New Grapes for Old

Verdelho Grapes

Dancing Crow’s Old Stake 1901 Vineyard is an ongoing experiment in grape diversity 120 years in the making. So far we’ve identified over 20 different varieties, some dating back to the original plantings at the turn of the last century, all the way through to modern times and even into the future as we add new vines to replace some that are unhealthy or no longer productive. The palette of aromas, flavors and textures is always evolving.

While Old Stake produces a truly unique and complex red wine field blend, there are both red and white grapes in the vineyard; the white varieties not only add their own aromas, flavors and characteristics to the blend, they actually enhance the quality of the reds, and this carries through to the color of the wine as well – white grapes can actually catalyze the color of the reds though a process called co-pigmentation as you’ll see in this short Youtube video of winemakers David and Katharine DeSante. LINK

With all these factors in mind, one of the varieties we’ve selected as a new addition to the site is Verdelho – a white grape noted for its floral and citrus aromas that is grown throughout Portugal, where it was first planted as early as the 15th century. It is closely associated with wines from the island of Madeira where it was the most widely planted grape at the turn of the 20th century. The fortified wine named after the island was extremely popular in the American colonies, a favorite of Thomas Jefferson and used to toast the Declaration of Independence.
As one of the few heat-loving white grapes, Verdelho is well adapted to California where it has a long history. By the 1870’s it was extensively grown in what is now Amador County in the Sierra foothills. Currently there are approximately 200 acres in California are devoted to the grape, which has also been successful in the vineyards of Australia.

Among the reds we have chosen Niebbolo in part because of the success one of our neighbors on the Kelsey Bench has had with this variety. Originating in Northern Italy’s Piedmont region, where it dates back to the 13th century, this grape is best known for producing Barolo and Barbaresco, powerful, full-bodied, and highly tannic wines, often with a surprisingly light color.

It will be a few years before we see how these new vines contribute to Old Stake, by which time we will no doubt have discovered some new “old” varieties in vineyard.

If you’d like to sample this fascinating old world field blend, Old Stake 1901 is the only wine we sell in a three pack – currently offered at $99 or mix and match with any of other wines – HERE

Photo credit: By José Luís Ávila Silveira/Pedro Noronha e Costa – Own work, Public Domain

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