Helena View Johnston Vineyards, located just north of Calistoga in the eye of Mt. St. Helena, specializes in bordeaux style reds, namely Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, having produced, within only a few short years, some award-winning vintages. Winemaker and proprietor Charles Johnston purchased the vineyards in 1987 and obtained the organic vineyard certification from the California Organic Foods Act in 1990. The northern exposed winery sits among mature trees, and has a cave-like structure for barrel aging, which takes advantage of the earth as a natural coolant. Helena View wines can be purchased directly at the winery and are distributed in the Chicago, Georgia, Oklahoma and North and Central Florida markets.
In the interview that follows, Debra speaks to Charles Johnston about the eco-friendly Helena View Winery, about how they’ve been certified organic since 1992 and how important he believes this is. They also discuss Charles’s connection to China, both in the past, with his role in building the Sunkist and citrus growers business, and more recently when he joined the Shandong Weihai Weal Wine Company, a joint Sino-American venture, in 2006. They talk about China’s domestic production in the future, how Charles feels about this future, and what steps the Chinese wine industry needs to take in order to make its wine competitive. Will China change the wine world? Find out what Charles thinks here!
What do you see for China’s domestic production in the future? Are they gonna change our world?
Well I think in a generation and a half China will start to pinpoint, will have pinpointed, the best growing regions. And I daresay that growing grapes in what is typically Long Island climate isn’t the best growing region, but that’s where we are. I think that the dry climates that you’re gonna find in the North and the West, which have cooler nights and warmer days, typically – something like New Mexico or parts of Southeastern Arizona – may be well suited for grape growing.
Besides the grapes and the vineyards, the other part of what we continue to do is to encourage them to truly hire professional winemakers.
Well its a slight mindset isn’t it because I think wine was traditionally viewed as a factory beverage, not a specialty drink?
Absolutely, in 2003, the definition of white wine was still light liquor and as you know that, it was not until more recently that they’re beginning to apply vintage dating with some real meaning or not at all. And certainly – you asked the question – yes, China has a future. Does it have a future as an exporter of wine? I certainly hope not, for quite some time.
To check out more of her winemaker interviews, visit Debra’s site here!