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California Zinfandel's Evolution: A Focus on Terroir-Driven Excellence

Christopher Mora
February 1, 2024 | Christopher Mora

California Zinfandel's Evolution: A Focus on Terroir-Driven Excellence

California Zinfandel's Evolution: A Focus on Terroir-Driven Excellence

Christopher Cellars proudly participated in the prestigious Grand Tasting event hosted by ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates & Producers) on January 27th. For those discovering ZAP for the first time, it stands as a dedicated force in preserving, educating, and fostering an appreciation for Zinfandel. This grape holds a unique position in our cultural and historical tapestry, and through ZAP, we celebrate its global significance.

Our passion for Zinfandel runs deep, rooted in the Lodi Appellation, where 40% of California's old vines thrive. The rich history of these vineyards in our backyard is a constant source of excitement and inspiration.

At the Grand Tasting, we proudly unveiled our 2022 Zinfandel Cuvée from Lodi AVA, a meticulously crafted blend sourced from two exceptional Zinfandel vineyards: Cherryhouse and Stampede, owned by Jeff and John Perlegos. Our aim was to showcase the distinctiveness of the Lodi Appellation by harnessing the unique qualities of the Clements Hills AVA and Mokelumne River AVA. Stampede vineyard Zinfandel, harvested at lower brix levels (22.5-23.5), imparts heightened tannins, increased acidity, and vibrant red fruit tones. In contrast, Cherryhouse vineyard, nestled in the Mokelumne River AVA, is picked slightly riper (24.5-25 brix), contributing black fruit characteristics, plush tannins, and a delicate balance between fresh and ripe fruit notes, complemented by subtle earthiness. The marriage of these two vineyards results in a well-balanced wine that harmoniously blends the structural elements from Stampede with the juicy fruit and richness from Cherryhouse—a true representation of the Lodi Appellation.

Additionally, we showcased our single vineyard designated wine, Zinfandel Cherryhouse Vineyard. This expression beautifully captures the essence of the Mokelumne River AVA, with clusters resembling tight grenades, producing wines that boast rich fruit, silky tannins, and hints of earthiness.

In a recent feature titled "Letters From Lodi," Randy Caparoso explores the evolution of California Zinfandel, spotlighting the resurgence of this varietal, largely credited to the efforts of ZAP. Caparoso underscores ZAP's pivotal role in preserving old vine Zinfandel plantings and reshaping perceptions of the varietal. In this narrative, Christopher Cellars is commended for embracing a "new" low-intervention style, allowing the true essence of the grape to shine through native yeast fermentation and minimal oak influence. The 2021 Christopher Cellars Zinfandel from Cherryhouse Vineyard is specifically hailed as quintessentially fragrant and flowery, embodying a sleek, vibrant, acid-driven medium body—a departure from the historical perception of Zinfandel as exclusively "jammy."


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