Girly Man Nixes Wine History

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill that would have recognized Zinfandel as "The Historic Wine of California".

What a GirlyMan!!

Well, maybe that’s not fair. Let’s at least see what he had to say in his veto message:

"To name only one of the many of the varietals produced in California as the
historic wine fails to recognize the many world class varietals produced in the State.
With California’s unique micro climates, diverse geography, outstanding soils, and
industrious growers, farmworkers and vintners who have mastered the delicate art of
winemaking perfectly balancing art with science, it would be a shame to recognize only
one as “California’s Historic Wine.”

Typical of politicians, he doesn’t address the issue. Of course naming Zin the Historic Wine of California "fails to recognize the many world class varietals produced in the state." That’s sort of the point of singling out one wine. Let’s face it, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc hardly rise to the historic levels that Zinfandel does.

It was Zinfandel that saved California from the "Mission" grape that produced mediocre wine throughout the latter part of the 19th century in California. Then Zin came around and winemakers realized that truly great wine could be made in the state. Upon seeing the results of the wines made from Zinfandel growers began planting it at a breakneck speed.

Today Zinfandel is universally recognized as "America’s grape".

So, I fear I can’t retract my charge: Girly Man!!

The problem for the Governor, I presume, was that he saw no political benefit to signing the legislation. He likely figured he gained nothing politically while likely losing a tad of respect from a few winemakers and a wine association or two. It appears, by the way, that the powerful California Wine Institute favored the legislation while Family Winemakers of California opposed the legislation.

Those opposing the legislation accurately portrayed the legislation as being unfair. Of course by definition, singling out one thing is unfair. But recognizing greatness and significance is not about fair. It’s about recognizing singularity and greatness.

Others thought that by singling out Zinfandel it might give Zin producers an unfair sales boost at the hands of the state. Perhaps it would have offered  minor and temporary boost. And I’m going to spend the rest of the morning trying to figure out how that’s bad.

The Governor made a poor decision. Honesty and history suffered.

Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP) statement on the Veto and news can be found here.


6 Responses

  1. Mike - August 30, 2006

    I’m a little confused that ZAP is so upset about this. Their charter states
    The common focus is the preservation and recognition of Zinfandel as America’s heritage wine.
    Are they trying to make Zin America’s grape one state at a time?

  2. Rob Cole - August 30, 2006

    I have a winemaking “how-to” book called “Grapes into Wine” by Phillip Wagner (original winemaker at Boordy Vineyards and one of the first to propagate V. vinifera in the east after prohibition) in which he states that Cab Sauv is California’s best grape. He also says that sometimes the Zin can make wines that almost rival the Cab Sauv. Now this book was published in the early ’70s, so obviously, the course of things has changed since then. But was he wrong back in the early ’70s that the Cab Sauv was more important to California than Zin? (I’m honestly asking, because I don’t have much knowldege of the history of the 2 grapes in California.)

  3. John - August 30, 2006

    I know little–correct that–nothing about the debate.
    Yes, a political move, but what advantages exactly would being declared “historic wine” truly bring? A cluster of Zinfandel grapes becoming a part of the state flag? Would the decision be a laughing stock 150 years from now when Santa Rita Hills is believed by all experts to have surpassed Burgundy in it’s perceived exceptionality? AFTER governement grants, protections & preservations of all useless things not yet imagined, subsidies at the expense of yet undetermined and potentially more significant varities, corporate welfare programs for the disadvantaged to those even remotely associated with Zin, etc., etc.,etc…
    Seems like a postage stamp or something along those lines would be just as appropriate at this extraordinarily (comparatively) young stage of the evolution of the Cal. wine industry. Heck, for that matter, what of the other states with less tolerance for beauracratic nonsense that feel just as strongly that THEIR grapes are so “significant.” Another pissing contest to see who can grease the politician’s hand with jobs for his grandchildren, freebies, and such?
    C’mon, wouldn’t it enough to know that CALIFONIA can be so, so diverse, so powerful, so nurturing, it’s presence so dominating, that it doesn’t need “protection” or some type of “official” recognition? Is there anyone of drinking age in the U.S., or in the world for that matter, that doesn’t know that California produces wine, and yes, even Zinfandel? A martian landing on earth might think that the Zin folks (or any folks seeking this “exalted” status- meaningless to me personally) are unable to be phenomenally successful on their own and “need” some kind of “assistance,” even if tertiarily. (is that a word?)
    Enough of me, I’ve gone on…..must be the Zin in my glass after work.
    Having a very cool & relaxing evening here on my patio in Ohio.

  4. Gene - Seattle Wine Blog - August 30, 2006

    OK, so maybe Zin should be declared the state grape of Croatia, but is Zin grown in France, Italy, Australia? Is it grown in the other 49 states? Well, maybe in miniscule quantities. Even though Dr. Carole Merdith and her Croatian colleagues found the ancestor of Zinfandel in Croatia and it is related to the Primativo grape in Italy, Zinfandel is the distinctive grape of California. Just because some of the oldest Zinfandel comes from the “backward” Sierra foothills rather than the ritzy Napa Valley, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be declared the state grape. John, this isn’t exactly a governement “handout”, it’s just like a state bird or flower. For a change it’s just about recognition rather than the profit motive, or is the anticipated flood of Merlot threatening the financial well being of the already well off Napa growers? Maybe the Girly Man has been watching too many movies and thinks that Pinot Noir should be the state grape.

  5. Mike - August 30, 2006

    Zinfandel is certainly grown in Australia. Not much, of course, so maybe it could be the grape for just a little part of Australia, say Bondi Beach!

  6. JohnLopresti - August 31, 2006

    I think Gov Schwarzenegger vetoed it so he would seem like 007 grabbing gold bars and the limelite. Actually, I wrote the bill’s author from LA to suggest the Carpenteria Vine be named the state grapevine, a mission varietal; but, as one commenter observes, zin needs to develop, at the hands of growers selecting clones and enologists recognizing terroir. Carole Meredith did wonderful DNA work, but what she is doing now is developing a vineyard winery operation with her friend; the specialty grape: syrah; that is all prof. Meredith makes, they are near Mt. Veeder; and her photos on their website of bay fog and Veeder protruding, slopes in terraced vines, are marvelous. Prof. Meredith also surprised the cab sauv afficionados by showing cab sauv’s DNA proves cab franc is one of its Parents. And given the turbulent political situation in the country of origin of zin, I can understand why she retired when she did; the tale, as I recall it, is her zin cultivar was sourced to a single castle in Vienna; and records showed its origin in Albania or maybe further east. I have wanted to write prof Meredith again to ask why she selected syrah; my guess would be that her DNA research pointed to another land that is difficult for us to travel, somewhere between the Tigris, Euphrates, and Tehran, although a lot of those peoples in our times culturally accept only table grapes but not fermented wine. Tom’s article on Lebanon winemaking a month ago reminded me again in my following some of the links, that Lebanon bridges from the conservative to the secular societies in the near east.
    There are some modern Dry Creek winemaker vineyardists who cherish their goblet shaped gnarly old vine zinfandel; the owner of Preston comes to mind. There is a vineyard that saves the good plants, and interplants with new grafts when a noble old vine reaches senility.
    I am still learning about Australian viticulture; I knew they had developed their own syrah viticulture, and the cab family, but there is a lot more going on there now.
    I doubt, by contrast, Schwarzenegger would have signed gladly a bill by a Parlier CA legislator extolling the value of the rootstock developed there named Dog Ridge; no glamor. How about AxR2; now there is a trully CA name recognized vine rootstock.
    I suppose he would have signed, too, a bill proclaiming two buck chuck a CA varietal, or, simply, how about the state’s awarding historical medals of honor to the oldest and largest wineries, Gallo; how about a cheer for Brother Timothy’s work, may he rest in peace.
    What moved CA into the world of fine winemaking was hard work at the Univ of CA. I think, however, those of us who worked for some of the best winemakers are very glad modern technology methods have improved vinification and winegrape growing. But we are making progress; that is why US style has spread to Europe; and our consumers are leaders in this respect, as well; in a way, the US winemaking style relates a lot to US lifestyle, which is exported with the wine as its beverage.
    I had not heard of Schwarzenegger as a wine consumer, but, doubtless, like so many other folks with solid finances and a modern outlook, he is learning along with all of the rest of us.

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