4 Things to Know About Old Vine Zinfandel
Dry Creek Vineyard was the first winery to coin the term ‘Old Vine Zinfandel’.
Our family winery has had a long tradition of using old vine vineyards for the base of our Zinfandels. Back in the 80s, we had to combine the 1985 and 1986 vintages of Zinfandel but didn’t want to label the wine as a ‘non-vintage’, so we wanted to come up with a name that could speak to how special these ancient vines were. Gary Emmerich (who still works for Dry Creek Vineyard!) asked, “The vines are pretty old, so why don’t we call it old vine?” The term caught on within the wine industry and the rest is history!
There is no legal definition of how old the vines need to be.
Although there is no legal definition, we define an old vine vineyard as having vines that average more than 50 years in age. For the 2014 vintage of our Old Vine Zinfandel, the vines are more than 95 years in age and in some cases, more than 120 years old!
Most of the old vines in the Dry Creek Valley were brought by Italian immigrants in the mid to late 1800s.
When European immigrants migrated to California in search of gold in the early 1850s, they brought indigenous vine cuttings with them in an effort to carry on their heritage. An era of experimentation began as they settled into their new surroundings and searched for which varietals would be successful.
There is probably more than just Zinfandel in your wine glass.
For centuries, farmers have produced wine by harvesting and fermenting the miscellaneous assortment of grapes that were planted in their fields. This tradition of “field blends” lives on today, though it is becoming increasingly rare to find a vineyard planted in this old-world style.
Field blend vineyards are planted with multiple varietals, in a seemingly random way. This means that a Zinfandel vine might be planted right in between a Petite Sirah vine and a Carignane vine. The whole field is picked at one time, and all of the grapes are fermented together for a wine that is truly created in the vineyard. Many of our old vine vineyards are field blends of primarily Zinfandel, with additional vines of Petite Sirah, Carignane, Grenache and other unique varietals.