Wine Talk

Snooth User: JonDerry

Zelma Long Article

Posted by JonDerry, Aug 4, 2014.

Wasn't so long ago we were talking about her. Just saw an article pop up on W-S

Zelma Long

Oh yeah, and Dave - re: the Brett topic from earlier this year. There are strong suspicions that Leoville Barton wines still contain it, all the way up to vintage 2010. If the 2003 had any, they were pretty minor and didn't stick out much.


Reply by JonDerry, Aug 4, 2014.

What have been some of the high and low points of your career?

The only huge disappointment was when Robert Long Sr [the father of her first husband Bob Long] sold Long Vineyard. Our Long Vineyard label was based on old Chardonnay, planted in the late 1960s, on Pritchard Hill [Napa] land owned, and leased to us, by Robert Long. My disappointment was when Robert eventually sold the vineyard. All of the great old Chardonnay was pulled out and planted to Cabernet by the new owner. Great old Chardonnay was, and is, rare in Napa Valley. Cabernet is not, and that Chardonnay was from old clones that cannot be duplicated from today's material. That was deeply saddening for me but there was nothing I could do about it.

And the high point?

I would have to say the chance for Phil and I to do Vilafonté, because it was a chance for both of us to take our experiences and put them together in another country. We’d never worked in South Africa before. It was fascinating – a tabula rasa. Human beings need to change. If you’re a confident individual with an active mental capacity you need new challenges through your life.

Reply by dmcker, Aug 4, 2014.

Good interview. And as always, an interesting woman. Too bad the interviewer didn't have the space to delve deeper. Wonder why she ended up way over there. Would've liked to hear more of her views on chard, since it is so obviously close to her heart. Thanks for the pointer to it, JD.

And good catch about the Chardonnay massacre, post Long Sr.'s sale of the historical block, in your repost. Chard doesn't get the respect it deserves--hasn't for awhile, now, IMHO. A good chardonnay is one of my favorite wines.


No Brett at all with the Leoville Barton?  LB almost always has a whiff of it for me--strangely enough it's stronger when the bottle's been open for a day. Nothing like a Beaucastel fungal snort, but still something whispery that's usually right there when you look for it.

In case you hadn't guessed, a light smattering of Brett can add to a wine's complexity and attractiveness for me.  ;-)

Reply by EMark, Aug 5, 2014.

Thank you for the link, John.  Very interesting.

Her comments about losing the Long Vineyard Chardonnay intrigues me.  OT has turned me into a historic vineyard bigot.  So, my initial response to the removal of old vines is repulsion.  On the other hand, is Pritchard Hill the right place for Chardonnay?  Pritchard Hill is now considered primo Cabernet Sauvignon territory.  Chappellet is, I would wager, the best known producer from Pritchard Hill.  (By any chance did Robert Long sell his vineyard to Chappellet?)  In their product line they have an outstanding Chardonnay.  However, the fruit for that wine comes from Carneros, which I would assume to be much cooler than Pritchard Hill.

This brings the following question to my mind. What areas in Napa Valley are well-suited for Chardonnay?  I suspect that much Chardonnay that is labeled "Napa Valley" comes from the Carneros region.  I know that Keenan Chardonnay, which I also like, is made from a blend of Carneros fruit and estate vineyard fruit on Spring Mountain.  I happen to know that Chardonnay is grown in the Oak Knoll district.  It seems to me, though, that territory that is primo for Cabernet Sauvignon may not be so primo for Chardonnay. 

Reply by JonDerry, Aug 5, 2014.

Mark, Carneros and Oak Knoll get most of the Napa mention for cooler weather (Pinot, Chard, Merlot), but I don't see any reason why Pritchard Hill would be any less, it probably carries an elevation along with it. For that matter, any mountain site in Napa with elevation such as Howell or Mt. Veeder would be interesting, but the opportunity cost is high for the producer, as they could make more $$$ selling Cabernet, but would they also be making better wine? Seems not in the case of the Ling vineyard that was ripped out, particularly because as Zelma mentioned, the vines were irreplaceable.

D, I think a little bit of Brett comes along with Leoville Barton, at least that's what I hear, and in tasting it tend to agree, just a little bit. But it's funny because I thought it was uncontrollable? Anyway, seems like they have it figured out...and now, with a little more experience under my belt understand what you were saying about Dunn's Cabernets being superior to Leoville Barton.

Reply by dmcker, Aug 5, 2014.

"It seems to me, though, that territory that is primo for Cabernet Sauvignon may not be so primo for Chardonnay."

Seems to me that Zelma is as qualified as anybody on earth to talk about the subject regarding that specific (former) plot of chardonnay. I've met her (even if it was decades ago when she had access to that land), and she is smart, dedicated, expert, interesting and well accustomed to thinking outside the box.

A couple of major (interrelated) problems in Napa right now are the horrendous cost of land, and the inertia of the marketing/PR juggernaut. The way the market's been shaped, and the common sense surrounding it, seem to say it's only possible to get an ROI, especially for relatively new market players, with cab. I'm sure there are places around the valley that will work for chard, especially if any older vines still survive, but that's not where the big bucks are.

Of course cooler tends to be better for chard, but up any of the slopes and hills (sorry, but the Mayacamas don't qualify as mountains where I come from) certainly works, as well as suitable microclimates at lower elevations. Ask OT how he found that magnum of Napa chard at the Great Sonoma Syrah Potlach of recent memory.

Reply by JonDerry, Aug 5, 2014.

Another historic CA site, the James Berry vineyard in Paso still has some old vine Chard I believe, produced by Pax's label Wind Gap. Of course, this figures to be a significantly warmer site than Pritchard Hill.

Reply by EMark, Aug 6, 2014.

DM, I agree with you, completely on the microclimate comment.  I have posted here in the past that I have enjoyed several Napa-designated Chardonnays--Heitz and Lewis immediately come to mind.  More than anything I am just curious what areas Napa region work for Chardonnay.  Fruit from east facing Mountain (let's not get wrapped around the axle on the definition of a "mountain") vineyards seem to do well.  I think there were some comments here recently about some successful Riesling vineyards from the same east-facing slopes.  Everyone seems to concede that Carneros and Oak Knoll have microclimates that are Chardonnay-friendly.  

I suppose if this really bothered me, I could just shoot an e-mail to Heitz and Lewis and ask. 

Clearly, my non-chalance about the replanting of the Long vineyard is not consistent with my support of the Historic Vineyards Society.  Maybe I should re-think that.

Yes, the decision to replant the Chardonnay in the Long Vineyard with Cabernet Sauvignon was financially motivated.

Yes, Zelma Long has forgotten more about vineyards and wine-making than I will ever know.


The comment on the James Berry Chardonnay is interesting.  I can't say that I've ever had one, but some quick on-line research indicates that the Wind Gap James Berry has received some good critical aclaim.  As DM indicates, the microclimate can trump most conventional wisdom regarding any region.

Back to Categories

Top Contributors This Month

127503 Snooth User: rckr1951
29 posts
847804 Snooth User: EMark
26 posts
324443 Snooth User: outthere
10 posts


View All

Snooth Media Network