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Re-inventing a Central Coast wine grape vineyard

I  have travelled hundreds of miles in late July zigzagging across farm regions in several California Central Coast counties as Western Farm Press editor.

It has been a spectacular, visual ride witnessing California’s food cornucopia ‘under construction’ in farm fields.

Interviews with numerous growers have unveiled what those in agriculture already understand – a love and respect for the land, the thrill of getting one’s hands dirty in the soil, raising a crop from a seed or small plant to harvest, and accomplishing this amazing feat in a sustainable manner.

The message from wine grape growers I’ve visited is the same – a good clean crop with good fruit quality.

Andy Mitchell, director of viticulture with Hahn Family Wines, shared two hours out of his busy day with this journalist at the Soledad operation in the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County.

Mitchell said grape quality is good, despite some pressure from powdery mildew and mealybugs. Treatments have managed the challenges. Yields are right on target.

The Hahn Family grows about 1,100 acres of wine grapes. The varieties include Pinot Noir (50-plus percent), Chardonnay, Grenache, Merlot, Pinot Gris, Malbec, and Syrah. About 40 clones are produced.

“Clones are to a winemaker as a palate is to a painter,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell has helped re-invent the Hahn wine grape operation over the last 15 years with varieties with a better fit for the area’s soils and climate. Look for the full story with Mitchell, and his cultural practices in grape production, coming up on the Western Farm Press website and in Western Farm Press magazine.

Travelling across Monterey County, vegetable fields on the Salinas Valley floor were busy places. Broccoli was under sprinkler irrigation with the always amazing sound of water thrust into the air and landing on the plants and soil. Music to the ears.

Cheers from the Central Coast. My dusty car needs a car wash…or two.

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