by Fred McMillin
for November 16, 1998


The Zinfandel Magic Spell


Agoston Haraszthy The father of California winemaking, Count Agoston Haraszthy,(pictured), owned a vineyard south of San Francisco. He received a shipment of vines from Europe, including the Zinfandel, a variety from his native Hungary. He planted his Zinfandel, the first ever known in California, in the spring of 1852. Ten years later Haraszthy produced California's first Zinfandel wine.

The Rest of the Story

Above is Prof. Thomas Pinney's account of the early understanding of the arrival of California's most widely-planted red wine grape. However, California's original Zin actually arrived by a different route. Here are the highlights.

1830—The Zinfandel has reached the U.S.A. And is being grown in the nursery of William Prince on Long Island, New York.
1840's—Zinfandel is widely grown under glass in the East.
1852—The Zinfandel arrives in California, imported from France by San Jose nurseryman Antoine Delmas. It is called the Black St. Peter's.
1859—Zinfandel wins its first major award when Delmas garners first place at the State Fair with his new grape.
1864—Haraszthy wins first place at the San Francisco Mechanics Institute with a red wine made from the Black St. Peter's (Zinfandel) vines he purchased in Sonoma.

That takes care of the original Zin. Now let's turn to the BEST Zin. Here's the top bottle my panel has tasted this year.

The Wine

1996 Especial Zinfandel, Paso Robles
Peachy Canyon Winery, Paso Robles
Rating—EXCELLENT, outscoring more than 60 rivals this year.
Phone—(805) 237-1577
Price—$25 range

Note: For more about Peachy Canyon, see the recent Oct. 26, 1998 WineDay titled, " A Peachy Zin."


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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