Victoria Gardens (Foothill Blvd at Day Creek Blvd, west of Sears Grand) in Rancho Cucamonga, R66CG is a 15 acre collaborative nonprofit community garden project founded in 2011 by Matreyek.
On a bright sunny morning earlier this month, I visited the Root 66 Community Garden and Vineyard (R66CG) where I found Dee Matreyek, Ph.D., Director, and local vintner Mario DiCarlo setting posts and planting grapevines with their families.
DiCarlo is proprietor of Aggazzotti – DiCarlo Vineyard Co., and is moving forward with his first large new planting (3,000 vines). He is dedicated to the grape. It’s part of his DNA. His family started growing grapes in the sandy, well-draining soils of Cucamonga in the early 1900’s. His grandfather from his mother’s side was Dr. Carlo Aggazzotti of Aggazzotti Winery and CMA Winery. His great-grandfather from his father’s family was Nicola DiCarlo of DiCarlo Winery and EtiVista Winery.
“I have been tending 20 acres of existing old vine ranches in the region for the past 4 years and selling the fruit,” said DiCarlo. “Old vine care and preservation is my passion, although they will soon be extinct in the area. We are planting headtrained Zinfandel, Grenache, Mission and Palomino vines – all from cuttings originating in local vineyards with over 75 years of age.”
DiCarlo is growing for his two young boys, Renzo and Nicola. “This is an opportunity for them to learn methods and traditions to carry on the Cucamonga / Etiwanda legacy as 5th generation vintners. We will be donating a percentage of our sales to help support the Root 66 Garden,” said DiCarlo.
On any given weekend in the nearby Temecula Valley, stretch limos full of lively bachelorette parties and busses brimming with winery tasting room goers motor down Rancho California Road, the main drag of the region marketed as “Southern California’s Wine Country,” looking for fun and an authentic rural experience.
Tourism for the Temecula Valley represents $650 million a year, with wines and vines claiming a good portion of that business as perhaps 500,000 people visit the area’s 40-plus wineries. For some, this is not enough. Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone has crafted a Wine Country Community Plan that would pave the way to expand to over 100 wineries in the next few years. For others, this is too much. Residents complain about the noise coming from the jazz concerts and weddings, while environmentalists wonder where the water will flow from for new wineries, hotels, and spas. Purists worry about the quality of the wine suffering, stunting the development of a notable “Temecula terroir.”
Temecula Valley is at a crossroads. This, to me, was the perfect time to launch a research study. I am an anthropologist, a specialist in human behavior. Since 2010, I have been doing interviews of officials and winemakers, tourists and viticulturalists, and picking grapes with migrant farm workers. Last year, the National Science Foundation funded my research and that of my graduate students for the next three years. I feel strongly that what we see today can only be understood in the context of southern California’s long and illustrious wine history.
Recently, I conducted archival research in Cal Poly Pomona’s wine archives, and I was able to interview members of three pioneering winegrowing families in the historic Ontario – Rancho Cucamonga area: Gino L. Filippi, Donald Galleano, and Paul Hofer III. Learning vintage history from the history-makers themselves was as instructive as it was thrilling.
Today, I share the real juice on Zinfandel – considered “California’s own” not just because of the secrecy of its origin, but also the robust red wines it can produce. Recently, I toured the 200acre Lopez Ranch with Don Galleano, owner of Galleano Winery in Mira Loma, who has farmed the small old “headtrained” Zin vines for nearly two decades.
Located in the foothills of Rancho Cucamonga and Fontana along Interstate 15, LR was planted in 1922 for table grapes, pre-seedless. Grape harvest began two weeks ago, and although it has been an unseasonably mild growing season, it is deceptive. “We avoided much of the traditional August heat, but the grapes are mature and ready now. It’s been a dry year – the crop is light, the quality is exceptional,” Galleano said.
Prominent Sonoma County winemaker Carol Shelton’s love affair with LR began in 2000. “I had wanted to work with these grapes many years before, but the winery where I worked didn’t see the value. So, I had to wait until I had my own winery to be able to produce wine with these gems,” said Shelton. Her “Monga Zin” is highly rated and earned the first 90-plus point score (91) from Wine Spectator for any wine from Cucamonga. “The flavor profile is so unique. Maybe I’m biased by the proximity to the Mojave, but I get a whiff of desert sage, lots of exotic Asian/Middle Eastern spices like cumin, coriander, saffron, star anise,” Shelton said.
“The fruit is all red, like dried cranberry, pomegranate and strawberry.” Shelton is impressed with the history and visuals of LR. “There is no drip irrigation on the vines, so the only water they obtain is from the rain, which can be as low as six or eight inches annually. That is what makes the crop yield in the half-ton per acre range – approximately 20 percent of the tonnage in more normal regions. “This is Old Vine Zin in the best definition – extremely low yields, pygmy vines struggling to stay alive, concentrated, focused and intensely spicy fruit.
Truly a historic area for Zinfandel that even many people in the wine industry don’t know about,” she said. “Let’s hope we can keep the LR vines in the ground and not lose them to a shopping center or housing tract, where so many others have gone. They are truly irreplaceable.”
— Gino L. Filippi can be reached at Ginoffvine@aol.com
I recommend you this link:
about “Of Ontario Prohibition and Guasti” on Foothills Reader
December 23, 2011
Local wine enthusiast and vintner Bill Velto of Upland is interested in growing his own grapes for his home winemaking hobby and asked me about the different grape growing techniques found the vineyard.
Bill and his wife Jody recently returned from California’s Central Coast where they toured Edna Valley Vineyard. “We travel about 3 times a year to Paso Robles wine country. I have noticed that some of the vineyards have different types of trellis,” said Velto.
“At Edna Valley, outside their tasting center, is an informative demonstration vineyard with 14 rows of vines, each row displaying either a different type of grape variety or trellis growing system design. It was interesting and fun to sample the different varieties of grapes used in winemaking. The most common that were seen was the Anchor End Post System with a Tie Back Post. The grape’s tastes were so different, the tart and sour of some, and the sweetness of others, it gave me a new appreciation for the fruit. I am interested in the different types of grapes, trellises and what the differences are.”
Edna Valley’s Paragon Vineyard first planted in 1974, is located in the heart of the valley and represents the first major investment in growing premium wine grape varieties in this cool growing region.
The winery was built six years later, and Edna Valley’s reputation soon flourished. As part of Diageo Wines, Edna Valley Vineyards (EVV) is a leading producer in this respected growing region. EVV produces estate-grown Chardonnay, and has recently expanded its operation to accommodate the increase in its production of premium red wines. The winery also produces Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Viognier, Roussanne, Grenache, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Muscat Canelli, and Ruby Port.
Here’s a cluster of the featured varieties growing at Edna Valley:
— Sangiovese which produces the best-known red wines in Italy: Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino. Sangiovese offers lightly colored wines with firm tannins and good acidity, with fruity aromas and flavors.
Grown on a “Verticle Shoot Positioned” VSP trellis, based upon a bilateral cordon of permanent wood with spur-pruned shoot positions along the arms. The VSP holds the shoots in place by at least four foliage wires and all shoots are trained upwards. This design keeps the canopy away from the fruit and allows the grapes to receive full sun and air exposure and helps control excess vine vigor.
— Semillon is the second-most planted white varietal in France. This versatile grape makes a wide range of wines from very dry to sweet dessert types. The vine offers medium-sized clusters and is moderately vigorous with an upright growing habit. VSP trellis.
— Symphony is a modern varietal developed at UC Davis in 1948 by crossing Grenache Gris and Muscat of Alexandria – both used for making off-dry white table wine and sparkling wines. VSP trellis.
— Syrah hails from the Rh ne wine region in Southern France, and is known as Shiraz in Australia and by some American vintners. Its skin is black when fully ripe and displays black cherry and blackberry flavors, a lush wine with a full, viscous mouthful with medium tannin. Grown on a “Smart Dyson” system, the vine is normally spur pruned with half the shoots trained upwards, allowing the fruit to receive more sun exposure and reducing the need to remove leaves.
— Pinot Noir is the noble, red Burgundy varietal of France. This grape prefers a cooler climate and is moderately vigorous. Clusters are small in size and cylindrical in shape. Berries are small and blue-black in color. Grown on a “Scott Henry” system, this design similar to VSP, vertically separates the canopy but half the shoots are trained upwards and the other down. Vine is caned pruned.
— Merlot is one of Bordeaux’s noble red varietals (with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon). A very vigorous vine in fertile soil, its clusters are medium-small and long in shape with reddish-black to black berries. This vine features the “Ballerina” trellis system, a variant of the Scott Henry which half the shoots are trained upwards and balance downwards. The lower shoots are left to fall naturally which provides fruit protection from the sun in areas prone to sunburn.
— Cabernet Sauvignon is the king of all reds. World renown for producing fine, long-lived wines. Vine growth is very vigorous in an upright position. Clusters small and long shaped with black colored berries. The “Lyre” system divides the canopy horizontally with shoots trained to grow vertically upwards, increasing sun exposure and allowing air movement around the vine.
— Sauvignon Blanc, also originated in Bordeaux, is a very aromatic varietal that makes some of the world’s most popular dry white wines. A very vigorous vine that produces small, conical and compact clusters with medium-large green berries. The Lyre system is utilized.
Zinfandel, grown primarily in California, this popular red is reported to have originated in Croatia as Crljenak. This moderately vigorous vine offers clusters that are medium-large, cylindrical and compact. Berries are reddish-black to black in color. Vines are traditionally “head trained” with support of a wood stake, and spur pruned which results in very small pruning wounds and consequently, excellent vine longevity and resistance to fungal infections after pruning. Nearly all the original Cucamonga Valley’s Zinfandel were planted as head trained vines.
Bill also shared with me that his grandfather Filippo Spina lived in New York City and made his own wine from grapes purchased from the local farmer’s market. Bill’s mother told stories how when her father would disassemble their barrels each year, he would have her smell the wood until she could no longer smell the wine from previous years. Bill said his appreciation for wine is in his blood, and that his brother Alex has introduced him to many more vintages than he would not have found on his own.
Upland, once considered the lemon capital of the world, is not a place ever included when discussing California’s interesting wine regions, nor is it a hot topic among oenophilias (oenophilia describes a disciplined devotion to, or simply enjoyment of wine), however its foothills are home to Brian and Camille Brandt’s award-winning Brandt Family Winery in San Antonio Heights, and a cluster of vintners including Gregg Denson.
For the past decade, Denson’s interest in growing vines and producing wines has transformed from general interest to deep passion. He first became interested in the viticulture history of Rancho Cucamonga upon his daily commutes past the old Thomas Brothers Winery site. “I began to wonder, this is a great old winery building, but where did all the vines go? With the housing boom, I noticed more and more vineyards being replaced by new homes and retail centers. It made me sad to see such a rich part of the cultural history of Rancho vanish before my eyes,” said Denson who serves as Director of Design at Architerra Design Group in Rancho Cucamonga.
“Originally, my idea was keep a little piece of history and grow the signature Zinfandel grapes of the Cucamonga region; not necessarily make wine. But after three years in the ground, and with grapes on the vine, I harvested and crushed my first small vintage in 2004 from a handful of vines, netting only 10 bottles!”
Denson inquired about growing and producing with his fellow co-worker, John Federico, who had worked the DeAmbrogio Ranch many years before as a young man. “He knew a great deal of history about the vineyard, and right before the property was graded over, we drove through the vineyard rows in winter and picked up some of the recently pruned canes. It’s my understanding that some of the vines on that property were over 100 years old. I thought it would be a good legacy to preserve the parent plants of this vineyard.”
Denson began his vineyard with a dozen vine cuttings, selected from various varieties at the historic DeAmbriogio Ranch. “Maybe half rooted in from the original planting and after a couple of years of growth, I took additional cuttings and increased the number of vines. Currently, I have about 30 Zinfandel vines, 4 Red Malaga, 2 Syrah, 2 Thompson Seedless and 1 Mission on our standard residential 8,000 square foot lot in Upland,” said Denson. “Grapevines pretty much drape most of my yard, with the majority of the vines planted in the front yard sharing space with California native plants. The soil is coarse and littered with stones, gravels and sand. The ancient alluvial soils of the Cucamonga Creek are deep and drain quickly.”
Originally located on the southwest corner of Foothill Blvd (Route 66) at Haven Avenue (west of the Rancho Cucamonga Civic Center), the famed DeAmbrogio Ranch served as the valley’s grape packing and shipping center. “Mary and Frank DeAmbrogio were the last of the large grape packers and shippers of our valley,” said local winemaker Don Galleano. “I remember they were sending their prized Cucamonga Zinfandel grapes to the east coast as late as the early 1980’s via refrigerated trucks. DeAmbrogio Zinfandel grapes were the best in the valley,” said Galleano who worked closely on several vintages with respected Australian-born Enologist Daryl Groom at Geyer Peak Winery – in Geyserville – which produced the highest-rated Cucamonga Zinfandel ever, a “92 point score” in Wine Spectator. Galleano continues farming portions of the vineyards once cared for by the DeAmbrogios.
“Upon first view of the small bush-like vines, and the sandy soils, I fell in love with them. They reminded me of the very old Shiraz vines at Kalimna,” said Groom. “The wine was rich, dark and jammy with a distinct character I called, ‘Cucamonga character’ – a sort of earthy and warm character. It was that Cucamonga site which inspired me to plant zinfandel.”
The front yard vineyard at the Denson home has become a special place. “It’s an annual event of getting together with family, friends and neighbors to enjoy food and wine while we harvest and crush the grapes. It’s always fun to see the look on someone’s face who has never stomped grapes by foot before. There’s always some apprehension, followed by a big smile and laughter. What originally started off as a idea to preserve a portion of viticulture history of the Cucamonga Valley, has blossomed into a family tradition that marks the culmination of another growing season. Each year I bottle up a little gift of Denson Reserva Cucamonga Valley Zinfandel for those who attend our family harvest!
Local wine enthusiasts may also appreciate the small vineyard planting located at the Mercury Insurance building in Rancho Cucamonga, designed by Architerra Design Group in Rancho Cucamonga.
Cucamonga grown Zinfandel wines can be purchased at: Liquorama Fine Wines in Upland, Galleano Winery in Mira Loma, and J. Filippi Winery Rancho Cucamonga. Brandt Family wines can be purchased at Pacific Wine Merchants in Upland
Gino L. Filippi can be reached at Ginoffvine@aol.com