“The Heritage Vineyard brings all of us together as scientists, farmers, artists, and historians. Ultimately, this research will help us discover answers to some of the mysteries surrounding Zinfandel, and preserve the special qualities of the old vines for future generations.”
— Rebecca Robinson, Executive Director, ZAP
The Zinfandel Heritage Vineyard Project is an unprecedented collection of rare and famous Zinfandel vine cuttings grown throughout California. It was originally established at the University of California at Davis (UC Davis) Oakville Research Station in Napa Valley beginning in 1995.
At the time, acres planted in Zinfandel had swelled to 50,000 and the varietal was poised, but not prepared, to begin a renaissance. While Zinfandel wines had achieved a place among the world’s finest varietals, growers and vintners were unhappy with the selections of vines available commercially. The UC Davis Foundation Plant Services (FPS), which evaluates and virus-tests rootstock for commercial distribution, had only certified four selections of Zinfandel. Red Zinfandel wines had grown in popularity, but without additional rootstock to infuse some diversity, expansion of the varietal would be stalled.
ZAP & UC Davis partnered to create greater diversity for growers and research began on 90 selections from 50 vineyards in 14 counties, conducted in three phases at the Oakville Experimental Vineyard. A secondary outcome has been the preservation of Zinfandel vines from the oldest, historical, and premium producing vineyards.
The Zinfandel Heritage Vineyard Project has been a fruitful collaboration with a primary goal to provide superior Zinfandel selections to growers as the basis for future plantings. The initial release of 19 Zinfandel selections to nurseries was in 2009. Four more selections were named in 2014 – Lytton, Moore, Teldeschi, and George Zeni. Each represent a unique set of research data sourced from historic old vine plantings that are geographically diverse from the other selections, proven to make quality wine based on “small lot” productions and immediately recognizable in the marketplace.