Can you grow grapes in the desert? It turns out that people have been growing grapes and making wine in the western portion of the Mojave Desert for nearly 100 years. Located between the Tehachapi Mountains to the northwest, Portal Ridge, the San Gabriel and Sierra Pelona mountains to the south and west and Edwards Air Force Base to the north and east the Antelope Valley of the California High Desert is home to nearly a dozen vineyards and five wineries.
While the history of the region shows human settlement for 11,000 years, the area was mostly used as a trade route. In the late 19th century viticulture was introduced and the region was irrigated using local wells. By 1893 there were eight growers and almost seven acres of wine grapes. Drought soon destroyed the nascent industry and it wasn’t until the coming of electric and gas powered pumps and the creation of the Los Angeles Aqueduct that the region could rely on a dependable water source for irrigation.
The Antelope Valley of the California High Desert AVA is located northeast of Los Angeles. The Antelope Valley region is an east-facing Valley, opening up to the Mojave Desert, with the Tehachapi Mountains to the north and west, and the San Gabriel Mountains, the Sierra Pelona Mountains, and Portal Ridge to the south.
Summers in the Antelope Valley are hot and dry, and winters are relatively cold. Annual precipitation in the valley ranges from 4 to 9 inches, with little or no snow. The growing season is 240 to 260 days long. On average, 110 days a year have high temperatures above 90 degrees, but nights are mild. The growing season extends from mid-March to early November. Winter low temperatures range from 6 to 11 degrees.
The geology of the region has greatly influenced the varietals and wines produced here. The distinguishing geologic features of the Antelope Valley are valley fill, alluvial soils, diverging fault lines, and relatively young rocks. The terrain of the Antelope Valley is characterized by significant uniformity and continuity. Slopes are level or nearly level on the valley floor but range to gently sloping to moderately sloping on rises at the upper elevations of the terraces and alluvial fans.
Although the Antelope Valley AVA is only 52 miles wide, the elevation varies only 838 feet. The soils in the Antelope Valley formed in alluvium weathered from granite and other rocks in the surrounding mountains. They vary from fine sands to silty clay. The soils are well drained and aerated in the root zone with available water capacity ranging from 5 to 12 inches. The unique characteristics of the soil make it mineral rich with low to moderate fertility. The Antelope Valley produces interesting tropical fruit flavors into its white wines such as Chardonnay, Semillon, and Zinfandel.
2012 Coruce Chardonnay: This wine from the Antelope Valley is comprised of 95% Chardonnay and 5% Viognier. Whole cluster pressed and settled for 3 days and then racked off its solids. Cold fermented for 35 days in stainless steel tanks and pressed off its lees and aged for 9 months in 3 year old French Oak barrels.
This wine has a combination of flavors and aromas of hazelnut, pear and citrus ending with a lingering toasty green apple finish. Serve chilled.
2012 Coruce Semillon: This Antelope Valley wine is comprised of 90% Semillon and 5% Chardonnay and 5% Viognier. Whole cluster pressed and settled for 3 days and then racked off its solids. Cold fermented for 30 days in stainless steel tanks and then racked off its lees. The wine was then aged for 9 months in 4 year old French oak barrels.
This wine has a combination of aromas and flavors of apple, pear and fig with a touch of saffron spice and grass. Slightly round in style yet finishes with hints of tart lemongrass. Serve cold.
This wine is comprised of 93% Syrah and 4% Petite Sirah and 3% Viognier. The fruit was hand harvested and table sorted and then cold soaked on the skins for 48 hours and then co-fermented for 16 days and pressed off the skins and racked off the solids into 3 and 4 year old French oak barrels and aged for 18 months. Left on the lees and stirred monthly.
This wine has flavors and aromas of dark cherries, plum, lavender, blueberries followed by a toasty bacon finish. Medium tannins
This wine is comprised of 90% Zinfandel, 5% Syrah and 5% Petite Sirah. The fruit was all hand harvested and table sorted followed by a 48 hour cold soak on the skins. The fruit was fermented for 18 days and then pressed off the skins and racked off the solids into 3 and 4 year old American oak barrels and aged for 18 months.
This wine has flavors and aromas of wild blackberry and brambly raspberry fruits, cherry, cola and leather followed with a toasty finish. Medium tannins
The wine is comprised of 95% Chardonnay, 3% Viognier and 2% Semillion. Whole cluster pressed and settled for 3 days and then racked off the solids. Cold fermented for 26 days in stainless steel tanks and racked off the lees and aged for 12 months in 3 year old French oak barrels.
The wine has a combination of flavors and aromas of hazelnut, pear, green apple and pineapple with a lingering toasty finish. Nice acidity
The wine is comprised of 94% Semillon, 4% Chardonnay and 2% Viognier. Whole cluster pressed and settled for 3 days then racked off the solids. Cold fermented for 24 days in stainless steel tanks and then racked off the lees. The wine was then aged for 6 months in 4 year old French barrels.
This wine has a combination of flavors and aromas of apple, pear, lemon grass and a touch of saffron spice on the finish. Crisp and clean with nice acidity.