Senators vote to make zinfandel California’s ‘historic’ wine |

Senators vote to make zinfandel California’s ‘historic’ wine

SACRAMENTO (AP) – State senators voted to make zinfandel California’s official historic wine Thursday, despite sour grapes by some lawmakers who nearly defeated the purely symbolic legislation.

Zinfandel grapes date back to the state’s Gold Rush days and are found in each wine region of California, the only place in the world where they are widely grown.

“It’s just quintessential California,” said Sen. Carole Migden, the measure’s author, who described it as a “lively, animated, somewhat fanciful bill.”

The measure was sent to Assembly on a 21-12 roll call after two tries, with no votes to spare.

Migden, D-San Francisco, watered down her bill, if not her wine, from an earlier version that would have declared zinfandel the official state wine.

Her bill states that California is the only region in the world where “Old Vine” zinfandel is found, with some vines still producing grapes after more than 100 years.

The bill admits that “zinfandel’s popularity and consistently strong sales have elevated the popularity of previously unknown, but identical local wines in Italy and Croatia.”

Opponents said the legislation was unfair to California’s other wine grapes.

“The problem with this bill is it singles out one of our many varietals,” said Sen. Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata. “We produce many fine wines from many fine grapes and singling one out is not appropriate.”

Growers who favor other grapes objected to the designation. Zinfandel has faded from its historic dominance across the state, accounting for about 10 percent of California wines last year. It lagged behind both cabernet sauvignon (12.5 percent) and chardonnay (17 percent).

Migden said she was willing to amend her bill, if necessary, to declare zinfandel “an” historic wine instead of “the” historic wine. But in an interview, she said she was perplexed by opposition to a bill she said would bring favorable publicity to the entire California wine industry.

“It still accomplishes the purpose,” which was to draw attention to the wine, Migden said. “Have a glass of wine, lighten up.”

Migden’s bill does not distinguish between high-octane red zinfandels, some of which contain more than 15 percent alcohol, and white zinfandel, a sweeter wine with less alcohol. Both are made from the same grape, but white zinfandel’s pale pink color comes from less juice-to-grape-skin contact during production.

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