Zinfandel has been grown in California since the 1850’s and, unlike many of the early-planted varietals, zinfandel has maintained its popularity to this day, representing the 2nd most widely planted red wine grape in the state. We love youthful zinfandel for its fruity charm, but it’s the old vine zinfandels that we treasure for their intensity of flavor, structure, spiciness and most of all, expression of terroir.
To record and preserve the diversity of zinfandel expression, the University of California, Davis – with major support from the Association of Zinfandel Advocates & Producers – began a long-term clonal project in 1995 to collect and study old-vine zinfandel selections from 14 counties throughout California and to identify the best selections for release to nurseries. Ninety selections were initially planted at an experimental vineyard in Oakville from which a final 19 zinfandel clones were released in 2009.
One of these final 19 selections from UC Davis’ Foundation Plant Services came from the R.W. Moore Vineyard in Napa Valley’s latest formal appellation, Coombsville, just east of Downtown Napa.
The vineyard is named after the current owner, Bill Moore, who has farmed the vineyard since 1986, selling fruit to Larry Turley for his “Earthquake” zinfandel wines, and now to Robert Biale Vineyards, both guardians of old-vine zinfandel. Moore is now also selling fruit to Mike Hendry and his wife Molly, Moore’s niece, for their new label, Mike & Molly Hendry Wines. Mike is a third generation Napa winegrower who oversees the vineyards and marketing at his grandfather’s legacy estate – Hendry Wines – in the Mt. Veeder foothills.
The existing vineyard was planted over 105 years ago, but old maps show that vines were planted in the enclave called Imrieville as early as 1869. The vineyard reflects its generation with low density planting, absence of irrigation and co-planting of other black varietals. According to Hendry, zinfandel represents about 95% of the vineyard, with Napa gamay, mourvedre, carignane and petite sirah making up the rest.
Given the age of vines, well-draining gravelly loam soils and dry farming, the vineyard yields an exceptionally low 1 ½ tons per acre, leading to expressive wines with intense blackberry fruit, earthy complexity and natural balance that only comes with age.
Taste a zinfandel Heritage Vineyard wine at the 21st annual Zinfandel Advocates & Producers Festival Grand Tasting at the Concourse in San Francisco on January 28, 2012. The producers who will be pouring R.W. Moore Vineyard single-vineyard wines are:
To learn more about the Zinfandel Heritage Vineyard project, check out the ZAP web page.
For more information on the Grand Tasting and other ZAP events which begin on January 26th, check here.