The History of Shenandoah Valley Wine
The History of Shenandoah Wine Production
One of the major demands of the mainly young, single men was a steady supply of alcohol. Vineyards were planted and several wineries began to produce wine. From the earliest days, Zinfandel dominated the plantings in the valley. The varietal is well-suited to the abundant sunshine and austere soils.
The wines produced during this time were very alcoholic and often fortified with brandy. After the ban on hydraulicking in 1884, local wine production began a steady decline for the next 70 years. However, not all of the subsequent developments were negative.
The isolation of the region spared many of the vines from the devastation of the phylloxera . The fact that some Zinfandel vines in the Shenandoah Valley date back to the 1860s is indicative of this fact. Grandpere and Esola are two noteworthy old vine vineyards that were planted in during this era.
However, this isolation was a double-edged sword. When Prohibition became law, it was not economically feasible to continue to grow grapes in the Sierra Foothills. While regions like Lodi were close enough to the logistical routes used to ship grapes to home winemakers, the Shenandoah Valley was simply too far away. Wine production reached its lowest point during the 1950s. Only about 370 acres of vineyards remained.
During the 1970s, the region saw a renewed interest in producing wine. Carey Gott founded Montevina Winery in 1970. This was followed by the establishment of Karly Winery by Buck Cobb in 1976. The Trinchero Family (owners of Sutter Home) bought Montevina in 1988 to develop a high end line.
Vineyard acreage has steadily increased in recent years and is currently dominated by Zinfandel and Italian varietals. A number of new wineries have also been established in the AVA. Serenidad Winery is a noteable newcomer that has hit the ground running with some great red wines. Their Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah are particularly good.
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