Next time you wander to the north end of the Marsh Creek Trail, stop on the bridge, and look to your right and you’ll see a vineyard in the sand. I thought that this vineyard had been abandoned but recently learned different. On Saturday I met with Matt Cline, who owns and manages The Three Wine Company in Clarksburg, for a tour of the vineyard. Part of Matt’s vineyard holdings include this fourteen acre 100+ year old Carignane vineyard which he has been sub-leasing for the last 25 years. The vineyard is located on the Emerson Parcel on a pre-historic sand dune.
Matt dry-farms these ancient, hand-pruned vines on this historic vineyard, continuing a practice employed by the Italian and Portuguese immigrants that planted this vineyard well before the turn of the last century. This organically farmed ancient vineyard (thought to have been planted between 1880 and 1890) thrives in the dunes. The sandy soil provides a natural resistance to phylloxera; a microscopic louse or aphid, that lives on and eats roots of grapes. This pest prefers heavy clay soils that are found in the cooler grape-growing regions of the state such as Napa, Sonoma, Lake, Mendocino, and Monterey counties, as well as the Sacramento Delta and the foothills. Although grape phylloxera is present in the heavier soils of the San Joaquin Valley, damage may not be as severe. It is not a pest on sandy soils.
On average this 14 acre vineyard is producing 48-56 tons of Carignane grapes annually. These grapes are used by Three Wine Company to make its Carignane Rose, Old Vines Field Blend and the Lucchesi Carignane. These wines are avaiable at the tasting room in Clarksburg, sold through the internet or in various restaurants in San Francisco and the South Bay area’s. The only place you can find these wines in Contra Costa County currently is through The Wine Thieves which is a two store chain with one in Lafayette and the other in Berkeley.
This vineyard is located within the properties that make up the 1200+ acre Dutch Slough Salt Marsh Restoration Project. The State plans are to remove the historic vineyard at the end of this year or early in 2014 as part of the restoration project. Although I fully support the restoration project I also think it’s important to save historic farmland in Oakley. We’ll need to talk with project managers to discuss available options.