In 1879, Finnish explorer and adventurer Gustave Niebaum searched the Napa Valley with the goal of establishing a wine estate to rival the finest chateau of France. For decades his wines won acclaim and remain some of the most admired in American wine history's classic period. By the mid-1960's, his property was divided, and estate-wine production ceased.
A decade later, Francis Ford Coppola purchased 1,500 acres of this historic property and revived Captain Niebaum's fine winemaking tradition. In 1995, Niebaum-Coppola acquired the remainder of the property and restored the Inglenook Estate to its original dimensions.
Learn More About Zinfandel
Zinfandel the American - or Californian - grape. Although it's not from America
(Croatia has been named its origin),
it does seem quite at home in the vineyards of California.
During Prohibition, many
Zinfandel vines survived as the high-yielding grape was popular both for home winemaking and communion wine, which is why so many old vines are still around today. The variety grows
well in the warm, sunny - but not too hot - regions of California and is succeptible to uneven ripening and high yields. In the 1970s, when red wine lacked a following, Bob Trinchero of Sutter Home Winery crafted a sweet pink concoction from the Zinfandel grape, and the White Zinfandel craze was born. As that craze has dwindled, artisan production of the grape in its natural, red form has resurfaced.
While Zinfandel is grown many places in the country, its most popular and successful
region is California. Appellations producing delicious Zinfandel wines include
specifically Dry Creek Valley, Napa, the North Coast, the Central Coast,
and the Sierra Foothills.
Zinfandel stands out with its very berry intensity and exotic spice notes. In some jammy fruit will dominate, in others, it's the spice that wows the palate.
Summing it up Successful Sites: California
Common Descriptors: raspberry, briary, blackberry, pepper, exotic spice
Learn More About Napa Valley, California
It's hard not to think of Napa Valley when thinking of California wines. The region is, after all, the one that brought world recognition to California wine making. The area was settled by a few choice wine families in the 1960's who bet that the wines of the area would grow and flourish. They were right. The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980's, when vineyard lands were scooped up and vines were planted throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, from large conglomerates to small boutiques to cult classics. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux Blends. Whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie smaller sub-AVAs that lend even more character specifics to the wines. Furthest south is Carneros, followed by Yountville, Oakville & Rutherford. Above those two is St.-Helena and finally, just grated an AVA, Calistoga. These areas are situated on the valley floor and are known for creating rich, smooth Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. There are a few mountain regions as well, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs. Those include Howell Mountain, Stags Leap and Mount Veeder. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from more time in the bottle to evolve and soften.