Six years and $60,000 later, Tracy has been officially recognized as a wine region. Local growers like Charles Spatafore and his sangiovese grapes, and local winemakers like Herve Chevaillier and his La Bonne Vie Cellars line should be ecstatic over the federal government’s approval. For them and others, it could bring an economic boost.
Their appreciation, and ours, should go to Jeff Brown, the mastermind behind having a 39,200-acre, anvil-shaped slice of southern and western rural Tracy included in the Tracy Hills viticultural area.
Brown, whose 400-acre Mount Oso Vineyard is more or less in the middle of the Tracy Hills area, will be able to designate Tracy on his Tulip Hills wine bottles that are sold nationally and internationally.
While chatting sometime in 2000 with his father, Budge, Brown approached the idea of having a viticultural area for his grapes. His dad had a similar idea and agreed to finance the cost of presenting the mounds of paperwork to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau in the Department of Commerce.
An attempt to use the vineyards’ name, Mount Oso, as the designation, failed when bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. said it wasn’t distinguished enough. Tracy Hills (not the development) is, the feds say, although Brown admits Tracy Hills is a stretch, since none of the designated vineyards are in the southern or western hills. The lack of water there prevents grape growing up to the 500-foot level — the boundary of the viticulture area that stretches south toward Westley and west to take in Spatafore’s vineyard near Lammers Road and Interstate 580.
The viticulture area is as complex as some of Brown’s award-winning wines, what with all the rainfall, wind, temperature, slope and elevation data that must match.
Brown succeeded by showing that there is a specific oval of eight to nine inches of rainfall annually and cooler temperatures because of coastal winds blowing through the Corral Hollow Pass.
The oddity with the viticulture area is that Tracy Hills, the development, is within its boundaries. Eventually, grapes could be growing in the backyards of the 5,000 homes, and the at-home winemakers could attach their development’s name to their labels — just like the big boys.
Thanks, Jeff Brown, for putting Tracy on the wine maps.