California Teroldego Acreage Trending Up

Large producers use as red blender, varietal wines show potential

by Ted Rieger
scandanavia u.s. wine sales
Lodi grower and winery owner Rodney Schatz planted Teroldego in this vineyard block near his Peltier Winery in 2003. He now has 40 acres, with 20 acres in production.

Sacramento, Calif.—Teroldego, an Italian winegrape variety mostly known for wines produced from the Trentino-Alto Adige region of Northern Italy, has seen a planting surge in California, albeit under the radar, driven by larger producers seeking the variety’s dark “inky” color, body and fruit character as a blending component for popular red varietal wines.

The grape also gaining popularity because it produces good yields, ripens early and is less susceptible to rot.

While relatively obscure in California, Teroldego plantings have increased from just 80 acres in 2008 to 665 acres in 2016, based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) 2016 California Grape Acreage Report. The majority, 486 acres, are still non-bearing. Larger wine companies such as E & J Gallo Winery, Constellation Brands, Trinchero Family Estates and Bogle Vineyards have either planted, or contracted with growers in recent years to plant Teroldego, and more acres will be planted in 2017.

The top counties for production based on 2016 NASS reported acreage are: San Joaquin—383 acres, Sacramento—95 acres, Yolo—93 acres, Solano—39 acres, Fresno—21 acres and San Benito—10 acres.

Other counties with less than 10 reported acres include: Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Lake, Placer, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara and Sutter. Based on NASS figures for the most recent three-year period, 2014-1016, more Teroldego was planted (485 acres) than more recognized varieties such as Zinfandel (458 acres), Syrah (317 acres), Cabernet Franc (278 acres) and Malbec (268 acres).

Nursery sales
Because the NASS Grape Acreage Report is compiled based on voluntarily provided information from growers, actual acreage figures are often underreported. Hughson, Calif.-based Duarte Nursery president John Duarte said since 2012, his nursery has been selling commercial scale quantities of Teroldego with an average of 200,000 vines sold per year. “Based on Duarte sales alone, that would total about 800 to 1,000 acres of Teroldego planted over the last five years, mostly in the Lodi area,” he said.

Duarte said Teroldego is one of the “deep, dark, red blenders” along with Tannat, Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah (Durif) used to enhance varietals from California’s northern interior such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. He said Duarte’s 2017 nursery shipments are on track to exceed 100,000 vines. “Teroldego sales trends are still going, it’s a good producer, the growers are happy with it, and the wineries have a place for it,” Duarte said.

Novavine Grapevine Nursery sales rep Gene Glaeser said the Santa Rosa, Calif., nursery has had some large Teroldego orders in recent years and it’s the latest in a group of lesser known red varieties that wine companies have planted as blenders for color along with Tannat and Dornfelder, in addition to the better known Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Petite Sirah.

Diego Barison with Herrick Grapevine Nursery in St. Helena, Calif., said he has been recommending Teroldego for blending with Pinot Noir. “It’s not as aggressive as Petite Sirah or Syrah can be, acting as a better coloring blender for Pinot Noir without altering its varietal profile,” he said.

Teroldego production in California
A handful of California wineries specializing in Italian varietals have produced small amounts of varietal Teroldego from small estate plantings for a number of years, such as Mosby Wines in Santa Barbara County, and Montevina/Terra d’Oro in Amador County. Other current varietal producers include Heringer Estates in Clarksburg, Secret Ravine Vineyards in Placer County, Peltier Winery in Lodi, and Urban Legend based in Oakland that sources fruit from Clarksburg. Most of these wines are sold direct from the wineries, and generally range in price from $25 to $35 per bottle

In the 1990s, Sutter Home Winery (now Trinchero Family Estates) evaluated two Teroldego clones as part of an extensive variety and clonal field trial that included 38 different Italian varieties at the winery’s Delta vineyard property in the Clarksburg AVA. Teroldego was one of a handful of Italian varieties selected to plant at Sutter Home’s Montevina winery estate (now called Terra d’Oro) in Amador County. Terra d’Oro general manager Jeff Meyers, who was involved with the trial in the 1990s, said, “I identified Teroldego during the course of the trial as one of the varieties we should make wine from. It has good color, good fruit and concentration and has many of the desirable characteristics that Central Valley fruit commonly lacks.”

Meyers said the winery has produced a varietal Teroldego for 20 years with current annual production of about 500 cases. Five acres of Amador estate vines are in production and two more acres will be planted.

The two clones from the Sutter Home trial are registered and available at UC Davis Foundation Plant Services (FPS) as Teroldego 03 and 04. FPS has five different registered clonal selections, each planted in the Russell Ranch Foundation Vineyard under Protocol 2010 and in the older FPS Classic Foundation Vineyard. Information is available at the National Grape Registry: ngr.ucdavis.edu

Rodney Schatz with R & G Schatz Farms is also the owner and founder of Peltier Winery & Vineyards in Lodi. He first planted Teroldego in 2003 with FPS clone 02 from Novavine Nursery and liked the results. This original block near the winery is now part of 20 acres in production. “We turned it into a specialty varietal wine, but the trend now is that wineries are planting acreage and experimenting with it, as it can enhance almost any red wine varietal or red wine blend,” Schatz said.

Schatz said Teroldego has viticultural advantages, being relatively easy to grow, it tends to have less disease pressure from Botrytis and powdery mildew, it machine harvests well, and it can be harvested with earlier red varieties. It has the potential to produce yields of 10 tons per acre or more, but can be cropped at different levels depending on use. “We’re using it in an ultra-premium label (Peltier Schatz Family Reserve Teroldego priced at $60 per bottle) and we have particular consumers who understand it and are willing to pay for it,” Schatz said.

The current release 2010 vintage was aged three years in French oak and 241 cases were produced. The winery also produces a premium blend “Triomphe” with 56% Petite Sirah, 26 percent Teroldego and 24 percent Cabernet Sauvignon.

Schatz has 20 more acres planted, still non-bearing, with options to expand wine production, or for grape or bulk wine sales. Schatz is optimistic about Teroldego’s future as a varietal wine, but realizes it could take time for it to be recognized. “It’s trending in the right direction, and I feel the potential is there,” he said.

California varietal Teroldegos tend to be bigger than their Italian counterparts. In each growing area, Teroldego offers versatility to be produced in different styles depending on site, crop load and vintage as a wine that can be enjoyed relatively young, or as an age worthy wine in higher quality vintages.

Chris Smith, director of winegrowing for Bogle Vineyards based in Clarksburg, works with more than 100 California growers to source fruit for Bogle wines. Smith became aware of Teroldego from neighbor Clarksburg grower, Heringer Estates Vineyards & Winery that grows Teroldego for grape sales and produces a varietal wine. He also learned Teroldego was being grown in the Lodi area for Gallo. He contracted with growers in 2013 to plant 100 acres, including a 30-acre block in the Dunnigan Hills of Yolo County farmed by the Giguiere family, owners of Matchbook Wine Company, that produced its first crop in 2016. Other acreage was planted for Bogle in the Lodi AVA. While still too early to determine Teroldego’s use for Bogle, Smith feels, “It may not be the next big thing, but it’s one more thing in the spice cabinet, and I think it will be a good blender for us.”

The Giguieres reportedly will plant 60 more acres of Teroldego in 2017 in the Dunnigan Hills under contract to Gallo.

Teroldego has also been grown since 2006 and produced as a varietal wine at Red Tail Ridge Winery in New York’s Finger Lakes region. Red Tail Ridge co-founder Nancy Irelan was formerly Gallo’s vice president of viticulture and enology research and development in California.

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