Culture

Food TV To Watch: The Oldest Vine Explores L.A.’s Wine History And Future

Forget Napa and Sonoma when it comes to California’s wine history. SOMM TV’s upcoming documentary, The Oldest Vine from Jason Wise, details the story of what might be the oldest wine-producing vine in the world, located at the San Gabriel Mission.

Planted 250 years ago, the vine currently still produces wine right in the middle of the sprawling metropolitan city of Los Angeles on the large and lush grounds of the mission, and is the one of the first sites where vines were planted in California.

Making wine from the tree-like vine that resembles a gnarled dinosaur and covers the mission grounds stopped in the 1970s. The vines and grapes entwined in the historic pergolas became forgotten and untended. Recently Mark Blatty, co-founder and winemaker of Bryon Blatty Vines, found the vine and decided to ask the question that everyone, including Terri Huerta from Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, was wondering –  could wine still be made from it? He discovered, in fact, there was still plenty of life left in the monstrous stump.

L.A. Vintners Mark Blatty, left, and Jasper Dickson prepare for the harvest (Courtesy SOMM TV)

Blatty and the other three major winemakers in Los Angeles, which make up the Los Angeles Vintners Association – Jasper Dickson and partner Amy Luftig Viste, and Patrick Kelley of Cavaletti Vineyards – decided to produce wine from the grapes, resulting in a fortified wine made from the mission grape that tastes much like a cherry cordial.

Wise, who also produced the fascinating The Delicacy documentary about the life-threatening sea urchin diving business, takes a stunning look at L.A.’s wine history and the bustling future of winemaking within L.A. country.  The documentary premieres Monday,  Dec. 12 exclusively on SOMM TV.

Currently streaming on Amazon, iTunes, Apple TV+ and Google play,  Beth Elise Hawks’ award-winning documentary Breaking Bread features Dr. Nof Atamna-Ismaeel, the first Muslim Arab to win Israel’s MasterChef, on a quest to make social change through food. She founded the A-Sham Festival in Haifa, where pairs of Arab and Jewish chefs collaborate on a variety of  generational dishes, bringing back many that have become extinct.

The Oldest Vine

Dish from the A-Sham Festival in Haifa in Breaking Bread (Courtesy Gemini Girls Productions)

Hauntingly photographed, Ismaeel aims to bring peace to a war-torn part of the world,  making the point that there is no room for politics in the kitchen. Taking a close look at the festival, which began as an effort to make social change, the film is about hope and combining cuisines as a way to find peace.  Jewish chefs are paired with Arab restaurants and Arab chefs are paired with Jewish restaurants. It also features plenty of mouthwatering Middle Eastern cookery closeups, and the inspiring and passionate stories behind them, with just the right amount of humor sandwiched between.

Candy Queen Jackie Sorkin and her team of candy artists will design and shape hundreds of thousands of pieces of candy as they attempt to build a fully furnished, life-size candy house in six weeks on Candified: Home for the Holidays, premiering Friday, Dec. 2 at 8 p.m., on the Cooking Channel. Dripping in sweet suspense and with just five weeks left, a national gummy shortage puts the project in danger of not finishing on time, plus an unexpected visit from their potential investor raises tensions within the team, and Sorkin must find a way to bring everyone back together.

And in theaters now, The Menu starring Ralph Fiennes, is a devilishly delicious satire on exclusive restaurants and how things can sometimes get just a little too chef-y for anyone’s taste. Read the Chad Byrnes review here.

The Oldest Vine

Ralph Fiennes in The Menu (Eric Zachanowich/ Searchlight Pictures) © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

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