High altitude viticulture
January 30, 2021
The new Tehachapi Mountains AVA was granted to our region because of the unique character of our area.
Tehachapi grape growers are growing grapes at an altitude higher than other wine regions in the state. At 4,000 feet above sea level, we far exceed the others. The Napa region is only 20 feet, Sonoma is at 85 feet and Paso Robles is at 732 feet. Wine grapes are grown in Argentina at an astounding 9,800 feet.
What difference does it make, you ask?
Mountain grown grapes are grown under very different climatic conditions. The altitude with lower temperatures and increased solar radiation tends to concentrate flavors and intensifies color during fermentation. There is ozone present in the atmosphere and less oxygen and carbon dioxide, so UV rays more easily penetrate the skins. Consequently, grape skins grow thicker in an effort to shield the fruit. The intense light increases photosynthesis and creates a greater concentration of phenolics. Phenolics are a group of chemical compounds including flavonoids, such as tannins and nonflavonoids such as resveratrol. The chemical combination gives structure, weight and texture to the wine by concentrating flavors. Mountain grown wines are darker and deeper in color with a strong tannic backbone. Tehachapi Mountains AVA produces distinctly unique wines that are singularly representative of this special mountain community.
And therein lies the difference.
Jim Arnold is president of the Tehachapi Wine Growers Commission and owner of Triassic Vineyards.