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Larkmead Vineyard

Kate Solari Baker and Cam Baker, Larkmead Vineyard

Calistoga’s Larkmead Vineyards, celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2020, is planting a research block to prepare for the next 125 years of Napa Valley viticulture.

The Research Block at the Larkmead estate on Larkmead Lane will host several different grape varieties, clones, and rootstocks for trial purposes as Napa Valley’s climate changes.

Founded in 1895, Larkmead has a long history of research and clonal trials. Dr. Harold Olmo of UC Davis established a clonal station at the Larkmead estate in the 1940s, where he developed the widely-planted Cabernet Sauvignon clone FPS 02.

Commonly known as the “Oakville selection,” this clone was fundamental in establishing Cabernet Sauvignon as a signature grape variety in California.

“With the reality of onset climate change, Larkmead is preparing for the future of viticulture by dedicating three acres of their 110-acre estate to plant grape varieties that could be better suited to increasing average temperatures,” a press release from the winery read.

“As stewards of this incredible estate, it is our responsibility to protect the land and preserve its ability to produce quality wines for future generations,” said proprietor Cam Baker.

The Research Block is being spearheaded by winemaker Dan Petroski and viticulturist Kelly Maher and will be supervised by vineyard manager Nabor Camarena.

The three-acre plot will be planted to multiple heritage varieties, including Chenin Blanc, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel, alongside new world, Mediterranean varieties such as Aglianico, Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional.

Petroski said, “Climate change is very real and already affects vintners around the world. The fact is, Cabernet Sauvignon may no longer be well-suited to Napa Valley’s climate in 20 to 30 years. As one of the world’s top wine regions, we need to research and plan for inevitable warmer temperatures. Napa Valley will continue to lead the way in research and sustainability and we are carrying on the legacy of experimentation and trial here at Larkmead.”

Larkmead Vineyards has been in the hands of the same family since 1948. Current proprietors Cam Baker and Kate Solari Baker have worked in recent years to fine-tune Larkmead’s viticultural and cellar techniques for the 110-acre site, and Petroski vinifies small lots according to clonal selection and soil type.

The Research Block is Larkmead’s next step in the estate’s commitment to sustainable agriculture and biodiversity, the press release read.

“In order to determine the best path forward for the future and for our unique climate and terroir, we need to continue to experiment,” Maher said. “We’re planning on testing different varieties, rootstocks, cover crops, and more. The goal is to have more biodiversity and climate resilient vineyards while continuing to produce better and better wines.”

Beyond the Research Block, Larkmead will continue to lead the conversation surrounding climate change and its effects on the global wine industry through a series of events at the estate.

Hosted by winemaker Dan Petroski, these “Salons at Larkmead” are discussion-based forums for fellow winemakers, industry leaders, and journalists shaping the narrative on climate change and wine.

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