Big Bear, the Southern California mountain destination known for its lake and ski resorts, now offers a new adult attraction: Stone Summit Vineyard. At 6,750 feet above sea level, the winery claims to have the highest altitude commercial vineyard and winery in the northern hemisphere. Planted in May 2012, the vines won’t be mature enough to produce wine for a few years, so Stone Summit has begun sourcing grapes from the Napa Valley and Central Coast regions. The winery’s first release, a Moscato, can be sampled at its new tasting room, The Wine Room at Wolf Creek Resort, 41421 Big Bear Blvd., Big Bear Lake. Stone Summit plans to follow the Moscato with releases of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling and Merlot.
It’s tougher to grow grapes at high elevations, due to soil conditions and lower temperatures, resulting in lower yields of fruit with much more concentrated flavors. Until recently, the highest altitude vineyard in the United States was Colorado’s Terror Creek Vineyard in the West Elks AVA, located at 6,417 feet above sea level on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains. However, according to The Oxford Companion to Wine, 3rd edition, there are still higher Northern Hemisphere vineyards in the Himalayas reported at 7,500 feet in Bhutan and at 9,000 feet in Nepal. The highest vineyards in the world, are located in Salta, Argentina. Reaching as high as 10,000 feet above sea level, they belong to Bodega Colomé of the Hess Family, which also owns a winery in Napa Valley.