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The Zinfandel Heritage Vineyard
Preserving Heritage; Promoting Excellence
The Project
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. Zinfandel is now renowned as America’s Heritage wine, but it first developed a reputation for fine wine as early as 1860 in California’s North Coast Region. Vintners had planted more than 34,000 acres of Zinfandel by 1990, and that number swelled to 50,000 acres by 1998. 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 in 1990. While these had successfully produced popular White Zinfandel wines, many thought they were not as well-suited to making a fine red wine. Red Zinfandel wines had grown in popularity, but without additional rootstock to infuse some diversity, expansion of the varietal would be stalled.

The Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP) recognized the importance of the ongoing research at UC Davis in creating greater diversity for growers, and partnered with the University to support the Zinfandel Heritage Vineyard Project.

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; and in 2009 UC Davis FPS released 19 Zinfandel selections to nurseries. While these selections require more evaluation in traditional Zinfandel growing regions, they hold a promise to strengthen the reputation of Zinfandel as the premier historic winegrape of California. Together UC Davis and ZAP continue to work toward preserving Zinfandel’s heritage while expanding the range of rootstock available to growers.

At the outset of the project it was clear that there were very significant differences in the quality of the wines currently being produced and available to the consumer, despite the lack of variety among Zinfandel selections available to growers. This could be attributed to three things:

Genetic material – Clones that originated through natural mutations which occurred in buds and expressed themselves in different shoots on
a vine or different vines within a vineyard. These could be maintained as new selections if they were identified and vegetatively propagated.

The growing environment – Terroir or soil type, slope and aspect, climate, sunlight, and other site factors could influence growth, ripening
and final wine composition.

Vine and wine management – Training and cropping levels, fermentation temperature, yeast and barrel aging, winemaking skill and experience, and equipment all could affect perceived quality.

To review research data click here.
Important News!
Zinfandel Advocates & Producers Announces Four New Named Zinfandel Selections from ZAP Heritage Vineyard Project
Click here to download.
Click here for data.
 
The Zinfandel Chronicles
The Heritage Vineyard Project
2012 Zinfandel Heritage Vineyard is Harvested
click here to download.
Preserving Heritage, Promoting Excellence
Click here to download.
Interviews
Click here for Joel Peterson interview
Research Data
Click here for research data.
 
Foundation Plant Services (FPS)
Foundation Plant Services at UC Davis is charged with the responsibility to introduce, test and release grapevine selections to the wine industry. FPS evaluates selections to produce "clean stock" through its nursery partners, providing the basis for California's grapevine supply. A critical partner in the Zinfandel Heritage Vineyard Project, FPS also contributes original research regarding grapevine pathogen detection and elimination.
Click here to learn more.
 

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