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The Accident That Saved Old Vine Zinfandel In California
The oldest vineyard in California is the Original Grandpere Vineyard, whose Zinfandel vines are 154 years old, making the drinks "old vine" (wine that comes from vineyards over 50 years old). However, were it not for a happy accident, we might not have old vine Zinfandel to drink today, and the story starts in 1849 with the California Gold Rush.
Zinfandel grapes migrated to California from the East Coast with Gold Rush fortune hunters, and thrived during Prohibition, when growers shipped grapes to covert home winemakers. Unfortunately, after Prohibition, Zinfandel's popularity was eclipsed by other grape varieties, and vineyards even began to destroy their Zinfandel vines.
However, in 1975, Bob Trinchero of the Sutter Home Winery was unable to get a batch of Zinfandel rosé to become dry, so he simply bottled it. The wine had about 2% residual sugar, which made it noticeably sweet, and when Trinchero further took a chance on it, this new style of Sutter Home White Zinfandel became a huge success.
Other wineries were slow to join the "White Zin craze," and Trinchero and his brother were accused of "bastardizing" Zinfandel with the sweet wine. However, their product was a success and boosted consumer appeal of Zinfandel, which led to the preservation of "old vine" Zinfandel vineyards that otherwise would have been ripped up.