The Winkler Vine

The Winkler Vine

The Winkler Vine, a majestic testament to the California Mission Grape resides in the Department of Viticulture and Enology vineyards near the UCD airport. The Department Vineyards are used for teaching future enologists and viticulturists how to grow grapes, and is used to house grape breeding and research projects. The Winkler Vine was planted in 1979 on St. George rootstock, and was named in honor of the late Albert J. Winkler, Chair of the Department of Viticulture and Enology from 1935-1957. Dr. Winkler provided major historical research on trellis arrangement, canopy management, pruning practices, and variety evaluation. The Mission Grape has enormous historical importance for the State of California; for it was the first Vitis vinifera cultivar in California and was used extensively by the Franciscan monks as they settled along the California coast.

The original stock came with the Spanish missionaries, and was planted at each of the missions in order to provide the sacramental wines used in religious services. The Mission Grape is thought to be from Spain and was brought to North America with the first Spanish conquistadors in the mid-1500’s. Although the true origin is not known, it is suspected that it came as a collection of seeds rather than from cuttings from an original vine in Spain. The Franciscan monks commonly used a large arbor to train and support their sacramental vineyards.

The Winkler Vine is planted on a 60 foot by 60 foot arbor and covers 1/12 of an acre. In its prime, this single vine produced over one ton of fruit during harvest. Eventually, signs of decline were noticed as wood rot diseases began to take their toll on this legendary vine. The plant responded well to intervention; which included the dropping all of the fruit, limiting the number of buds on the vine, and an increasing its irrigation regime. Today, this vine is the home of The Annual Winkler Dinner; an epicurean delight of fine food, fine wine, and fine people. The dinner is a major fundraiser for Davis Enology and Viticulture Organization, or DEVO. This student organization is one of the most active on the UCD campus, as it is open to students of any major who have an interest in wine or winemaking.

In 2001, a new planting of Mission stock was observed and dedicated to Dr. Harold Olmo. Olmo, a noted scholar, grape breeder, and geneticist, was present at age 89 and shared the day with family, friends, and work colleagues. The Winkler Vine and The New Olmo Vine are tributes to two giants of US Viticulture and Enology and pay homage to the grape that settled the West.