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California Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon has been referred to as the king of red winegrapes. Cabernet Sauvignons and blends where the variety predominates are some of the most prized wines produced in California. The grape is also the main ingredient in blends for many of the famous red wines in the world. Cabernet Sauvignons are dry, full flavored and made to be long lived for many labels. The aging potential can be upwards of 10-20 years, though five to nine years is more usual and many can be enjoyed upon release. Fans of Cabernet Sauvignon are familiar with the wine’s common descriptors: berry, currant and cassis or herbaceous, bell pepper and toasty oak aromas and flavors. For traditional California table wine volume sold in U.S. food stores, Cabernet Sauvignon is the second leading varietal after Chardonnay, according to the Nielsen Company and Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates.

The Cabernet Sauvignon Grape

DNA genetic fingerprinting research at the University of California at Davis has revealed Cabernet Sauvignon to be a cross between the Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. The variety is California’s most widely planted red winegrape with 90,782 acres reported in 2016. Napa Valley, San Luis Obispo County, Sonoma and Lodi/San Joaquin County are the regions with the most plantings.

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Top 10 California Counties for Cabernet Sauvignon Acreage, 2016

County 2016 Total Acres
Napa 20,759
San Luis Obispo 13,772
Sonoma 12,299
San Joaquin 12,174
Monterey 4,851
Sacramento 4,488
Lake 4,183
Madera 4,016
Mendocino 2,892
Merced 1,950
Other 9,398
STATE TOTAL 90,782

Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service

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California Cabernet Sauvignon Grape Crush Tonnage

Year Tons Crushed
2016 566,574
2015 455,594
2014 510,179
2013 524,086
2012 496,774
2011 384,302
2010 446,199
2009 442,769
2008 326,212
2007 425,173
2006 423,508
2005 542,480
2004 360,166
2003 396,358
2002 379,161
2001 387,186
2000 357,683
1999 255,732
1998 228,450
1997 226,318
1996 158,643
1995 180,406
1994 171,654
1993 160,035
1992 151,319
1991 134,143
1990 94,177

Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service

California Chardonnay

If Cabernet Sauvignon is the king of red grapes, Chardonnay is the queen of whites. The variety is California's most widely planted winegrape, with 94,532 acres reported in 2016. Chardonnay far and away remains the most popular wine in the U.S. and has continued to be the leading varietal wine for the last decade, with sales increases every year. Chardonnay represented an estimated 20 percent of table wine volume purchased in U.S. food stores in 2016, according to estimates by The Nielsen Company and Gomberg-Fredrikson & Associates. In 2016, California crushed 676,000 tons of Chardonnay.

Fans of Chardonnay are familiar with the wine's classic descriptors: green apple, fig and citrus flavors, a complex aroma, and high acidity for a crisp wine. The wine is often aged in oak to produce toasty, vanilla and buttery overtones.

The Chardonnay Grape

Genetic studies have identified Chardonnay as a cross between Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc. Historical references note California plantings of Chardonnay dating back to the late 1800s, but production remained limited because of the grape's low yields. Most Chardonnay vineyards were uprooted during Prohibition when growers replaced them with thick-skinned varieties that could be shipped cross country. Small plantings in the Livermore Valley and Santa Cruz Mountains survived Prohibition. It was not until the 1970s and thereafter that Chardonnay plantings boomed as the wine became increasingly popular.

Top 10 California Counties for Chardonnay Acreage, 2016

County 2016 Total Acres
Monterey 16,904
Sonoma 15,839
San Joaquin 13,410
Napa 6,926
Yolo 5,428
Madera 5,420
Santa Barbara 5,338
Sacramento 5,041
Mendocino 4,719
San Luis Obispo 2,917
Other 12,590
STATE TOTAL 94,532

Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service

California Chardonnay Grape Crush Tonnage

Year Tons Crushed
2016 675,885
2015 633,594
2014 718,029
2013 758,188
2012 735,775
2011 558,794
2010 656,297
2009 727,078
2008 566,306
2007 589,664
2006 549,502
2005 742,582
2004 568,295
2003 561,677
2002 594,746
2001 568,295
2000 650,524
1999 458,273
1998 428,827
1997 491,406
1996 304,463
1995 286,989

Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service

California Merlot

Of California table wine shipments, Merlot is the third leading red varietal after Cabernet Sauvignon and Red Blends purchased by Americans today. California Merlot consumption held a 7% share of shipments in U.S. food stores in 2016, according to the Nielsen Company and Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates estimates.

What is the reason for Merlot's popularity? Industry observers offer possible explanations. Consumers continue to try red wine because of news reports linking moderate drinking to a healthy lifestyle. Also, white and blush drinkers may be expanding their preferences to red. Merlot may be the choice in both instances because of the soft, approachable and luscious character that is appealing to new and regular red wine drinkers. In restaurants, Merlot's average price is similar to the average price of the widely popular Chardonnay varietal.

The Merlot Grape

Merlot is one of the principal winegrape varieties of the Bordeaux region in France, and was brought to California in the mid-19th century. Historically, vintners have used Merlot as a blending grape to soften a wine, usually with Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot tannins are less forceful than Cabernet Sauvignon, so Merlot wine tends to mature earlier. Merlot is now primarily popular as a varietal wine. Most of the Merlot vines are planted in Lodi/San Joaquin County, followed by Napa Valley, Monterey, and Sonoma counties.

Top California Counties for Merlot Acreage, 2016

County 2016 Total Acres
San Joaquin 7,497
Napa 5,112
Monterey 4,997
Sonoma 4,948
San Luis Obispo 3,942
Sacramento 3,319
Madera 2,784
Merced 1,936
Mendocino 1,412
Yolo 758
Other 4,426
STATE TOTAL 41,131

Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service

California Merlot Grape Crush Tonnage

Year Tons Crushed
2016 268,969
2015 252,889
2014 282,300
2013 346,149
2012 334,916
2011 286,340
2010 310,716
2009 326,356
2008 225,770
2007 304,078
2006 333,501
2005 423,776
2004 292,256
2003 261,085
2002 306,930
2001 273,397
2000 305,151
1999 239,567
1998 201,491
1997 201,707
1996 104,041
1995 73,666
1994 54,200
1993 40,996
1992 37,037
1991 26,493
1990 15,205

Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service

California Moscato/Muscat

Moscato’s popularity has grown in recent years, and comes in styles varied enough to suit every taste. Muscat grapes produce table, sparkling and dessert wines, in shades of white, pink or red, ranging from dry to deliciously sweet. Traditionally, Italian winemakers used the grape to produce low-alcohol, spritzy white wines often poured as an aperitif. While today’s versatile wines pair well with many dishes, sparkling and late-harvest Moscatos are particularly good with fruit tarts or rich cheesecake.

The Muscat grape has been grown around the Mediterranean for many centuries. In fact, Muscat Blanc may be the oldest known winegrape variety. Muscat grapes comes in wine, table and raisin varieties. In addition to Muscat Blanc, which makes the majority of wine in California, other Muscat varieties include Muscat of Alexandria, Orange Muscat, Muscat Gaillo, sometimes called Giallo, Diamond Muscat, and Summer Muscat.

According to Nielsen Company U.S. Supermarket data, 5 percent of the wine sold by volume in U.S. food stores in 2016 was Moscato. The 2016 total crush for all California Muscat grapes came in at 200,602 tons, more than double that of 2011.

Grape Crush Tonnage by Muscat variety

Variety 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Muscat Blanc 23,465 36,649 51,548 45,516 25,968 26,369
Muscat of Alexandria 65,603 78,418 125,514 158,521 180,237 170,431
Muscat Orange 2,045 2,461 3,358 3,126 3,540 3,790
Moscato Gaillo 38 84 92 33 47 12
Summer Muscat 4 3 5 5 -- --
Diamond Muscat 194 122 8 6 -- --
TOTAL MUSCAT 91,349 117,737 180,525 207,207 209,792 200,602

Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service. Summer Muscat and Diamond Muscat not reported 2015 or 2016.

California Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio is a white wine grape that most often yields a soft, low acidic wine that may be slightly aromatic. With its crisp stone fruit and citrus flavors, California Pinot Grigio adds a refreshing verve to most any light meal. The grape itself has a pinkish-grey skin, hence the name gris (French for grey). Pinot Grigio is the Italian synonym for the grape also commonly known as Pinot Gris, a noble variety that has origins in Alsace, France. In America, the synonyms, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris, are both fairly prevalent. Pinot Grigio is known to be a deviation of the Pinot Noir grape, and leaves of the two varietals are quite similar. Historically, they have grown side by side in the same vineyard.

The popularity of Pinot Grigio has risen in recent years. The acreage in California was reported at 2,835 in the year 2001 and has increased to 16,718 acres in 2016, becoming the third-leading white variety behind Chardonnay (94,532 acres) and French Colombard (18,961 acres). according to the California Grape Acreage Report.

Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio acreage is largest in San Joaquin County with 5,040 acres, representing nearly a third of the state’s 16,718 acres. San Joaquin, along with Fresno, Sacramento and Monterey counties, are responsible for more than half of the state’s total. Today Pinot Grigio is spreading into nearly all the state’s major wine growing counties.


Top 10 California Counties for Pinot Grigio Acreage, 2016

County 2016 Total Acres
San Joaquin 5,040
Fresno 2,180
Sacramento 1,560
Monterey 1,364
Yolo 1,363
Madera 1,066
Merced 572
Santa Barbara 529
Sonoma 441
Solano 403
Other 2,200
STATE TOTAL 16,718

Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service.

California Pinot Grigio Grape Crush Tonnage

Year Tons Crushed
2016 243,736
2015 185,188
2014 181,938
2013 178,887
2012 195,453
2011 173,568
2010 145,607
2009 145,369
2008 90,235
2007 79,342
2006 76,867
2005 66,092
2004 48,280
2003 26,936
2002 17,326
2001 9,626
2000 6,596
1999 3,473
1998 1,237
1997 1,136
1996 457
1995 300
1994 71
1993 76
1992 40
1991 39
1990 36

Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service

California Pinot Noir

When the hit movie "Sideways" was released on October 22, 2004, with the central character Miles extolling the virtues of Pinot Noir, U.S. supermarket sales of the variety jumped 18 percent between October 24, 2004 and July 2, 2005, compared to the same period a year earlier. Pinot Noir, however, had been steadily growing in popularity long before "Sideways" helped propel the wine into mainstream American awareness. In 2016, California crushed 253,995 tons of Pinot Noir, compared to more than 32,000 tons of Pinot Noir crushed in 1990, according to the California Grape Crush Reports. Clearly, Americans are expanding their preference for the fresh raspberry, plum, rose and spice flavors and aromas of Pinot Noir.

The Pinot Noir Grape

Pinot Noir can be complex, elusive and difficult to grow. Yet many winemakers will make Pinot Noir because the resulting wines can reap a reward as great as the challenge. This noble red wine variety is ancient, described by Romans in 100 A.D. and cultivated in the Burgundy region of France as early as the 4th century. Pinot Noir is prone to genetic variation, and has more clones than any other variety. The University of California, Davis, has some 100 registered Pinot Noir clones. The variety does well in the coolest growing areas where it develops excellent color and flavor.

Top 10 California Counties for Pinot Noir Acreage, 2016

County 2016 Total Acres
Sonoma 12,527
Monterey 9,720
Santa Barbara 5,272
Napa 2,838
Mendocino 2,720
San Joaquin 2,717
Sacramento 2,196
San Luis Obispo 2,051
Yolo 1,009
Merced 922
Other 2,606
STATE TOTAL 44,578

Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service.

California Pinot Noir Grape Crush Tonnage

Year Tons Crushed
2016 253,995
2015 184,969
2014 245,751
2013 259,897
2012 248,469
2011 170,450
2010 147,732
2009 156,704
2008 105,678
2007 89,519
2006 105,971
2005 94,736
2004 70,062
2003 58,185
2002 54,156
2001 63,501
2000 53,050
1999 36,653
1998 28,923
1997 48,319
1996 36,642
1995 28,917
1994 31,918
1993 36,378
1992 37,060
1991 34,396
1990 32,295

Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service.

California Riesling

Riesling is an aromatic white grape variety known for its high acidity and flowery aromas that tend to thrive in cooler wine growing regions. It is the main winegrape of Germany but has significant plantings throughout the new and old world wine regions. Riesling is used to make a wide range of wines from dry to sweet and is sometimes used in sparkling wines. The grape is known to greatly express the terroir of where it is grown, but will still maintain the characteristics which identify it. Riesling has been described as flowery, honey-like, and complex, as well as spicy and long lasting or lingering on the palate. Try Riesling with Thai spring rolls, spicy stir-fried chicken, or a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich on crusty country bread.

In California, Riesling is also known by its botanical name or synonym White Riesling. The ice wine, late harvest, and botrytized Rieslings are among the most prized and age-worthy wines in the world.

The acreage of Riesling has grown over the last decade in California to 4,009 acres. Monterey County is by far the leader with 1,651 acres.

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Top 10 California Counties for Riesling Acreage, 2016

County 2016 Total Acres
Monterey 1,651
Merced 846
Yolo 282
San Joaquin 231
Santa Barbara 228
San Luis Obispo 113
San Benito 105
Sacramento 94
Napa 87
Madera 69
Other 303
STATE TOTAL 4,009

Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service
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California Riesling Grape Crush Tonnage

Year Tons Crushed
2016 41,275
2015 35,879
2014 36,517
2013 37,833
2012 36,925
2011 27,756
2010 25,751
2009 22,101
2008 15,397
2007 13,880
2006 11,135
2005 12,895
2004 9,224
2003 8,466
2002 7,659
2001 9,074
2000 9,531
1999 7,759
1998 9,946
1997 11,929
1996 13,141
1995 14,484
1994 13,427
1993 17,451
1992 21,221
1991 18,350
1990 20,092

Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service

California Rosé & Other Blanc de Noir Wines

Pink is charming and pretty — the color of flowers, seashells, clouds at twilight or the soft glitter of fire opals. Pink is also the color of some delicious wines. The wines appear delicate, but many are strong enough to stand up to spicy foods. They are also light enough to be a versatile match with a variety of lighter dishes. These pretty wines are known by several names including rosé, blanc de noir, vin gris or simply blush. The wines may also have a name using the single grape variety from which they may be made, such as White Zinfandel, White Grenache, Pinot Noir Blanc or White Merlot.

White Zinfandel accounts for the majority of blush wine consumed in the U.S. A favorite since the 1970s, these crisp, slightly sweet (generally 2.5% residual sugar) wines have introduced many consumers to the enjoyment of wine. For 52 weeks ending June 17, 2017, pink wines accounted for 9.3% of the volume sold in large volume food stores and other large volume outlets in the U.S., according to Nielsen figures.

The other wines in the pink genre are the bone-dry rosés and blanc de noirs. Gaining accolades and market share, these beautiful dry wines have high acidity, and complex aromas and fruit flavors. From a smaller base, dry rosés gained over 26% volume share of the blush category last year, per Nielsen.

Winemakers use nearly all types of red grapes to produce these wines. For rosés, well-colored grape skins are allowed only brief contact with the clear juice after crushing to produce the light crimson hues of a rosé wine, generally an average of six to 24 hours of skin contact. Blanc de noir wines, a term applied to white wines from black grapes, also known as vin gris-style wines, are also produced by quickly separating the clear juice from the color-laden grape skins, but immediately after crushing so that only the barest blush of pale color remains in the wine. Both rosé and blanc de noir wines are then made like white wines.

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Table Wine Trends in U.S. Food Stores and Other Large Outlets

Year % Market Share by Value, Total Table Blush* % Market Share by Volume, Total Table Blush
2016 6.1% 9.3%

Source: Nielsen Company. Wine sales in U.S. food stores and other off-premise measured channels from all domestic and foreign producers
* Includes White Zinfandel, White Grenache, White Merlot, and Other Blush

California Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is a noble grape variety that produces some of the world’s most popular wines. In California, the wineries label their products as Sauvignon Blanc or Fumé Blanc. The wines have a range of distinctive tastes from citrus, green olive and herbaceous characteristics to a range of fruit flavors—green apple, grapefruit, pineapple, fig and melon. The flavor styles come from the Sauvignon Blanc grape itself but are also the expression of the climate, soil, vineyard practices and winemaking techniques. Sauvignon Blanc is often blended with other varietal wines, particularly Semillon, which adds a honeyed note to the wine. Generally, the wines are crisp, light, fresh and dry. A versatile food match, it pairs well with chicken, seafood, mildly spiced ethnic dishes and more.

The grape variety was first planted in California in the Livermore Valley in the 19th century. According to the 2016 California Grape Acreage Report, Sauvignon Blanc has almost 15,000 acres in California. It is the fourth-leading white wine variety behind Chardonnay (94,532 acres), French Colombard (18,961 acres), and Pinot Gris (16,718 acres).

Top California Counties for Sauvignon Blanc Acreage, 2016

County 2016 Total Acres
Napa 2,702
Sonoma 2,574
Lake 2,014
San Joaquin 1,490
Sacramento 1,205
Monterey 948
Yolo 930
Santa Barbara 743
Mendocino 689
San Luis Obispo 483
Other 974
STATE TOTAL 14,752

Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service

 

California Sauvignon Blanc Grape Crush Tonnage

Year Tons Crushed
2016 107,549
2015 88,256
2014 110,420
2013 127,655
2012 113,269
2011 79,075
2010 103,124
2009 119,448
2008 92,236
2007 106,120
2006 110,142
2005 116,857
2004 78,806
2003 82,601
2002 76,587
2001 74,411
2000 74,999
1999 52,934
1998 61,548
1997 74,701
1996 48,638
1995 64,400
1994 70,155
1993 71,636
1992 77,853
1991 81,012
1990 60,223

Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service

California Sparkling Wine

Sparkling wine is a beverage that brings to mind several thoughts—celebration, success, luxury, love and romance. These pleasant associations seem to be as strong now as they ever were. And because the wine is offered with different levels of sweetness, menu planners use the wine as an aperitif or a versatile accompaniment to a variety of foods such as salty nuts and cheese, lightly-spiced fish and Asian dishes, fried foods, strawberries and more. California has more than 300 producers and shipped 11 million cases of sparkling wine/champagne to U.S. markets in 2016. Total U.S. and foreign-produced sparkling wine/champagne shipped to the U.S. in 2016 was 25.6 million cases. The category holds a 6.4 percent share of the U.S. wine market.

Several U.S. producers label their sparkling wines “champagne,” and the U.S. government allows the use of the champagne term on U.S. brands established on or before March 2006 as long as the geographic origin accompanies the champagne term on the label. New U.S. brands after this date are not allowed to use the champagne term. Traditional winegrape varieties used in California sparkling wine/champagne production are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc, though many other varieties are used, depending upon the style, production process and price point.

Major Production Processes

Following are the two most common methods used for sparkling wine production:

Méthode champenoise—Still wine is used as a base wine in the process. A blend of base wine, yeast nutrient and a sugar source is added to the base wine. The mixture is sealed, fermented a second time and aged in the bottle, which captures the carbon dioxide released in the fermenting process producing the bubbles.

Charmat process—Still wines are fermented in a pressurized tank. Sugar and yeast are added for a second fermentation, but the wine remains in the tank for this stage of the process and is not fermented in individual bottles.

Styles

Sparkling wine ranges in style from very dry (Natural), dry (Brut), and slightly sweet (Extra Dry) to sweet (Sec and Demi-Sec). (Wines with no noticeable sweetness are described as “dry.”) Many sparkling wines are also identified as “Blanc de Blancs” (wines made from Chardonnay grapes), “Blanc de Noirs” (wines produced from black grapes), or rosé or pink sparkling wine/champagnes (small amount of red wine added to the blend or wine that is allowed brief skin contact with color-laden grape skins).
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Top 10 U.S. Metro Markets for
Sparkling Wine/Champagne in 2015:

(Thousands (000) of 9-liter cases)

New York-Newark-Edison 2,025 Miami-Ft. Lauderdale-Miami Beach 479
Chicago-Naperville-Joliet 1,754 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario 472
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana 1,559 Detroit-Warren-Livonia 429
San Francisco-Oakland, Fremont 633 San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos 393
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy 485 Washington, DC-Arlington-Alexandria 386

Source: 2016 The Beverage Information Group.

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Top 10 States for Consumption of
Sparkling Wine/Champagne in 2015:

(9-liter cases)

1. California 4,220,700 6. Michigan 949,700
2. Illinois 2,087,100 7. New Jersey 770,400
3. New York 1,858,900 8. Pennsylvania 567,900
4. Florida 1,427,900 9. Massachusetts 550,400
5. Texas 1,163,500 10. Ohio 425,800

Source: 2016 The Beverage Information Group.

California Syrah

Syrah is a noble grape variety that can produce some serious, long-lived red wines. The usual aroma and flavor descriptors include blackberry, cassis, black pepper, smoke, as well as dry, dark and tannic.

The Syrah Grape

Through DNA testing, Syrah has shown to be a cross of a black variety, Dureza, and a white variety, Mondeuse, both with origins in France's Rhône region and earlier fabled origins in the Middle East. The grape is also known as Sirah, and in Australia and South Africa, it is called Shiraz. It should not be confused with Petite Sirah, which is altogether a different grape variety, identified more recently as Durif through DNA testing.

Although Syrah acreage has existed in California for some time, such as the pre-Prohibition plantings in Mendocino County, substantial plantings have occurred in the 1990s. Today, as of 2016, the most acreage is in San Luis Obispo County with 2,346 acres, followed by San Joaquin County, 1,852 acres, and Sonoma County, 1,691 acres. Syrah’s grape crush of 108,355 tons in 2016 accounted for 2.6 percent of the total state winegrape crush.

Top 10 California Counties for Syrah Acreage, 2016

County 2016 Total Acres
San Luis Obispo 2,346
San Joaquin 1,852
Sonoma 1,691
Madera 1,562
Monterey 1,426
Fresno 1,352
Santa Barbara 1,307
Sacramento 1,014
Napa 890
Mendocino 658
Other 3063
STATE TOTAL 17,161

Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service

California Syrah Grape Crush Tonnage

Year Tons Crushed
2016 108,355
2015 93,260
2014 114,298
2013 132,538
2012 132,486
2011 109,423
2010 127,630
2009 133,003
2008 102,231
2007 126,945
2006 118,241
2005 147,312
2004 101,249
2003 110,249
2002 101,538
2001 89,144
2000 72,787
1999 44,099
1998 22,017
1997 9,983
1996 5,099
1995 3,444
1994 2,570
1993 1,975
1992 1,191
1991 865
1990 586

Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service.

California Zinfandel

In recent history, Zinfandel was California’s “mystery grape” because its origins were unknown. DNA fingerprinting has confirmed that Italy’s Primitivo and Crljenak Kastelanski, an ancient Croatian variety, are genetically identical to Zinfandel grapes. However, differences in vine vigor and cluster size distinguish Zinfandel from its genetic twins, and further differences in cultivation, terroir and winemaking combine to give California Zinfandel its own particular flavor profile with a truly American name, history and style. On wine labels, U.S. regulations require that Zinfandel and Primitivo be identified separately.

Studies indicate that the grape used for making California Zinfandel probably originated in Croatia. Historians believe that in the 1820s, a nursery owner brought Zinfandel cuttings that were Croatian in origin to the United States from an Austrian collection. The Zinfandel name, however, is truly American—the earliest and only documented use of the name is in America where a Boston nursery owner advertised Zinfandel for sale in 1832.

Zinfandel was introduced to California during the Gold Rush somewhere between 1852 and 1857 and became widely planted because it thrived so well in the state’s climate and soil. Today, Zinfandel is the third-leading winegrape variety in California, with more than 44,400 acres planted and 416,615 tons crushed in 2016, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. It is grown in 45 of California’s 58 counties. Although Zinfandel is a red winegrape, the majority of Zinfandel grapes is used to make a rosé (blush) wine called White Zinfandel. Promoted to the world by the state’s vintners for more than 130 years, Zinfandel has grown beyond cult status and is now internationally recognized due to the unique character and high quality wines that are produced only in the Golden State.

Popular descriptors for red Zinfandel include blackberry, raspberry, boysenberry, cherry, as well as black pepper, cloves, anise and herbs.

Advocacy Group: Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP) is a nonprofit association that organizes seminars, educational programs and wine tastings across the U.S. to promote Zinfandel and its high quality reputation. Their annual Zinfandel Experience in January in San Francisco is the largest single varietal tasting of its kind. ZAP supports research surrounding the history and origins of the Zinfandel grape. Web site: www.zinfandel.org.

Top California Counties for Zinfandel Acreage 2016

Counties 2016 Total Acres
San Joaquin 18,191
Sonoma 5,052
Fresno 3,291
Madera 2,420
Amador 2,028
San Luis Obispo 2,027
Mendocino 1,861
Napa 1,415
Kern 1,184
Sacramento 1,084
Other 5,893
TOTAL 44,446

Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service

California Zinfandel Winegrape Crush

Year Tons Crushed
2016 416,615
2015 388,396
2014 355,599
2013 469,216
2012 448,039
2011 345,168
2010 394,177
2009 446,942
2008 397,982
2007 407,630
2006 341,874
2005 448,144
2004 321,899
2003 327,701
2002 369,772
2001 336,547
2000 404,167
1999 324,397
1998 339,712
1997 421,595
1996 299,843
1995 326,694
1990 185,492
1985 123,370
1980 115,971
1976 72,790

Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service