by Fred McMillin
for May 18, 1999


A Zin You Can't Taste


Kempton Clark San Bernardino is the largest county in Califonia, larger than the combined areas of Maryland, Connecticut and Hawaii. (Baxevanis)

It claims to be the site of "California's oldest winery." Tiburcio Tapia made wine there from vines he planted in 1838 on his Cucamonga Rancho, some 40 miles east of Los Angeles.

By the start of this century, the 4,000-acre vineyard on the Rancho claimed to be the largest in the world.

1917: San Bernardino had more vines than either Sonoma or Napa.

1933—After Repeal, Cucamonga Zinfandel was characterized as "unusually soft on the palate" and possessing "flavors and aromas unlike any other red table wine." Winemakers in the East paid premium prices for Cucamonga Zinfandel grapes. (Leon Adams, Wines of America)

The Rest of the Story

My students would love to taste that unique Zinfandel. Alas, it is long gone. But wait! In 1915 Zinfandel vines were planted on the Lopez Ranch in the Cucamonga Valley. They have survived urbanization, and R.H. Phillips has grabbed them. They're marketed under the new Kempton Clark label, (pictured). Anyone seriously interested in the evolution of California Zinfandel must try a bottle of this one.

Wine of the Day

1997 Kempton Clark Zinfandel
Lopez Ranch, Cucamonga Valley
Composition—100% Zinfandel
Label—See photo.
Contact—Lane Giguiere, (916) 662-3215
Price—$18 range

Note: For much more about R.H. Phillips see the June 26,1998 WineDay article "The Water Problem."


How did the old Lopez vines avoid destruction by the phylloxera insect? Well, the insect doesn't like sandy soil and Cucamonga is a Shoshonean Indian name that means "sandy place." (Gudde)

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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