The unique Zinfandel grapes of California's Shenandoah Valley rescued this area from obscurity in the wine world. First settled during the Gold Rush by a group from Virginia, the valley produced wine in the late 1800s, but it did not experience a wine boom until well into the 20th century. During the 1960s and 1970s, most of the grapes were sold to jug wine producers. The first steps towards creating an individual identity began in the late 1970’s, when Sutter Home Winery began using the Shenandoah’s distinctive, heavy and jammy Zinfandel grapes to make a regionally-labeled wine. This put the Valley back on the wine map and in January, 1983, it gained appellation status. The AVA, which spreads into portions of Amador and El Dorado counties, encompasses 10,000 acres, with over 2,000 acres under vine. There are now 16 local wineries, while many of the large California producers continue to access Shenandoah Valley grapes on contract. Of course, the dominant and most highly-regarded grape here is Zinfandel. However, in recent years, there has been much work done with Syrah and producers have achieved remarkable results.
In the southern Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and Georgia vineyards are small and few, yet the establishment of the Upper Hiwassee Highlands could bring much more.
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Shenandoah Valley (CA)
BLUE BOOK PROFILES
Blue Book Taste Profiles for the Shenandoah Valley (CA) AVA
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Jean Deitz Sexton
is the Regional Correspondent for Shenandoah Valley (CA).