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Top 10 Old Vine Zinfandel Vineyards

Great Zinfandel is made in the vineyard. The quality of a bottle of Zinfandel is almost always correlated with the age of the vineyard from which it comes. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the state of California where most of the best Zinfandels come from vineyards that literally date back to the turn of the 20th century.

The Historic Vineyard Society was founded several years ago and is dedicated to the preservation California’s historic vineyards. Most of the vineyards registered at the Historic Vineyard Society are planted to field blends which include Zinfandel. These vineyards are truly a living, breathing link to California’s winemaking past.

Below is a list of my top 10 old vine Zinfandel Vineyards.

  1. Old Hill Ranch – The vineyard dates back to the 1880’s and is currently a fruit source for Ravenswood and Bucklin. Old Hill Ranch is possibly the oldest continuously farmed vineyard in the state.
  2. Hayne Vineyard – The vineyard was planted in 1902 and 1903 and is located on the west side of St. Helena at the base of Spring Mountain. Hayne Vineyard Zinfandel goes to Turley, Carlisle and Chase.
  3. Monte Rosso – Monte Rosso was planted in the 1880’s by Emanuel Goldstein and the original winery is still on the property. Located off of Highway 12 in Sonoma the grapes are being used by Carlisle, Bedrock, Louis Martini and Robert Biale.
  4. Papera Ranch – Papera Ranch is located on the eastern side of the Laguna de Santa Rosa in the Russian River AVA of Sonoma County. The vineyard is named for Charley Papera, who planted the vines in 1934. The fruit is used by Williams Selyem, Carlisle, Bedrock and Novy.
  5. Pagani Ranch – The vineyard is just off Highway 12 in the Glen Ellen area of Sonoma County. Angela and Felice Pagani came to Sonoma County from Italy, purchased the property and planted the vineyard in the early 1900’s. The fruit goes to Ridge, Seghesio, Biale, Bedrock and Carlisle.
  6. Ueberroth Vineyard – Owned by the ex-commissioner of baseball Peter Ueberroth, the limestone vineyard is situated on the west side of Paso Robles. Ueberroth is the oldest vineyard in the appelation having been planted in 1885. Turley has made an Ueberroth Vineyard Zinfandel since 2002.
  7. Montafi Ranch – Montafi Ranch, formerly Tom Feeney Vineyard, was planted in 1926 and sits on the Santa Rosa city limits. The vineyard is mostly Zinfandel but does contain a healthy amount of Alicante Bouschet and Grand Noir de la Calmette. The fruit goes to Carlisle.
  8. Bedrock Vineyard – The site formerly known as Madrone Ranch was first planted in 1854. Senator George Hearst purchased the property in 1888 and planted most of the vines that exist to this day. Located in the Sonoma Valley the vineyard is a fruit source for Ravenswood, Carlisle and Bedrock.
  9. Carlisle Vineyard – Carlisle Vineyard was planted in 1927 on the eastern bench of the Laguna de Santa Rosa flood plain. Both sides of the Laguna were popular for settlement by Italian immigrants in the early 1900s. Carlisle, of course, and Novy use the fruit.
  10. Limerick Lane Vineyard – The property is just south of Healdsburg at the end of Limerick Lane. The vineyard was planted around 1910 by Mario Del Fava and has only been farmed by 3 families in the last 100 years. The fruit goes to Limerick Lane, Carlisle and Bedrock

This list is entirely subjective. I really struggled with leaving vineyards like Dickerson, Belloni, Martinelli Road, Jackass Hill, Forchini and Lytton Estate off the list. Since it is subjective I’d love to hear what vineyards I have not mentioned that would have made your top 10.

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6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Glenn #

    Robust list I largely would second. Might have to find a spot somewhere for Grandpere in Amador/El Dorado Cos.

    June 17, 2014
    • I thought about Grandpere. I used to love those Renwood Grandpere Zins made by Scott Harvey in the early 90’s.

      June 17, 2014
  2. gene castellino #

    Great list. I would have included Bacigalupi Vineyard.

    June 18, 2014
    • Good call Gene. Bacigalupi dates back to the 1950’s so it fits the criteria. I adore the Bacigalupi Zinfandel from Williams Selyem.

      June 18, 2014
  3. Andy #

    What do you think of the Pacini vineyard? I would say quality for the price it has no equal on this list.

    June 18, 2014
    • I seem to recall having a Pacini Vineyard Zinfandel from Steele but it has been years if not longer. I’ll try to find a bottle to open.

      June 18, 2014

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