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Zinfandel in the Vineyard

March 12, 2013

The fact that miners during the California Gold Rush kept Zinfandel wines in demand is appropriate to the rich lore of this varietal. Producing quality Zinfandel wine is a New World tradition marked by rugged American individualism branded with Californian style. Considering the current consumer demand and the timbre of styles being produced in our home state, we are perhaps in the midst of a golden era for Zinfandel winemaking.
The Central Coast in general and the Paso Robles AVA, in particular, have played a historical and pivotal role in the diverse Zinfandel scene. While winemaking tradition in the area has been traced to 18th-century missionaries, according to Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP), Zinfandel vines were introduced to California between 1852 and 1857 and became the most widely planted varietal by 1878, leading to California’s first wine boom.

In 1973 the inklings of “White Zin” came into being, as free run juice was fermented in which only mere tinges of the characteristic violet-red hue were visible in this “blush” wine. While it was highly approachable and popular, it was somewhat pale and muted. Thank goodness full-bodied red wines prevailed! Although modern styles vary from potent to concentrated, to lavish to elegant, “bold” is often a unifying descriptor because toasting with a glass of Zinfandel, a wine of the people invokes a reverential nod to robust and bountiful fruit. Paso Robles produces wines with signature blackberry, raspberry, cherry, and cranberry flavors layered with pepper, sage, and smoky notes. Old Vine offerings feature earthy layers of briary, herbs, and spices as well. By 1998, there were over 50,000 acres of gnarled Zinfandels vines in California and was again the most planted red wine varietal.

In 2006, the California legislature designated Zinfandel as California’s Official Historical Wine, a tribute to the growers, practitioners, and advocates of the varietal. Zinfandel wines can be seen as the Bear Republic’s entry into the worldwide marketplace as a product that has a distinctive Californian stamp with indelible impressions of many vaunted and desirable terroirs.

Zinfandel continues to capture the palates of wine drinkers who favor wines that are bold and robust, and thank goodness, bountiful in Paso Robles.

Ted Contreras