Trick question—Zinfandel IS a specialty crop! Dairy products, grapes and almonds are all considered specialty crops and play a significant role in the California’s leading agricultural output. Dairy products are at the top of the list of farm receipts at $6.37 billion in 2018, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). Grapes are a close second with a value of $6.25 billion. Almonds round out the top three at $5.47 billion. There are several others grown throughout California, including vegetables, which account for a third of the nation’s output and fruits and nuts at two-thirds the nation’s output.
Regardless of where a specialty crop is grown, one key thing to remember as we enjoy meatloaf made with ingredients from a family recipe, almonds on a hike, a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie or even a glass of wine with cheese, is that farmers from all walks of life work the fields and vines to provide us with their harvest. And, they’re all earning a living based on consumer demand that’s often measured at a cash register hundreds, if not thousands of miles from the farm they tend.
In the world of wine, grape growers are faced with the question of which variety will yield them the best price per ton over time to provide for their families. Zinfandel growers also consider the unique significance of Zinfandel, the one variety considered to be an American Heritage wine grape due to its long California winemaking history. Growers and winemakers alike value their passion for Zinfandel, the expression of the grape from the varied terroirand stylistic interpretations up and down the state, and how they are part of a tapestry woven into the wine culture of California, as opposed to one that has been imported.
Advocates for Zinfandel are pressing to preserve planted vineyards and encourage others to be planted, while working to increase awareness of the value of Zinfandel for all that it affords; greatness in the glass and cherished history over time. Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP) is utilizing a CDFA grant to increase awareness of these precious legendary Zinfandel vineyards by producing a series of videos highlighting them along with a social media and publicity campaign that shares the unique story of Zinfandel in California. They’re also measuring the number of single vineyard Zinfandels in the marketplace, along with impact of the campaign over two years, ending in February 2021.
So, the next time you’re shopping at your favorite grocery store or wine shop, give thought to the specialty crop farmer that made that basket of berries, bag of almonds, artichoke or bottle of wine possible. Often, they are quite wrapped up in the passion of what they’re providing. And, if you’re inclined to toast to them, we encourage you to raise a glass of Zinfandel. Cheers!