California’s Grand Cru Vineyards Emerge
An informal Grand Cru is emerging in California, and it is at once as dead-serious and casual as the ambition and culture that defines the Golden State’s mysterious and magnetic modus operandi.
“When my brother Ben and I took over Arista from our parents in 2012, we literally wrote down a list of vineyard sites that if and when the fruit became available, we’d want,” says Mark McWilliams of the Russian River Valley’s Arista Winery, with 36 acres of estate fruit under vine and contracts with several iconic growers. “Many of the vineyards we work with are very old. Ultimately, we feel the site and to an extent vine age always trumps clone.”
Decisions on organics and price are also pretty much a non-issue, McWilliams says.
“These people are farming at the very high end,” he says. “They are not using chemical sprays or practices that fall outside what we’d call traditional, sustainable, organic farming. The fruit is going to be very expensive, but you get what you pay for. We ask our growers to farm in a way that’s very tough and demanding, and have incredibly high expectations given the pedigree. These relationships are more than a business transaction; they’re a partnership.”
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