Growing a Legend
“There’s a phrase you’ll hear: “A legend was born.” But if you’ve ever stood, neck deep, in a California Zinfandel vineyard…
…and seen the fruit produced by a hundred years of effort and struggle, you may have drawn another conclusion: There’s no single moment when a legend becomes a legend.
No — legends are built from year upon year of determination… grit. And real legends? They’re not born.”
Real legends are grown.
Legendary Vineyards Teaser
ZAP spent almost a year visiting and filming many of California’s Legendary Zinfandel Vineyards and we’re sharing this inspiring view of California’s Zinfandel landscape through a series of videos, thanks to a Specialty Crop Grant from CDFA. Th
Legendary Vineyards - Paper Street
Legendary Vineyards - Growing a Legend
Legendary Vineyards - Peachy Canyon D Block
Legendary Vineyards - Bedrock
ZAP is on a quest to preserve California’s Legendary Zinfandel Vineyards. But, why? What are legendary Zinfandel vineyards, anyway?
While many wine grape varietals do exceptionally well in certain regions of California, Zinfandel’s versatility allows it to produce uniquely pleasurable wines all across the Golden State. Different sites, different wines. In France, they call it terroir. And, truly legendary Zinfandel comes from legendary vineyards.
One indicator of a legendary vineyard is how long the vines have been in the ground. The vineyard develops a reputation for quality and becomes sought after by both winemakers and wine lovers over time. In the hands of exceptional farmers and winemakers, wines made from these vineyards generally have the ability to age in the bottle.
The aging of a wine potentially improves its structure, backbone, complexity, balance and substance, ultimately enhancing your tasting experience. A library of vintages from a single vineyard provides the wine taster the opportunity to explore year over year differences not present in bottles sourced from a blend of vineyards. Bottling a wine from a single vineyard is considered a higher quality expression of the fruit and the land.
Legendary Zinfandel vineyards are getting harder to come by every year. Economic factors have resulted in significant losses in acreage, but Zinfandel lovers can help. Seek out and enjoy these truly special vineyards for yourself!
“They’re all individual personalities. And, I think to show that is more authentic. You don’t want to try to make it into something that it’s not. I think you can tell a wine that’s just grown, respected, not manipulated.” Larry Turley, Turley Wine Cellars
A single vineyard wine is just as it sounds, wine made from grapes grown in one single vineyard. These wines can also be called vineyard designated wines. Either way, the vineyard’s name appears on the wine label. In the Unites States, this means that at least 95% of the grapes must have been grown at that vineyard. And by its very nature, the amount of wine made is limited to the size of the vineyard.
The vast majority of wines you will find at your local grocery are made from multiple vineyard sources and blended from many different appellations (regions). By contrast, it’s more economical to craft large-scale blends, and this can permit winemakers to craft a consistent wine style.
But, single vineyard wines stand apart. They can smell and taste different from wines made just a few miles away. It’s usually a sign that the wine is noteworthy. They can be counted on to yield higher quality. Wineries hold their single vineyard wines very near and dear to their heart. Because single vineyard wines are a labor of love. They can never be duplicated and are truly individual.
“Casual wine drinkers rarely get past the broad strokes. They love a rich Napa Cab, say, or a silky Sonoma Pinot. More avid fans tend to drill down: They’re partial to the firm tannins in the reds from Napa’s mountain AVAs, or the lean and earthy Pinots from far-west Sonoma. Few of us, even the wine geeks, can describe the signature traits of wines from individual vineyards. But for many top vintners, a wine that expresses the nuances of a single piece of ground—the soils, the aspects, the weather patterns—is the most interesting of all. And their life work is to elevate those nuances, to let them shine in a completely unique wine. And do it all over again in the vineyard next door, and the one across the county, all in the same year.” Sara L. Schneider, Robb Report
Zinfandel’s ability to reflect where it’s grown makes it the perfect complement to California’s majestic and varied wine regions. And, because of this, it provides the adventurous wine taster with a selection of flavors unmatched in any other varietal.
If you enjoy wine, you’re always looking for interesting. Single vineyard wines express the soils, season, climate, and growing conditions from where the grapes are grown. These site specific wines aren’t available in large quantities. They offer a chance to learn about the land, farming and the winemaker’s vision for that place. For people who are willing to jump in and explore, finding the contrasts across bottles is worth the effort.
Make the connection to place, and seek out these special Zinfandel vineyards. Your reward is a rich and captivating wine tasting experience like no other.
“Have 10 people get together and each one of you bring a bottle of wine and you say it has to be a vineyard designate. So, you will ultimately taste these wine you’ll say, wow, that one’s really good. I really like the character of that one. Or, this one feels like a uniqueness and it feels like the place that it came from.” Joel Peterson, Once & Future