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“We’re going to taste some of the best wines Renaissance ever made,” Brooks says as he holds the winery door open.The room where we sit is a shrine to the past, its walls covered in yellowing newsprint from 30 years ago and curling pages from old Wine Spectator issues. They taste fresh, vibrant and, dare I say, ageless.California’s strangest vineyard is in the tiny Yuba County town of Oregon House, 70 miles northeast of Sacramento, at an elevation of 2,250 feet in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The view from Slope 19, the vineyard’s highest point, is so vast and varied that it feels as if you were looking down on all of California. Replicas of Michelangelo’s “David,” herds of water buffalo, camels in a pen. Agile and athletic, the kind of people who seem destined to wear dirt-caked boots, the Mockrishes climb 450 vertical feet of forest on paths cleared through brush, stepping over freshly printed bear tracks, to the peak of this granite-girded slope.The mountains of the coastal range sprawl to the west, guarding the Pacific. There, below the vineyard, sits a faux Roman amphitheater. They proceed with a gravitas that almost feels solemn: This place, their determined gait seems to say, is important.At least it was until the Fellowship shut the winery down three years ago.
The vineyard’s caretakers, Aaron and Cara Mockrish, hike here each day from their home.
They aren’t the symmetrical, manicured grids of Napa Valley.
These vines twist and lean, sprawling out in wild, uneven succession, each contorted in its unique individual cragginess.
Steep terraces have been etched into the hillsides below, vines boring into the extreme, rocky earth. “This whole place is varying states of decomposed granite,” Aaron Mockrish says.
The rocks give the vineyard its character, but also make the land difficult to work.
This land was not sought out for its wine-growing potential — not for its hills nor its granite-studded soils. The Fellowship of Friends begins with Robert Earl Burton, an East Bay schoolteacher who started preaching out of a Volkswagen van in Berkeley in the late 1960s.