The Crucial Role of Climate in Grape Growing and Winemaking with Greg Jones of Abacela Winery

by Drew Hendricks
Last updated Jul 19, 2023

Legends Behind the Craft Podcast

The Crucial Role of Climate in Grape Growing and Winemaking with Greg Jones of Abacela Winery

Last Updated on July 19, 2023 by nicole

Greg June 2022 3 edited
The Crucial Role of Climate in Grape Growing and Winemaking with Greg Jones of Abacela Winery 11

Greg Jones is the CEO of Abacela Winery in Southern Oregon, renowned as both an atmospheric scientist and wine climatologist. With a background in Environmental Sciences and a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia, Greg has spent over 25 years studying the impact of weather and climate on grapevine growth and wine characteristics worldwide. He has authored numerous publications and served on various boards and associations in the wine industry. Greg’s unique expertise and commitment to quality make him a visionary leader, driving Abacela Winery to new heights while honoring its legacy.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Greg Jones shares the story behind Abacela Winery’s inception, driven by his father’s passion for growing grapes and making wine
  • Discover the results of Abacela’s varietal suitability study, which sheds light on why Southern Oregon is ideal for growing Tempranillo grapes
  • Greg discusses the differences between Tempranillo grapes grown in the Umpqua Valley and the renowned Ribera del Duero region and their diverse range of 17 grape varieties
  • He explores the impact of climate change on grape growing and how they embraced a climate-first approach in their wine production
  • Learn about the innovative ways Abacela Winery and its vines have adapted to changing climatic conditions
  • Learn about the Mission grape and grapevine layering
  • Greg shares his vision and what he is most excited about for the future of Abacela Winery
  • Explore the future of wine packaging, including Abacela’s innovative solutions
  • Learn about their exploration of the growing demand for low-alcohol wine options
  • Greg reveals his thoughts on the ideal label designs for Abacela wines
  • Gain insights into Abacela’s future plans for hospitality, as Greg discusses their next steps in this area

In this episode with Greg Jones

Professor Gregory V. Jones uncover the origins of Abacela, its mission to cultivate Tempranillo in America, and the varietal suitability study that led them to Southern Oregon. Discover the unique characteristics of Tempranillo in the Umpqua Valley compared to Ribera del Duero and learn how climate change is impacting grape growing. 

In today’s episode of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast, Drew Thomas Hendricks is joined by Prof. Greg Jones, CEO of Abacela Winery and a world-renowned atmospheric scientist and wine climatologist. Get insights into the trials and adaptations that shaped Abacela’s climate-first approach in wine production, including their exploration of low-alcohol options. Explore their innovative wine packaging solutions and get a glimpse into the future plans of Abacela Winery in terms of hospitality. Don’t miss this engaging conversation with Prof. Greg Jones, where wine, climate, and passion intertwine to create exceptional vintages at Abacela.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

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[00:00:00] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Drew Thomas Hendricks here. I’m the host of the Legends Behind the Craft Podcast. On the show, I talk with leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry. Before I get to today’s guest, a brief sponsor message. Today’s episode is sponsored by Barrels Ahead. At Barrels Ahead, we help the wine and craft industry scale their business through authentic content.

Go to today to learn more. I’m super excited today. I’m talking with Greg Jones. Greg is the CEO of Abacela Winery in Southern Oregon, and he’s also a world-renowned atmospheric scientist and wine climatologist. Welcome to the show, Greg.

[00:00:34] Greg Jones: Oh, thank you very much for having me, Drew.

[00:00:36] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, thank you so much for being on, man. So Greg, so talk to us about Abacela and how it started.

[00:00:44] Greg Jones: Sure. Abacela, it was the passion of my father, who back in the, you know late eighties early nineties, was quite interested in growing grapes, making wine. He grew up on a farm and spent many years as a medical researcher and a doctor. And but yet he kind of wanted to get back to that aspect of producing something from the land.

And he had a real keen interest on wine and especially on Spanish wines, he had found that those were the most approachable to both his palate and his budget when he was first finding out about wine. And so his whole entire process of developing this property, which is now 27 years old, was really all about growing Tempranillo somewhere in America.

[00:01:33] Drew Thomas Hendricks: And at the time, like I remember, there wasn’t a whole lot of Tempranillo being grown back in the early nineties.

[00:01:39] Greg Jones: No, there really wasn’t there. And there’s some interesting history there as well. Back in the late 18 hundreds, early 19 hundreds, UC Davis was doing much of the research on trying to help find out what varieties did well, where, and how.

And if you go back and look at the history of some of their publications from a gentleman by the name of – to Amerine to Winkler. They were doing these large projects trying to understand suitability. So they would plant varieties in different places, and then they would periodically assess them for different characteristics and then they would make recommendations.

The earliest publications in the 1880s for Tempranillo says not recommended.

[00:02:20] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah.

[00:02:21] Greg Jones: And it continued to for quite a few years, and I think there were some reasons behind it. I think number one, it was planted in the wrong place, in the wrong climate. And number two, the var, the clone, the variety, clonal material was probably not the best to choose to plant.

And so there was just mistakes being made that, you know.

[00:02:40] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Where were they planning it on the river Delta?

[00:02:43] Greg Jones: Most of it was in the Central Valley. Yeah. Yeah. And so Tempranillo never really, because it was not recommended. Never really got much play in the California sense of things.

And there was, there was some production being done, but it was mostly being done for larger volumes, jug wine, or bulk wine at the time.

[00:03:03] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, I like the, it’s kind of funny, so I’m gonna jump ahead and I do this on the podcast. You mentioned how they did like a suitability study, and one of the things on your site that I really love on your winery site is that you actually have your 25 varietal suitability study that you publicize.

[00:03:20] Greg Jones: And how that came about Drew was back when my father first decided he wanted to do this, I was doing a Ph.D. at the University of Virginia. I was just starting and I knew I wanted to study climatology. I knew I wanted to study agriculture and when my dad really had this keen interest of figuring out where he could grow Tempranillo, I kept digging into the literature as best I could.

And I found that there were so many gaps in terms of what we knew and how we knew it. And as I started helping my father fine-tune where he could grow Tempranillo in a climate very similar to Ribera del Duero or Rioja. I started doing a lot of research looking at what do we know about varieties.

What are their thresholds? Where is it too cold to grow them? Where is it too hot to grow them? Where are they more consistent? And so that’s where that suitability framework of my research came up.

[00:04:13] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, and I think many wineries do it, but I’ve seen few have it on their line on online.

And so over the course of the last 27 years with the vineyard, actually, let’s just jump back. Why so why Southern Oregon for Tempranillo?

[00:04:25] Greg Jones: What we were looking for, as I said, is a climate that had a very similar structure to the northeastern part of Spain. In that area around the Ribera del Duero and the Rioja region.

And if you look at that region in terms of a climate characteristic, there are a few things that stand out. Number one, it has a growing season that is roughly right at seven months, six and a half to seven months long. If you go south in Spain, you can get into La Mancha and you have a nine month growing season.

What we want is we want you to look for a place that had a growing season that was about the right length. And then on top of that, we wanted a place that had similar temperature structures between day night temperatures and how heat was accumulated over the course of the year with relatively low risk, meaning freezes, frosts, and things like that.

But then also a place that had a wet winter, dry summer, and even moderately hot summer. And so when you look around the United States trying to dial that in, looking at a similar climate structure, you typically end up going to places that are in about the same latitudinal band.

And that kind of drove us to looking at many places in the Western US. We did look in New Mexico. We looked a little bit in Arizona, California, Washington, Idaho. But here in the Umpqua Valley of Oregon. What we found was this really I think the marquee, so to speak, in terms of its comparability. Low risk, almost no freeze, frost issues, very little summer, rain harvest, rain issues, warm enough seasons to ripen a range of fruit, not too hot, not too cold, a little bit of that Goldilocks kind of framework.

And so we honed in on this area. We knew that we needed to find the right piece of property, and we did a whole bunch of work looking at different areas. My father ended up purchasing the property that’s behind me in 1993.

[00:06:26] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Now when, now it’s a little curious cuz most wineries, they people figure out where they wanna live or they figure out where they wanna have a winery, then they pick the varietals that go with it.

You kind of reverse-engineered it where you knew what you wanted to grow and then you found the area. Now that you, there’s a lot of similarities, but now after 20, 25 years of growing Tempranillo there, what are the, like the organ epileptic differences, what are the differences between Tempranillo in Umpqua Valley and Ribera del Duero?

[00:06:54] Greg Jones: We find that they’re actually very similar and we find our wines to be more like the Ribera del Duero than Rioja to some degree. Rioja has a very marked elevational difference, of course, where you can buy, find wines from the lower region versus the higher region in elevation.

And you can have some different kind of characteristics. But we find here that Tempranillo produces are very robust wine. It has good tannic structure, but can also be made into multiple different wine styles, which is really important. So my father has pioneered this idea that we can produce a Tempranillo in America that takes on similar characteristics to Crianza, Gran Reserva style.

And so we do the same thing here with our Tempranillo. We also have trialed multiple different clones. We work really closely with people in Spain that are doing research on Tempranillo. And so we have a lot of connections with that. We helped bring some of the clones, of course, through UC Davis, and plant foundation services there.

And we’re pretty happy with a variety, but I can tell you right now, that’s not the only thing we planted.

[00:08:03] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. You have nine varieties that you were the first in Oregon.

[00:08:06] Greg Jones: We planted numerous varieties to begin with. My father having a research background. Myself having a research background.

We knew that we could probably make one thing work, Tempranillo, but we needed to know what were the other things that could work. So we planted a large number of varieties that we’ve waxed and waned on a few. We’ve taken out a few that we just don’t do anymore. We’ve added a few more.

[00:08:29] Drew Thomas Hendricks: And today we produce 17 different varieties that are mostly Iberian, Portuguese, or Spanish. But we have a couple of French and one Italian and variety that kind of, fits within our program in terms of our wine club. Now, as far as the criteria, so what, you’re obviously looking for varietal characteristics.

You’re looking for something that flourishes, has a good yield. Talk to me about some of the trials that maybe didn’t work that weren’t so suited to Umpqua Valley.

[00:08:57] Greg Jones: Well, Let me get back to Tempranillo real quick about. One thing that’s the really, the suitable component of it. You want Tempranillo or any variety for that matter, to ripen in its ideal window in the fall.

If you ripen it in an area where the growing season’s too long and there’s no queue of colder nights into the fall period, then the variety, the plant itself is not going to have the same mechanisms by which it can produce a delicate and very characteristic variety. And what I mean by that is, is that if you are having to manage hang time and other characteristics of the growing season and something’s not right.

And so what we wanted to make sure that our growing season was the right length with the right amount of heat so that we always ripened our Tempranillo right as the season was truncating and into the fall. And we happened to be in an area here that has some of the largest diurnal temperature ranges in the world, in September and October.

So we ended up in this ideal location for it. So that was really the key for us overall was that whole ripening at the right time for the variety.

[00:10:14] Drew Thomas Hendricks: So then a lot of the ones that aren’t working maybe are rip ripening too soon or they’re still waiting to get where they want to be and the windows closing.

[00:10:21] Greg Jones: Yeah. Yeah. I saw somebody wrote this many, many years ago, this idea of ripeness clocks. The idea that within the grapevine and within the fruit, there are multiple clocks that are ticking and they’re ticking at different rates and different calendar kind of frameworks. And the basics are the four basics are pretty clear.

Sugar, acid phenolics, flavor, and aroma. And so if you’re in the right place, the ripeness clocks all tend to come together in the right period. They’re all balanced in a very close calendar window. If your summers are too hot, you might get sugar right before you could ever have balance in flavors in aromas or phenolics.

And then while you’re waiting for all that your acid just does a nose diet. So the idea that your ripeness clocks need to be really honed into the location is important. Now, a given vintage could throw those ripeness clocks off, whether a hot vintage or a cold vintage.

But if you’re in the right place, you get that and in a greater probability, you’re in, you’re out than you would somewhere else.

[00:11:26] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. I love hearing this, I’m call it almost like climate first approach. Too often you really hear the terroir approach and you hear the soil and the geology, and then the climate gets the afterthought.

[00:11:37] Greg Jones: You know, and I’ve often, I’ve written about this quite a bit and I don’t know what the answer is to it.

I can just tell you that I think the nerdiness that we come to with soil, it’s appropriate because soil produces the subtle nuances that we all like to find in wine. So when we can go dive into these subtle characteristics and say, this property is different from that property because of some soil texture. That I totally agree with that. But the issue is that if the climate’s not right, the soil doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter. You can take any variety in take Pinot Noir. It’s grown in hundreds of different soils around the world.

And yet the commonality that allows it to be typical or have typicity is the climate. If the climates are close enough to the same, you’ll get a Pinot Noir typicity. If the soils vary, you’re gonna get still Pinot Noir, but you’re gonna get a different subtleness to that.

[00:12:37] Drew Thomas Hendricks: I see. Yeah, you can definitely see that tasting Santa Barbara Pinot Noir versus Oregon Pinot Noir and Burgundy.

[00:12:45] Greg Jones: So, so, and then again, this goes back to what my research has been largely about is that all grapevine varieties of which we have over 5,000 Vitis vinifera varieties, all of them have climate thresholds. They all have a cool limit and a warm limit, and I’ve really tried to help specify those for many varieties.

Now, of course, the top 25 or so are much more planted so we know more about them. But the idea is yes, you can talk about Santa Barbara Central California, Pinot Noirs being at a different climate structure than Oregon is, but they’re still within Pinot Noir’s climate envelope, so to speak.

[00:13:23] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Sure. Sure. No, that, that makes a lot of sense. Talking about, since we’re on climate and you have so many publications, too many dimension. Just one, the foremost climatologists, climate change and varieties. And talk to me about over the last 25 years of, your experience of grape growing.

[00:13:40] Greg Jones: Well, I, how I happened upon the climate change kind of framework of things was really from just looking at this whole idea of what do we know about where grapes are grown and how they’re grown.

So in my Bordeaux research and during my Ph.D. As I was looking through the data and working with many aspects of it, not just the climate data, but production data, yield data, phenological data, composition of the fruit data. When as I was looking through all of this, it became pretty clear to me that to better understand things, we needed to understand how climates were evolving, because even in the early nineties, Bordeaux was changing.

And every Bordeaux was changing. It just wasn’t being very well documented. So I did some of my original research looking at just general suitability and structure within Bordeaux, but climate change became a big component of it. And as I started looking more and more across the wine regions worldwide, the signal was roughly about the same.

Everywhere was trending warmer. We also saw that most places were seeing a little bit of a trend to greater variability as well. So even back then, we knew a lot and you know, I even have gone back recently looking at some of the early climate model work that we did. Trying to project what regions were going to look by, look like in 2020.

 Well, here we are. And even though those climate models back then were relatively crude, what I mean by crude, they were, they only covered large areas of the Earth, like five degrees by five degrees or they only covered monthly timescales, even with that kind of crude spatial and temporal characteristics.

The models were really pretty close to what we saw in 2020 in terms of our climate. Matter of fact, in some ways, in many of the regions I’ve looked at the models under projected, what was happening. Yeah, climates have clearly changed. I think back when I first started doing this and I was giving talks in many places from Bordeaux to Napa to Italy, Australia, New Zealand.

 I think there was a lot of questions on whether or not people thought it was real or just something temporary. And you know, it just,it was really interesting kind of to see how people kind of embraced or didn’t embrace this issue that we had change going on. And then fast forward to today, I kind of sit back and I kind of say, I told you so. But it’s not so much that I wanted to be right, it’s just I wanted people to be aware.

 Because if you’re not aware of what’s happening around you environmentally, you can’t perceive risk and you can’t become more resilient through adaptation or mitigation.

[00:16:31] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, for sure. Yeah. You mentioned one point about in your, Ph.D. thesis or in your work that some of the areas you projected to become a little more consistent and some more varied.

[00:16:41] Greg Jones: Yeah.

[00:16:42] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Anecdotally, I look at Barolo. Back in the nineties when I first started drinking it and selling it, you’d have one gear, one good year out of every three. Now it seems like every four years you have it mediocre year, and it’s some of it’s the better winemaking techniques, but the grapes, in my anecdotal opinion, have just gotten more consistent.

[00:17:02] Greg Jones: Yeah. And I think what that’s tied to is going back to this threshold idea, or let’s say the climate niche. For a variety, and whether it’s Barolo or Pinot Noir, they have a certain temperature bandwidth they can play in. So if you’re on average within that bandwidth, you’re going to produce a typical wine from that variety. But if you have a vintage that’s outside that bandwidth, either on the cool side or the warm side, it’s gonna be, it’s gonna perform very different. So if you’re a wine region in that climate niche, and you’re on the very cool limit threshold, that means that on average, most years are too cold. And they’re just not quite right. But if it warms by one degree, two degrees, then you’ve moved within the climate niche into more of a central location that even a cool year now becomes one that’s still a typical wine production year.

[00:17:56] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Viable vintage.

[00:17:57] Greg Jones: Yeah, exactly.

[00:17:58] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s very interesting. What have you seen in the Umpqua Valley?

[00:18:02] Greg Jones: Well, and things have changed here as well. We have, we’ve ramped up in heat accumulation overall about the same as we’ve seen in most places. Our growing season though interestingly is still roughly about the same.

We’ve had a little less frost risk on the spring and fall side of things. But, you know, and this is something I think is really important. A lot of people think in a warmer world, cold events go away. They become less frequent, but they don’t go away. They, and the problem with that is, is that, and I think this past spring and even the past few springs in Burgundy and other places in Europe have told us this.

When a region doesn’t experience frost, then there’s for like periods of, you know, a decade or two or whatever, then they’re not very prepared for it when it happens. The idea of how you manage or train your vine system, how you manage the property, whatever it may be. You just aren’t quite as prepared for it.

So cold events still occur and we still have cold events here. But we’ve definitely warmed and I think it’s made us more consistent. But we’ve had some challenging vintages just like anybody else has. But we feel pretty good about things right now. We’ve looked at our vineyard in terms of trying to figure out what are the best ways to adapt.

And some of ’em are vine related. Some of ’em are property, landscape related, and some of ’em are winery related. So there’s a lot of different ways in which I think this industry as a whole can look at adaptation, but we just, again, I go back to this whole point. If you’re not aware of where you are and what your potential climates are going to be, then you can’t even begin to perceive the risk and understand how do I adapt.

[00:19:44] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, for sure. Talk as far as what, what are some of the ways that you’ve adapted your winery and the vines?

[00:19:50] Greg Jones: Well, number one, we’ve definitely looked at varieties differently. We’ve taken a few varieties out. We’ve put a few more in. We’ve tried to round out our production stream. We know that some varieties are producing it with from a little bit warmer framework, a little bit different mouth feel and structure, and so we manage that in the winemaking a little bit.

But probably one of the biggest things is that, and I like to mention this relative to, I think what was happening for virtually everybody in the probably seventies, eighties, and early nineties. We use many different training systems throughout the world. In Europe, you can go and find all kinds of historic different types of pergolas and ground-based systems and stuff like that.

But in the seventies, we went just hog wild for VSP. In the California sprawl largely was transformed into real tight VSPs, meaning that the canopies were put together so that they acted like a solar panel. And that makes total sense. When the climate is at the margin and you’re wanting to maximize the system.

So what’s happened as time has gone on, we’ve found that having more shading for the fruit, having a little bit bigger canopy, letting the vine kind of manage itself to some degree within our construction is really useful. So I’ve seen, and this is happening all over the world, we’ve done a little bit of it here.

We’ve taken our canopy and we’ve widened it into a little bit wider VSP. It’s still vertical shoot position, but a lot of people are putting in cross-arms, so they can get a true V-shaped VSP. And those kind of things are small, but they can really help quite a bit because shading, I don’t know if you’ve ever measured temperatures in a vineyard, but you put a juncture outside the canopy versus inside the canopy. It’s two different numbers.

And so the more shading that you can have, the more likely you’re going to keep your fruit in balance in terms of its ripening.

[00:21:50] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Within that window that is so important. No, that makes entire sense. Rather than switching varietals, there’s a lot of intermediate steps that you can actually,

[00:21:57] Greg Jones: Yeah.

[00:21:58] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Retrain the vines to be better, better suited to this.

[00:22:01] Greg Jones: And then the other thing I think I’ve seen a lot of efforts at is historically in the Northern hemisphere, we’ve always said, plant on a south facing hill if you can therefore you can add more solar radiation, more heat. And it’s true for about a 10% slope increase from a flat surface, you can have anywhere from 12 to 16% added heat accumulation. So slopes do matter. But if you’re in a region that it’s, let’s say it’s warmed a few degrees and now you’re getting much more heat than you really wanted, you can plant on a north-pacing slope. Something northeast to even northwest might ameliorate a degree or half a degree or something relative to the site.

And you can figure this out by putting temperature sensors out and collecting short-term data and just look at the numbers. In our vineyard here, we can have as much as a 10-degree difference between blocks and temperature sensors that I have on either cold events or hot events.

 And we have just under an 80-acre property.

[00:23:07] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Wow, that’s amazing. So not to be cheeky, but the cheap land now is the north-facing slope cuz that’s gonna be the future and the

[00:23:15] Greg Jones: Well, exactly. And so what we’ve done here, and I give my dad a lot of kudos on this. He really looked at our landscapes and really made decisions about what varieties could go in what locations.

So we grow everything from Albariño and Muscat. Relatively cool climate varieties, all the way to Tannat and Takao and Tinta Amarela and Bastardo.

[00:23:40] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, wow. Talk about varieties. Bianca, our channel director, put in the show notes, share about the mission grape. That’s the only segue I have for that.

[00:23:49] Greg Jones: Yeah, it’s a great story. As I’ve told you in this conversation now, my father’s whole entire goal was to grow Tempranillo, a Spanish variety. And fast forward, you know, the 27 years since he first planted here, what we didn’t know then was that there was already a Spanish variety on the site.

[00:24:10] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Really?

[00:24:10] Greg Jones: And how this came about is really conjecture, but it’s kind of logical in terms of the timeframe and what we know about the property. The property was homesteaded in the late 1840s and around that time period, this area was developing from a foreign agricultural production kind of framework to deliver produce north and south.

But it was also developing for lumber and other cattle grazing and that kind of thing. The homesteaders that were here settled the property that you see behind the here. And they had, of course, a home site, but there was also an orchard. And that orchard is still largely intact and we call it the Heritage orchard.

And so we, over the years, we’d always, we’d go out and pick the fruit, apples, pears, and plums. And it was always a great heirloom kind of fruit production kind of thing. And yet there for a while there was a blackberry patch, a fairly good-sized thicket in the general area that my father kept seeing grapevine leaves poking out of it.

And I remember seeing it the first time going, ah, and he said, “Oh, it’s probably, maybe, birds are dropping seeds and were getting a leaf coming out of it.” And you know, a few years went by and he was just really getting close to taking that blackberry, thick it out. And they, he decided to start clearing it a little bit and he found within the thicket very large arms of trunks for grapevines.

 And then we started seeing more leaves and of course, it’s when, soon as we started opening it up. And so over the course of a few years, he and some of our staff worked to slowly get the blackberries out of that area. And when we got to the point, we could clearly see that there were multiple trunks in there, some of ’em as big as your arm.

[00:25:54] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Wow.

[00:25:54] Greg Jones: In terms of trunks, we took tissue and we sent it off for a DNA for genetics. And it came back as Listan Prieto, which is the Mission. And for those, most of your viewers will probably know, the Mission grape comes from the Missions in Mexico and California that grew the grape mostly for wines for the sacrament.

And what we think is, we think that the homesteaders here likely acquired cuttings from somebody coming north from California. Likely either at the end of the gold rushed in California when people were coming north to see if there’s gold in Oregon. Or when people from California just started bringing material for sale, whether it be fruit, cuttings, or in this case, wine grape cuttings, and other things.

And so we think that the homesteaders acquired cuttings, planted them. We have no idea what they were growing the fruit for. Could have been juice, it could have been jams, jellies, it could have been fresh fruit. They may have made wine from it. We don’t know, but we know from what’s called the mother vine, our main area there, that they’re, they basically spent so much time in that thicket that they started layering each other.

Do you know what layering is?

[00:27:19] Drew Thomas Hendricks: No, I don’t.

[00:27:20] Greg Jones: Layering is the situation. If you had two vines side by side in a vineyard, you say you have a row of vines in a vineyard, and one in the middle dies, you can take a cane from one of the other ones and bury it into that spot and it’ll grow up, and then it’ll become its own plant. So you’re layering

[00:27:37] Drew Thomas Hendricks: So actually layering all over my backyard. I just didn’t know the name of it.

[00:27:40] Greg Jones: Yeah. And so what we think happened here was the, the vines that they had growing there layered a little bit, and that we think that they produce some clonal characteristics that may be unique. They, the genetics all say the same thing, Listan Prieto. But the fruit is just slightly on the white color side to rose to red.

But the flavors are all, we blend it together. We, it really works pretty well. We’ve gone, we’ve made a couple of vintages. I let me, I wouldn’t jumped a little too far ahead. After we found out all this, we took cuttings from the mother plant and had ’em grafted onto rootstock and we planted our own little Mission or heritage vineyard right in the area where this orchard is.

So we’ve had four vintages so far. The first two were really done in more of a dry wine style, cuz we didn’t have a lot of fruit, to begin with it. But in 2021 we produced a punchin of Mission wine that we made in a very similar style to our Port wine that we make.

And we made another one this year. We use spirits from our own fruit. So it’s all, you know, state produced. And we’re about ready to bottle the first Oregon Mission wine in later in January or February.

[00:28:59] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, that’s exciting. That’s really exciting. Going back to the layering, do you think it’s the blackberries that kept the, kept those vines suppressed for so many years that they just struggled and tried to find a way to exist.

[00:29:11] Greg Jones: Yeah, probably. I mean we don’t, we have no way of knowing how the homesteaders were actually growing the vines. They could have been layering back then, but it’s pretty clear that being within that blackberry thicket, yeah, probably kept them fromgrowing much more vertical.

You know what blackberries do when. Like for example, when a tree falls in the, in an area near blackberries, within 2, 3, 4 years, the blackberries take it over.

[00:29:36] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah.

[00:29:36] Greg Jones: They’ll just cover it. And so that’s likely what happened here and that probably helped produce that layering effect.

[00:29:42] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s incredible. It’s all, how’s that mother vine today? 130, however many years it would be, is it on native roots? They didn’t graft it back then.

[00:29:52] Greg Jones: No, they’re, it was definitely on native roots. And we really don’t know how old it is and, you know, grapevines are very difficult to do any kind of ring analysis on ’em.

I published a paper where I did some work out of, with some trunks out of Sonoma. We had a vineyard there that was about a hundred years old that we know didn’t use irrigation, and it was the original vines and they weren’t on root stocks. And we did a tree ring analysis of that to try to figure out some, I shouldn’t say tree ring, but a endocrinology.

[00:30:24] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Mine ring.

[00:30:25] Greg Jones: And we published that. And we were trying to get a sense that did it, did it tell us something about the rainfall,regime in the west and how it buried and it was the results were actually pretty, pretty good. But it’s not easy to take a trunk from a grapevine and try to capture the ring, and ring widths there.

[00:30:44] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. Especially if you’ve got a hundred rings to count.

[00:30:47] Greg Jones: Oh, yeah.

[00:30:49] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. They don’t, they’re not as pronounced as the Sequoia rings.

[00:30:54] Greg Jones: Yeah.

[00:30:55] Drew Thomas Hendricks: So talk, so the Mission wine, it’s in the true Mission style fortified. Now, where do you distill, do you distill it on property or do you go to a.

[00:31:02] Greg Jones: We, we have the distillation done offsite.

So we take our own, our own liquid, and have it distilled, and then we bring it back and we use that. We’ve been making a Port-style wine for quite a few years now as well. And we do that in a very traditional way with Tempranillo, Tinto, Aragonez, Tinta Cão, Tinta Amarela, Bastardo and –

And so it’s made in kind of a traditional blended way. And so we just use the same spirits for our Mission production.

[00:31:32] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Sure. So talk, so you’re launching the Mission wine known for Tempranillo. What are you most excited about going into the next iteration of Abacela?

[00:31:42] Greg Jones: Well, you know, I think everybody’s having to think about how to be different to a changing consumer society.

I mean, you know, baby boomers are aging and consumption patterns are changing at different levels. So just thinking about what people are interested in. And I would like to see us do a sparkling, I have something in the works that I I’m gonna keep quiet on for right now, but I’d like for see us do some sparkling. I’d like to see us really think about doing some unique blends with the types of varieties we have that just haven’t been produced out there in the US.

[00:32:18] Drew Thomas Hendricks: What sort of blends are you looking at?

[00:32:20] Greg Jones: Well, I mean, we have if you go to some of the varieties we have, like -, Tinat, Tempranillo, some of those you can think about some pretty creative blends within that framework that we might look at. And so, uh, we’re, we’re gonna be playing around with that a little bit.

And then, of course, everybody right now is talking about, well, how do we deal with the packaging issue? Are we going to go to something different? And we haven’t made any decisions here yet, but I think that all producers really need to think about how are we going to be packaging our wine in the future.

[00:32:53] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s a huge talk. We spend a lot of time talking about packaging and I gotta say, I love a lot of the new packaging that’s coming out, especially the people embracing like the bladder bags. If you’ve got your daily drinker and you know, you’re gonna go through three bottles during the week, why do you need to open up three bottles?

Put it in a bladder bag and I gotta command Table Creek for putting their Patelin in bladder bags for this year for the first time.

[00:33:17] Greg Jones: And I’ll tell you a little story. I went to the International Bulk Wine Conference a few years ago. If you’ve never gone to one, it will just, it’ll just blow your mind in terms of this magnitude of bulk wine that’s out there and how it gets sold and just it was amazing. But the conversation I had at this conference was actually with a refrigerator producer, an appliance producer who in Scandinavia because they are largely bag-in-box types of consumers. Matter of fact, they have some rules in place that wines have to come to them available in bag in a box, or something like that.

But the, but this appliance, manufacturer was making an appliance that in the two doors they had a flat that you could open up and put in the bag, and one side was for red and one side was for white, and it had a spigot on it.

And you could recycle the bags and you get it, you could get it delivered like we used to get milk delivered to your doorstep.

[00:34:20] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s a fantastic idea. I had a business idea back in the nineties for just, you sold a red wine and a white wine just off the very European model where it’s just decent, decent bulk wine. Not bulk wine, but bagged wine, which I do think in the next 10 years I think we’re gonna see a really refined kind of bag wine model like we’re seeing with the canned wines.

[00:34:41] Greg Jones: Yeah. I think that we’ll definitely see some evolution with this. I think we have a lot of ways we can go in terms of how we communicate with our consumers and deliver wines to ’em.

[00:34:54] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. The other topic that’s always, that we always, that’s been very prevalent in our shows is the low alcohol category. Like Gen Z a lot of the new consumers, even the older ones are, they don’t need the 15% alcohol anymore. They’re looking for the 10 to 12. Makes healthier, makes it easier to wake up in the morning.

Are you guys looking at anything in that category?

[00:35:14] Greg Jones: Well, we, fortunately, have been in a place where we, we really haven’t been making very high alcoholic wines. Our climate has been very conducive for us being more or less balanced and being somewhere between 13 and 14 most of the time. However, we’ve kind of played around a little bit when we’ve had some really hot vintages for some varieties, and I think the, I think we’ll probably see a little bit of that coming out of our property.

I still have to play a little bit with what varieties that is. For example, if you look at the range of what we do in Tempranillo, maybe we have something going on this year similar to this, maybe doing a Tempranillo Nuevo that is a low-alcohol wine,

Oh, that’d be great. A very young wine that comes out, soon after it goes through processing. So something like that could appeal to a different consumer segment too.

[00:36:07] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Absolutely. I have to say, again, anecdotally when I go to the bars and the wine clubs down, or the wineries, not wineries, but the gastro pubs down here that kind of carbonic macerated wine. The natural wine is very, very popular on the coast.

[00:36:22] Greg Jones: Yeah. I just hope we, we all kind of get to a place in which we are being very truthful about kind of our production. And you know, there was a great article today that came out talking about the economics of changes that are happening in Europe and then likely will happen here about labeling and nutritional and other information that’s gonna probably be required in Europe.

They’re going down that path already. But how will that change everything and what does that look like? I think we’re gonna have to embrace that and better understand it. And hopefully tell the you know, the true story behind kind of what we’re doing.

[00:37:01] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. And your, and if you had your way, what would the labels look like?

[00:37:05] Greg Jones: That’s a good question. I think the problem is that it immediately comes, becomes busy. If you look at a back label, it’s gonna have to get busy. Because of all the required labeling components. But if you think about it, some of the things that we put on labels today especially the two most prominent, like alcohol and sulfites, they’re almost kind of like negative.

Maybe we should really be looking at putting things on our labels that show positivity. And maybe even, maybe even relabeling a sulfide to something like an antioxidant. Or something like that. Because that’s kind of what it does, it preserves wine and I just think that the more truthfulness in that arena would be very interesting.

Plus it gives people something to talk about.

[00:37:53] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Absolutely. Other than the brief paragraph about the small family winery marketing

[00:37:58] Greg Jones: Exactly.

[00:38:00] Drew Thomas Hendricks: No, I, it was probably right before Covid. I was at the Oregon Wine Symposium and there was a talk about wine labeling and the fact that wine has lost that category as being a healthy beverage, which it enjoyed all through the nineties.

And then seltzers and all the kombuchas, they all have the extensive labeling on the back. They have the nutritional for information and it’s, it’s actually the opposite. It’s not busy. It’s actually what the younger people are looking for. They want that knowledge. They want, they wanna see it as something more than just sugar water.

[00:38:32] Greg Jones: Well, and that sugar is the perfect place to talk about this. The vast majority of wines have almost no sugar in it. And so to put actually put something like that on the label so that you would see that there’s one gram of sugar in this bottle relative to, you know, some seltzer beverage that has 28.

So I think that you know, putting things that are, that are appropriate but yet also show the positive side of why it’s important.

No, I think that’s an excellent idea. Excellent. So, moving from the wine labeling. So tell me about what’s next for Abacela as far as hospitality wise. Well, we’ve always been a very tourist draw kind of location.

We’re in a rural county in the middle of the Western Valleys of Oregon. We are on Interstate Five. Of course.

[00:39:28] Drew Thomas Hendricks: What would be the closest city that someone,

[00:39:30] Greg Jones: Roseburg is the closest big city, but it’s only 30,000 people, so it’s not like a large city. So the next largest city is Rose, Eugene, and Medford are the next two biggest cities in Salem and Portland.

But we’ve, we’re largely a tourist, location because I-5 traveling north-south, we get a lot of people stop off and visit. We’re only a few miles off of the I-5 corridor. And then we also are on the main highway that goes out to Bandon in the coastal areas. Here on the Oregon coast, we’re about an hour from the coast.

And then we also are on the main road that goes up to Diamond Lake and Crater Lake. So we have a lot of people that come through from a tourist standpoint. So we, what we’ve tried to do at Abacela is create a place that is educational and experiential.

So that people can come and do things that allow them to really understand what we’re up, what we’re doing. we have a, what’s called a wine grower’s walk. We put together years ago an educational set of posters that describes everything from our climate to our soil, to our geology, to our varieties, to our.

Our approach to growing grapes. We also are doing tours. I personally do two tours a week. Usually when the weather’s good, but I take people out and I act like a professor and talk about growing grapes. So, you know, trying to do those kind of things to provide more experiential kind of experiences for the consumer. I think it’s really important.

We’ve, we have a very nice tasting room, but we’ve got a few little tweaks that we’ve been doing here and there to make it even nicer and so, trying to keep that hospitality up and manage it in a way in which we know that people will wanna come back.

[00:41:23] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s fantastic. As we’re kind of wrapping down here Greg, where can people fight out more about your work and then Abacela Winery?

[00:41:31] Greg Jones: So Abacela is simply on the web. We have a very extensive website that covers pretty much everything we’ve been talking about. This whole idea of our history and kind of how my dad really kind of went down that pathway and, how my stepmother and sisters and everybody contributed to the development of the property.

So our website is pretty extensive. I also kind of maintain a little bit of my academic background as well on a website called And I’ve been using that as my tag for a long time. So And I have all of my publications there. I have,

[00:42:09] Drew Thomas Hendricks: It’s an intimidating list of publications.

[00:42:12] Greg Jones: Yeah. And so I try to keep things there for people to kind of find. I think I find myself still kind of in that framework where being a teacher is enjoyable. I’m just so glad I talked to grade papers anymore.

[00:42:24] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. Yeah. You can grade the wines. No, that, that is fantastic. No, I’ve been, I was pouring through some of these publications on your site before it’s, there’s definitely something people should check out for sure. And check out Abacela Winery. Greg, thank you so much for joining us today.

[00:42:42] Greg Jones: Oh, you’re welcome, Drew. It was a lot of fun. And I, I hope the viewers audio, whatever, I enjoy this segment, and if you’re ever in Oregon come visit. I guarantee you’ll enjoy it.

[00:42:54] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, I will. I plan on stopping by next time I’m up there. Thank you so much.

[00:42:58] Greg Jones: Okay. Take care.