The Heritage of Heritage Clone
Zinfandel has been near and dear to our family winery for nearly 50 years. Our founder, David Stare, selected the varietal for his first vintage of red wines in 1973, and it has been a part of the Dry Creek Vineyard story ever since. Zinfandel is thought to have been originally planted in the Dry Creek Valley by Italian immigrants in the late 1800s, and some of those historic vineyards, like Beeson Ranch, still exist today.
The wine industry as we know it was nearly destroyed in the mid- to late-1800s by phylloxera, a tiny root louse about 1/30th of an inch long. This insect destroys grapevines by attacking their roots, and it is estimated that it wiped out more than 6 million acres of vineyards in France alone in the 19th century. The irony is that native American Vitus labrusca vines and roots are immune to phylloxera, but since the European immigrants were bringing the vines with them from the Old World, the bugs latched onto the roots of the European Vitus vinifera vines and the damage began. The solution was to pull up the vines and replant them with American roots, which brought the problem under control.
During the 1980s, Zinfandel went through an awkward stage in the wine industry. White Zinfandel became quite popular and, though it steered production in a direction that many red wine drinkers shun, it did preserve cherished old vines. However, Zinfandel vines were dying or being torn out to make room for housing developments or other high-yielding varietals. Because of this, we, and others enamored with the qualities of Zinfandel, were on a mission to preserve, protect and promote red Zinfandel.
In 1982, Proprietor Don Wallace and our vineyard manager Duff Bevill implemented an experimental project to preserve the tradition and heritage of old vine vineyards that were planted in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Cuttings from Mazzoni Ranch, a pre-Prohibition vineyard in the Dry Creek Valley, provided budwood for grafting onto phylloxera-resistant rootstock. Then, for several years we worked diligently to screen and propagate virus-free vines that would ultimately produce a crop. Finally, in 1997, the “Heritage Clone” process concluded with a “young vine” wine that displayed “old vine” Zinfandel characteristics reminiscent of turn of the century heirloom vines.
Once we established the Heritage Clone, it became the backbone of our estate Zinfandel program and was planted at Wallace Ranch, Spencer’s Hill and Farmhouse Vineyard, along with our long-time growing partner at Somers Ranch. Despite all of these vineyards being planted with the same clone, the location and terroir of each of these sites produce wines that are completely distinctive. We hope that when you experience these delicious, well-balanced Zinfandels, you will see and taste why we have been an advocate of this exceptional varietal for nearly 50 years!