Where Zinfandel Grows
When this chart was first constructed four years ago, Connoisseurs’ Guide wanted to see if planting patterns, both as to total acreage and as to location, would shed some light on why Zinfandel bottle prices had been rising so quickly. What we found then, and find again in this new look at acreage by location, is the relative underplanting in the counties that produce the mostly highly rated and most optimistically priced Zinfandels.
In the northern coastal counties of Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino, acreage growth has consistently trailed both the statewide growth in acreage of all varieties and the statewide growth in Zinfandel acreage. In the last fifteen years, both grape acreage and Zinfandel acreage have expanded by about 50% in round numbers, but acreage in these three counties has jumped by only about 12%. If one accepts that these places are among the “sweet spots” for Zinfandel, then their failure to grow with the market explains a great deal about Zinfandel pricing.
There is little relief in sight in these counties. Other varieties demand much of the land and sell in the marketplace for prices equal to and even higher than Zinfandel, and those twin constrains are compounded by relative scarcity of as yet unplanted vineyard sites and high land costs. The result is that Zinfandel acreage is growing fastest in places that are somewhat warmer than those counties but still seem to be hospitable to making of good Zinfandel. In the last five years, it has been Amador, San Joaquin and San Luis Obispo counties whose Zinfandel fortunes have improved most.
-from Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine
Reprinted with permission