Each year, the California State Fair recognizes accomplishments and services of key individuals and organizations as they pertain to agriculture and technology. In 2016, a vineyard that has been a part of making California history for nearly 150 years was awarded the prestigious “Vineyard of the Year” honor. That vineyard is Amador County’s very own “Vineyard 1869/Original Grandpere Vineyard”.
This small 10-acre vineyard is nestled back off Steiner Road in Plymouth, CA, and has survived through the California Gold Rush, Prohibition, the Stock Market Crash, the Great Depression, both World Wars, recessions and housing crises, deaths and divorces and of course the dreaded phylloxera epidemic.
Planted, managed and owned by Mahala Teter Upton up until the 1930’s, the vineyard was then sold to the Steiner family who held on to it for nearly 40 years. In 1970, they sold the vineyard to John & Virginia Downing, who had been the longtime caretakers of the vineyard. In the late 1970’s, the vineyard had hit a low point and the Downing’s were ready to retire. By this time the vineyard had dwindled down from 16 to 10 acres. In 1988, Scott Harvey and his first wife Terri purchased the vineyard outright, although they had managed, maintained and cared for it since 1984.
From the late 1980’s and on, the politics, relationships and business workings get…well…”complicated”. You can read more about the history of this vineyard (as well as some juicy and “complicated” details) in Randy Caparoso’s article, “The Original Grandpere Vineyard: Powerful Women, Grapes and Wines.” (Originally published in April 2015 for the Amador Four Fires).
Today, the vineyard is owned, managed and maintained by Terri Harvey. Using equipment exclusive to the vineyard, Terri prunes each plant by hand and very rarely affords outsiders access to the vineyard to help prevent damage and minimize pests that might hitch a ride. Since the beginning, this vineyard has produced tiny, fist-sized clusters, barely adding up to 1.5 to 2 tons per acre. This non-irrigated vineyard has roots that burrow down over 25 feet in search of water. All this hard work for hydration keeps the berries small and full-flavored, as Scott says, “extractive and multidimensional”.
Wines produced from grapes from Vineyard 1869/The Original Grandpere are not like other Zinfandels from Amador County. These small-production wines are not known for being “big, bold and in your face”, but rather they are seductive, lean and exotic. Their aromas and flavors comingle and change, and with each sip, you’ll find something new.
So just where can you find wines produced from grapes from Vineyard 1869/The Original Grandpere Vineyard? Currently, Terri sells the grapes to just four wine producers; three in Amador County and one in Lodi. Vino Noceto (Amador County) simply calls theirs “OGP”, Andis Wines (Amador County) spells it out and calls theirs “Original Grandpere Zinfandel”, Macchia Wines (Lodi), tagged theirs “Prestigious” and then there’s our very own Scott Harvey (Amador County), Vineyard 1869 Zinfandel.