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Arriving in California during the Gold Rush (1850s), Zinfandel was a popular varietal because it could endure swings in temperature and varying soil types.

Today, it’s only grown in 10 percent of California vineyards (and in 45 of the state’s counties)—and nearly non-existent in other parts of the world. The majority of these vineyards are in Napa, Sonoma and Lodi. Among the most prized Zins—costing $50+, significantly more than the rest of the producers—are from Turley and Ridge.

The full-bodied red wine has almost a syrupy quality, but fans know not to confuse this grape with White Zinfandel, a sweet wine popular during the 1980s and 1990s in the United States. There is a movement among California wineries to market Zinfandels made from 50-year plus vines as “Old Vine.” One producer, Cline, whose vines date back between 80 and 100 years, dubs them “Ancient Vines” on the label.

Quick Facts

  • Primitivo, an Italian grape, is considered a sibling to the California Zinfandel
  • Working with the University of California-Davis, in 2001 Napa Valley winemaker Mike Grgich revealed that Zinfandel is actually a Croatian grape called Crljenak Kaštelanski
  • infandel has such a strong following in California that there is a festival called Zinfandel Advocates and Producers held in San Francisco each year

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