Their hope was that, by creating a registry of the state's old vineyards, currently with more than 200 listed, they would draw attention to a living connection to the past. "To keep a 100-year-old vineyard in the ground, you have to respect the earth a little bit more than you would if you want a vineyard to last 15 years." What qualifies as historic?
In the society's measure, any site planted in 1960 or before, with at least one-third of the vines dating to the original planting.
When old vineyards, often Zinfandel and other field-blend grapes, can be converted to more lucrative fare like Pinot Noir or Cabernet, the past is uprooted.
Frustrated by this fading link to the past, several prominent vintners - Turley, Bedrock Wine Co., Carlisle Wine and Ridge Vineyards - in 2010 created the nonprofit Historic Vineyard Society. It isn't agribusiness," says Tegan Passalacqua, Turley's winemaker and viticulturist.
"And I think the Historic Vineyard Society gets us a way to take that same type of perspective, and to turn it on ourselves." Keeping California's vines in the ground has been more difficult than it might seem.
To his point, depending on your taste, many flashy cult Cabernets of the 1990s were made from newly planted vineyards.
"I helped my father plant those in the early 1950s, so that's getting on in age," recalls Hayne, a longtime diplomat and former mayor of St.
Helena, who owns, with his cousins, the remainder of what began as a 56-acre parcel.
That 1960 date is important; it represents a time before the meteoric rise of Cabernet and Chardonnay, the reigning king and queen of California grapes.
Winemakers revere these vineyards for complex flavors and balanced fruit.The society's register comprises similar vineyards up and down the state, from Mendocino to the South Coast, that have survived against the odds.