“Meet Magdalena. Quite a remarkable, resilient character, according to those who knew her best. Born in the early 1930s, Magdalena lived a long and fruitful life in Lodi, California, luxuriating in the loamy sandy soil, not far from the Mokelumne River until her early death from tractor blight.” So begins my entry to the 2021 Wine Writing Competition about the Lucas Winery’s Lodi ZinStar Vineyard.
And today I’m SO EXCITED to announce my essay on old vines is up NOW on JancisRobinson.com! How did this happen? In late July, Sue Hill and I visited Lucas in Lodi with hopes that they’d qualify for the next Slow Wine Guide. We had a lot of help from the Lodi Wine Commission setting up appointments in the region, and we were told possibly David Lucas might be able to meet with us briefly. Imagine my surprise and joy to have both David Lucas and Heather Pyle Lucas sit with us under the redwoods for an interview.
For Slow Wine Guide, we request 30 minutes and to taste three or more wines for possible inclusion. Heather and David were so generous with their time and their wine: we chatted beside the vines and under the redwoods for maybe two hours before moving into the vines to chat about old vines and then into the Grand Chai where we tasted their passito and chatted more.
It’s on the basis of this conversation that I wrote my article which I submitted to Jancis Robinson’s 2021 writing contest which focuses on Old Vines from Around the World. I also drew from my experiences with old vines at Ridge and old vine zin in upper Ojai and in Fillmore head training young vines with Clos des Amis; I used a bit of that for my Ignite Wine presentation about being a Cellar Rat at the Wine Media Conference (more on this soon!).
As soon as we returned from Lodi, I began writing my article, and then sent it to several friend for feedback before sending it on the due date. I read that 136 entries were submitted and about half would be posted at Jancis Robinsons’s site. Just last night I was looking over entries and weighing my chances.
Then this morning I received this email:
We are very, very grateful for the commitment you gave to this project and of course for your outstanding article. Besides your article published on Purple Pages, everything you told us will eventually be captured in a new, dramatically updated and reformulated Old Vines Register.
We will be publishing two entries a day until the end of August. Soon after that we will publish a shortlist and ask our readers to vote for their favourites. Some time in September we will announce the winners – chosen both by visitors to JancisRobinson.com and by us.
If you haven’t already – you might like to sign up at the top of any page of JancisRobinson.com for Jancis’s popular Friday email. It’s free, and very easy to unsubscribe from if you don’t enjoy it as much as most recipients.
Lilla O’Connor and the rest of Team JR
So what’s next? Well, wish me luck on being a finalist! And if I make it that far, please vote for me! The winner gets to travel to South Africa to visit the old vines there!
Here’s a few more details of the contest:
Inspired by the Old Vine Conference, old vines are the topic of this year’s competition: “The Old Vine Conference initiative is designed to increase the perceived value of old vines in the eyes of growers, wine professionals and wine lovers.” Find recordings of the proceedings on oldvines.org.
To be competitive, an entry should be “An account of an old vineyard, or parcel of old vines – the less well-known the better. It should ideally be a good read rather than an academic treatise, and we encourage you to put the vineyard in a social context as well as a viticultural one. We’d love to know why the vines were kept in the ground so long and the reasons you think they have managed to survive. Any human colour and details of the history of the vineyard would be welcome, as well of course as information on what is planted and what happens and has happened to the grapes…The vines must have been planted before 1980.”
As a prize for the competition, “they will fly the winner out to South Africa in October 2022, pandemic permitting. The winner will be taken on a three-day tour of certified heritage vineyards meeting growers and winemakers, and tasting wine, dates to be mutually agreed. Economy flights, travel, accommodation and meals in South Africa are included. Sarah Abbott MW adds, ‘we realise that’s quite a lot of looking forward to be done, so we will in the meantime (at an agreed date this year) host a virtual tasting featuring some great old-vine wine for the winner too’.
“Other prizes will include magnums of their Geyserville old-vine field blend from Ridge Vineyards of California, who have been supporters and curators of some of their state’s rich array of old vines for decades, and some rather special secateurs, an important tool in prolonging the life of a vine – or your roses perhaps?
“This year there will also be a people’s vote for the best entry.”
So please check out my submission, and be prepared to vote for me! Cheers!