2007 Symposium Event Description

The Elevation of Wine, The First International High Altitude Viticultural and Winemaking Symposium was held on June 14, 2007 at Snows Lake Vineyard in Lake County. Viticulturists, winemakers and journalists from South America, Europe, California, Australia as well as other locales, converged to define high altitude, share viticultural and winemaking experiences, compare wines of high altitudes from around the world and lay out an integrated vision for future research into the effects of high altitudes on winegrapes and wine.

The Elevation of Wine was an interactive event for a limited number of invited wine professionals, approximately seventy-five. Fresh from the first vintage of the world’s highest vineyard at 9,900’ in Argentina, Randle Johnson of the Hess Collection and Colomé Winery inaugurated our event with his reflections on crafting high altitude wine on two continents. In an attempt to define the terroir of high altitude vineyards, Dr. Greg Jones of Southern Oregon University followed with an investigation of the climate of high altitude and Dr. Leo McCloskey of Enologix continued with the measurable effects of altitude on winegrapes.

Immediately following, three experienced moderators, Glenn McGourty of UC Davis, Jim Gordon, Editor of Wines & Vines and former Managing Editor of The Wine Spectator, and Paul Wagner of Balzac Communications respectively moderated three panels on viticulture, winemaking and the market for high altitude wines. These panels were structured as comparative wine tastings with wines from different high altitude regions throughout the world and were a starting point for extensive give and take with attendees. The emphasis was on the hands-on experiences of winemakers and viticulturists from Italy, Argentina, California and other locales in order to provide attendees with both a scope of projects at high altitudes as well as practical vineyard and winemaking techniques.

Prominent speakers included Bodega Catena Zapata, perhaps Argentina’s most renowned winery, Dr. Paul Skinner longtime viticulturist and consultant in the mountains in and around Napa Valley, Dr. Vittorino Novello, Chairman of the Department of Viticulture at the University of Torino, Italy and an authority on mountain viticulture in Europe and Philip Shaw of the Koomooloo Vineyard at 2,950’ in the Orange District of Australia.

Important journalists and market gatekeepers were invited for their input on high altitude wines and to gain exposure for the projects of all attendees.

The date was one week before the American Society of Enology and Viticulture (ASEV) Symposium that was held in Reno Nevada, a three-hour drive, to maximize the trip’s effectiveness for international visitors. The event was held in the Red Hills appellation in the Mayacamas Mountains and is a forty-five minute drive north from Calistoga in the Napa Valley. Lake County hosts the largest concentration of high altitude vineyards in the North Coast of California with vineyards ranging from 900’ to 3,000′ in elevation. In the past two decades the region has experienced a significant revitalization with several new plantings and winery projects as well as critical acclaim. The Elevation of Wine is sponsored by the Lake County Winegrape Commission along with a dozen Lake County wineries and vineyard companies.