The Oldest Vine - Somm TV

The Oldest Vine
January 15, 2023

Los Angeles wine making sounds like it should be a pretty popular endeavor, after all, California is known for Napa Valley and legendary award winning wines. However, most vintners are located in Northern California and the art has been lost to Southern California for decades. A small group of farmers, vintners and wine enthusiasts are attempting to revitalize this lost tradition in the last few years. These passionate individuals include our own Patrick Kelley, Angeleno Wine's Amy Luftig-Viste and Jasper Dickson, as well as Mark Blatty of Byron Blatty Wines. Together they form the Los Angeles Vintners Association which is devoted to reviving the Los Angeles wine community. All of them started making wines in Los Angeles independently, but soon discovered the strength they can achieve working together and building upon each other's experiences in this unique niche of regional wine making.

The Oldest Vine is a documentary from Somm TV regarding the country's second oldest and California's true oldest grape vine. Located in the San Gabriel Mission, it is dated to be over 250 years old. These vines are hybrid crosses of the Mission grape (aka Listan Prieto, Pais, Criolla Chica) brought over by Father Junipero Serra, and the Southern California native grapes, Vitis Girdiana. The vine now resembles a gnarled old tree with a thick trunk and 24 inch thick branches which reach far along the pergolas of the mission. The original intention of the vine (shade, wine, eating?) has been lost to antiquity, but we know wine hasn't been made from it in at least 100 years, if ever. Thankfully, the curators of the mission had learned of the growing LA vintner movement and requested help with the oldest vine.

When introduced to the oldest vine, Amy, Jasper, Pat, and Mark were in awe of the beauty of the vine. Absolutely blown away by it's size and resilience they knew they had to make wine from this historic vine. Patrick Kelley was tasked with assessing the vine, pruning it and creating wine from its grapes. He jokes that 'as the leading expert on this type of grape (of which only 6 vines exist)' he used his farming skills to teach the groundskeepers how to properly maintain the vine for future harvests. As it turns out, the vine was very healthy despite it's relative neglect and age. From fires, to earthquakes, this vine had seen its fair share of California history. With the expertise and knowledge of legendary wine makers of the Los Angeles Vintners Association, work began to harvest the first crop of grapes from this vine in over 200 years. Using techniques which date back to how the original wine was made from this vine, these four pioneers were able to make half a barrel of Angelica wine, the first in centuries.

With proper pruning and care, the second harvest of the oldest vine the next year, yielded larger, darker grapes, better flavors and even more wine. It's magical to see the oldest vine in all of California produce wine that hasn't been sampled since the founding of the San Gabriel Mission. Patrick says the wine reminds him of a cherry cordial, describing it as truly a unique flavor profile in the wine world.

Watch the full documentary HERE.