15 Sonoma Wineries to Visit if You Love Zinfandel

These wineries offer a great introduction to Sonoma County’s superb zins.

Zinfandel is often thought of as the quintessential American grape. But, like other grape varieties, it was brought to the United States from Europe. 

Determining the exact origin of a grape variety and how and when it journeyed across the Atlantic to the United States can be difficult. The origin of zinfandel remained a mystery for decades until the early 2000s when researchers managed to trace its roots to Croatia’s Dalmatia region. 

Research at that time also found that the first zinfandel vine was imported to the United States in the late 1820s by a Long Island, N.Y., nursery owner. The vine cuttings may have come from the Imperial Collection of Plant Species in Vienna, which, in the late 18th century, included vines from every part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, including Croatia. 

Zinfandel then made its way west just after the Gold Rush and California’s statehood. (Some accounts claim that Agoston Haraszthy, the pioneer winemaker and founder of Sonoma’s Buena Vista Winery, brought the grape to California.) The European grape variety thrived in California’s Mediterranean climate and soon became one of the state’s most widely planted varieties. 

While zinfandel is now made all over the Golden State, it is most closely associated with Sonoma County. Here, warm days and cool nights allow winemakers to produce some of the best zinfandels in the world. The region’s varied terrain, terroir and climate also allow for a variety of expressions of the grape; from light, refreshing rosés to bold, jammy reds. 

Click through the above gallery for 15 wineries that offer a great introduction to Sonoma County’s zins. (Remember to call ahead to make reservations as these wineries are popular with visitors.)