Identifying and Mapping CA’s Greatest Vineyards

Vinosum2I don't want to tell you how much time I've spent playing with GoogleEarth and GoogleMaps. It's one of the most amazing timesucks on the Internet. However, I'm pretty sure I've not spent as much time with this enormous source of geo-information as Daniel Opalacz, the creator of

Suppose you wanted to know what vineyards Siduri uses to source grapes for their single vineyards wines. Vinosum.

Suppose you wanted a mapped out display of Syrah vineyards in Santa Barbara County that found their way onto labels of single vineyard designated wines? Vinosum.

Suppose you wanted to find where those vineyards in Napa Valley were located that resulted in single-vineyard designated wines that that average 95-points or more from Robert Parker? Vinosum.

What Opalacz, a former student of geology, has created is a searchable map of California that identifies vineyard plantings that have appeared on single vineyard designated wines and mashed it all up in a database along with winery name, name of winemaker, vintage (2007-2009), appellation and variety. It's a project that Opalacz originally embarked upon after studying soil formations in Napa Valley. As Daniel describes the project:

"I started building Vinosum while reading Jonathan Swinchatt's 'The Winemaker's Dance'. As a recently Vinosumgraduated student of geology (Colby College '10) I found Napa terroir to be fascinating – especially Swinchatt's soil and bedrock analyses and their influence on fruit quality. I wanted to see if there was an actual correlation between vineyard soil/bedrock and wine quality. I decided to use Parker's wine scores as the proxy for quality – fully aware of their bias and profound impact on wine sales. I then combed through Parker's wine scores, sifted out all the single vineyard bottles, and added them to my database. I find the distribution of purple wine bottle icons (representative of vineyards creating wines with an average score of 95+) across the Napa valley fascinating and in accordance with Swinchatt's theories. The purple vineyards are only located on bench break alluvial soils or remnant mountain soils. Besides my intellectual pursuit of  wine geology experiments I also wanted to learn about all the great vineyard sites in California and catalog them for others to do the same."

The result is a Wine Geek's/Terroirists fantasy and sure to be another huge time suck.

For the truly geekified or those with a profound interest in terroir and particular its soil component, what's missing from Vinosum is an overlay of soil types in the variously mapped appellations where Daniel has identified vineyards, those who make wine from their grapes and the scores that Robert Parker has given wines from these vineyards. If that soil composition overlay existed (and Daniel says he's very interested in incorporating it) then you might be able to use Vinosum to draw interesting conclusions about top vineyards and their likely soil compositions.

That would just suck more of my time and I never studied geology.

The mash-up that is Vinosum is another example of how the wine industry and wine consumers find themselves confronted with an enormous number of tools with which to more fully explore their business and their hobby. It is also just one more example of they way technology more than ever has given folks ways by which to explore their ideas then turn those ideas into legitimate and highly useful artifacts for others to explore.

3 Responses

  1. awineguy - October 24, 2011

    Very interested to see a soil map on there too.

  2. Tom Wark - October 24, 2011

    The soil map would be fascinating!

  3. [email protected] - November 7, 2011

    Daniel sounds like a very bright young man!

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