ZINFANDEL HERITAGE VINEYARD HAS EARLY HARVEST
Oakville, Napa Valley, September 2003---Zinfandel grapes from the one-acre Heritage Vineyard within UC Davis' Experimental Station in Oakville were harvested on September 16.
The Heritage Vineyard is an unusual and unprecedented collection of Zinfandel selections from historic vines averaging over 80 years of age planted in vineyards all over California. "The fruit looked good and the yields were similar to the preceding year," explained Jason Benz, the Station's viticulturalist. "There were lots of late spring rains, which meant that the canopies were larger than usual, but the fruit held up well," he added. Benz has directed the research in Oakville since it began.
The 2003 Heritage Vineyard Zinfandel will be made by Paul Draper, Winemaker/CEO, Ridge Vineyards and Eric Baugher, Head of Production at Monte Bello, Ridge Vineyards. The 2.285 tons of grapes were trucked to Ridge's winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains by Dave Gates, Head of Vineyard Operations. "The grapes' bright acidity and great fruit flavors were very nice. The most interesting part for me was that we ended up picking individual vines from each of the selections, so I got to see the clusters being individually weighed and see how variable the cluster morphology was. I think it will make great wine," Gates said.
"We were very excited when the grapes arrived," adds Eric Baugher. "The flavors in the fruit were incredible. The fruit is extraordinary to work with because of its diversity, with approximately 80 selections represented. The differences were visually apparent as we tasted through the bins when it arrived. We saw a hugely diverse group of different-shaped clusters and flavors, some jammy raspberry, some black cherry. These grapes show what a wide range of flavors Zinfandel can carry," he said. "The fruit came in fully ripe, in excellent condition, with very rich flavors," Baugher continued. "It was 100% Zinfandel and 100% diverse, which is fascinating for us, since most of our Zinfandels are field blends and contain other grapes such as Petite Sirah and Carignane," he noted.
How will the wine be made? "We will be making this wine the way we make our other Zinfandels," Baugher explains. The fruit was de-stemmed and fully crushed. "It's resting in an open top fermenter with pumpovers twice a day (pumping juice from the bottom of the tanks over the skins with an irrigator). As soon as the native yeast fermentation begins, we will draw juice into a pumpover cart and aerate the juice when we pump it back over the skins. Fermentation will last between seven and ten days. We will then press, taste the press wine and then probably add it to the free-run for complexity. Next will be a natural secondary malolactic fermentation; once that is complete, we will rack it to air-dried American oak barrels. We will divide it between one new American oak barrel and five others two, three or four years old. We will then rack every quarter; the wine will be in barrel for a minimum of twelve months depending on its intensity and concentration," he continues.
Zinfandel Advocates & Producers, a group of Zinfandel-producing wineries and consumer Zinfandel enthusiasts, has supported research into Zinfandel at the Heritage Vineyard since 1998, contributing a total of $141,280. "These are the largest grants from an independent organization focused on one specific wine-grape varietal," explained Dr. James Wolpert, the Chairman, UC Davis Department of Viticulture & Enology. The proceeds from ZAP's annual Festival in San Francisco, including sales of the Heritage Wine, benefit the Heritage Vineyard research. Each year a different ZAP winemaker member makes the wine: 1997 was made by Nils Venge (Saddleback Cellars); 1998 by Robert Biale (Robert Biale Vineyards); 1999 by Matt Cline (Trinitas Cellars); 2000 by Rod Berglund (Joseph Swan Vineyards); 2001 by Joel Peterson (Ravenswood) and 2002 by Ehren Jordan (Turley Wine Cellars). The 2000 and 2001 vintages will be offered for sale at the 2004 Festival for approximately $20.00 (per 750 ml). More detailed information about Zinfandel and ZAP's educational programs can be found at www.zinfandel.org; these materials include the Zinfandel Aroma Wheel developed for ZAP by Dr. Ann Noble.
In 1989 Wolpert and a team of scientists (UC Extension Viticulturalist Emeritus Amand Kasimatis, UC Extension Farm Advisors Glen McGourty, Ed Weber and Rhonda Smith) began going on "Zinfandel safaris" throughout California searching for Zinfandel vineyards planted before 1930 and specific vines which were known to produce distinctive and superb quality wine. Today the three "phases" in the Heritage Vineyard total 90 different selections from 12 different regions---Alameda, Amador, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Mendocino, Napa, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, Santa Clara and Sonoma Counties and the Cucamonga region in southern California. Another aspect of the ongoing research into the Zinfandel grape is Dr. Carole Meredith's search for Zinfandel's origins.
Zinfandel has an important role in American cultural history as well as American viticulture. It is the only wine grape varietal considered unique to the U.S. by the federal government. "Zinfandel is at the heart of California's contribution to the world of fine wine. Just as Europe has established the reputation of the historic varietals, California has established Zinfandel and set its standard of excellence for the world," Paul Draper explains. Stylistically, it is the most diverse wine made in the U.S. and possibly in the world. "Zinfandel is a grape variety of noble stature and we are fortunate that it has no historical stylistic context anywhere else in the world which restricts our winemakers' creativity," Dr. Wolpert explains. "Few New World wine regions have had the opportunity to create a new great wine," he adds. Numerous California Zinfandel vineyards were planted in northern California during the Gold Rush. From the 1860s to the early 1990s it was the most widely planted varietal in California; this is why Zinfandel is called "America's heritage grape."
The Heritage Vineyard is planted at 6x8 feet (row x vine) spacing in gravelly Bale loam soil on St. George rootstock. The vines are hand-pruned and trained in the "goblet" shape as they would have been in the nineteenth century. These practices are typical of all old vine plantings and a few of the young vineyards of traditionally oriented growers, because they insure low yield. However, most vineyards today are trained on trellises for higher yields. "The Heritage Vineyard requires authenticity," explains Wolpert. "We need to replicate the conditions which gave Zinfandel its reputation. Our use of St. George as the rootstock, nearly square spacing and head-trained spur-pruned vines supported only by stakes is a design you would have seen a hundred years ago. Our only concession to modern viticulture is a subsurface drip irrigation system," he adds.
What is the long-term goal of the Heritage Vineyard research? "It's our responsibility as vineyardists, winemakers, craftsmen and keepers of the flame that we seek out the purest and finest quality clones of Zinfandel in California, isolate them, nurture them, study them and then possibly make them available commercially on a large scale, all to insure that Zinfandel moves into the next millennium in its most superb incarnation," explains Kent Rosenblum of Rosenblum Cellars, a ZAP vintner. "The Heritage Vineyard is a vibrant 'ongrowing' musem of the grape," adds winemaker Mary Buckles Pisor, who helped make the 1997 Heritage Vineyard Zinfandel at Saddleback Cellars. "The vineyard is of tremendous historical and viticultural interest to those fascinated by Zinfandel. For the consumer, the Heritage Vineyard is living history and provides an easily accessible demonstration of where Zinfandel is really made---in the vineyard. For the wine industry, it has special significance because it represents a resource for future plantings of Zinfandel with a broad range of selections."
Visit www.zinfandel.org to find out more about Zinfandel and join ZAP, including details of the 13th Annual Zinfandel Advocates & Producers Festival, January 21-24, 2004, in San Francisco. ZAP will be traveling to Denver, Houston and New York City in April 2004 (watch for details on the website).
ZAP is a non-profit educational 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to advancing public knowledge of and appreciation for American Zinfandel and its unique place in our culture and history. Winegrowers and winemakers (approximately 315) and wine enthusiasts (approximately 6,000 across the U.S.) make up the membership. The common focus is the preservation and recognition of Zinfandel as America's heritage wine.
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