The Valley's Oldest Vineyards

Now, it’s kind of surprising that the oldest wineries aren’t necessarily attached to the oldest vineyards, but the wine industry is in a constant state of flux, so keeping everything in order can be difficult at times, particularly with things like world wars and Prohibition getting in the way.

Tin Cross Vineyards, in Sonoma’s Alexander Valley, has some of the highest (oops, I guess I should have included this earlier) and oldest vineyards in Sonoma. Planted in 1855 at an elevation of about 2500 feet, the vineyard continues to be the source of classic Bordeaux varieties.

The Monte Rosso vineyard in Sonoma has to be included on just about everyone’s short list of Grand Cru vineyards in California. While not the oldest vineyard -- it dates back to “only” 1880 -- it does have some blocks of 110 year-old Cabernet, Zinfandel, and Semillon still bearing fruit.  It’s one of a handful of ancient vineyards in California that through some combination of sheer luck, intuition, and happenstance, have proven their original owners to be visionaries.  Planted between 1200-1500 feet this is also a vineyard at elevation. Is there a theme developing here?

Whether the original owners of the
Bucklin Family’s Old Hill Ranch Vineyards were visionaries or not in 1851 when they founded this vineyard may be debatable. What is not debatable is that this jewel of a vineyard has produced some of the most convincing examples of “Zinfandel” to ever come out of the state. I say “Zinfandel” because the beauty of this vineyard is that it remains as an iconic field blend vineyard, with over 20 varieties planted.  There may very well be an original vine or two lurking among these ancient gnarled specimens, and thus the Old Hill Ranch holds the title of Sonoma’s Oldest Vineyard.

Now if the discussion turns to oldest vineyard plots, we can venture even farther back in time. Sebastiani Vineyards, founded in 1904, was built around vineyards originally planted by Franciscan fathers in 1825. The grape varieties for sacramental wine were a bit different than what Samuele Sebastiani wanted to use, so none of the original vines remain.

Want more travel tips? Check out our profiles on Santa Cruz Wine Country and the Seven Most Surprising Wine Regions.

Can you guess the titles held by these famous vineyards?

Arbios Cellars
Arbios Cellars, in the Alexander Valley, produces great wines from vineyards that lie at the northern edge of Sonoma County. What else distinguishes these vines?

Old Hill Ranch Vineyards
The Old Hill Ranch has some of the oldest vines in all of California, but you’ll never guess what’s planted here!