Zinfandel is more or less a Californian grape. It is synonymous with the Italian primitivo grape, though its origins are unknown. Wherever it came from, California Zinfandel has its own style. Wines made from Zinfandel grapes typically have high levels of alcohol, with concentrated fruit flavors and a good helping of spice.
By the turn of the century, Zinfandel was known as California’s Claret, and this was partially responsible for its decline. Because it was the most planted grape, and because of its natural tendency for high yields, Zinfandel suffered a lack of respect. Zinfandel producers failed to keep yields low, and were making bland, ordinary table wines. If yields are limited, however, and the climate cool enough for a suitably long growing season, Zinfandel has the potential to be great. It excels in the Dry Creek, Russian River, and Alexander Valleys of Sonoma, as well as the northern parts of Napa Valley.