Another good article by Jon Bonné


Hmmm…I understand the difference but maybe not fully the distinction. We have an open tasting room with no fee for tasting, we pour dozens of wines at a free Open House, we have raised our prices much if at all. I think that is all populist in nature. It certainly is trying to represent the desires of the majority of people in those ways.

I also think Zinfandel was classically populist in nature in the same way…see Pedroncelli and Foppiano.

Adam Lee

Adam, I think you know the answers to all of these questions. Let’s go back to growlers of zin! Not that that would help those of us not in the neighborhood.

I’ve also heard about the issues that Nate brings up and I tend to believe that Nate is correct in his assessment.

Adam, it is getting hard to not use a political analogy. To many people populist has negative connotations. Class warfare is populist. Anti-immigration propaganda can be populist. Appealing to people’s base instincts can be populist.

Just because you have affordable and non-exploitive business practices, doesn’t mean you are populist. Maybe you meet part of the definition, but I just don’t see you as the brown-coat of the wine world. You also aren’t insulting other winemakers here for daring to sell their wine for $100 or more. Just for making statements about wine growing or making that you disagree with.

Peter, growlers of zin. There is an idea I can get behind.


I never really linked Populism with necessarily negative connotations. While George Wallace might be considered to be populist, I also think John Anderson, Ross Perot, and Elizabeth Warren are as well…and I’d have a difficult time finding a lot of consistent political positions between that group.

I am really not trying to be argumentative. I am seriously curious. I sent an email to Mike Officer about this earlier, and about Zinfandel in general. I guess I am truly wondering if there was really a downturn (decline, dark ages – name your word) in Zinfandel (and if there are any sales figures that back up there being one). And if so, are we now in an upturn (Renaissance, name the word again) and if that is born out. — And then, if those things did happen…what cause them and what has changed now. — Up until this point, I am not completely convinced that has occurred.

I do find it fascinating that some Zinfandel vines (very good Zinfandel vines) were “saved” by the White Zinfandel movement (was that populist?) and if so, is it just the style of wine that is made that defines populism of a grape type?

Lastly, if wine were as Populist as say Beer, would that be a good thing for the wine business (I tend to think it would).

Oh, and I thought Jon’s list of recommend Zins was about as diverse in style as I can imagine. And I don’t have any issues with what was not included…he can’t taste everything…he is definitely looking for submissions to taste, rather than a huge comprehensive tasting.

Adam Lee
Siduri Wines

Well, that’s fair. You don’t link populism to negative connotations, but context is everything, and Bonné clearly did. It’s his article, and he’s definitely using the pejorative approach to Zin populism.

I just read the article again, and Bonné never linked populism to Zin sales, he linked it to style. I sure hope that Mike would agree that there was a general movement towards riper, sweeter, and bigger Zins in the 90’s. Whether that is still true, or changed just now, or started to reverse a few years ago is another good conversation.

I think the answer to your question is yes, according to Bonne’s article. Also, please note that sadly some vineyards weren’t saved by white zin, like Mike’s beloved Pietro’s, grubbed in favor of Pinot.

If think if wine were as popular as beer, that would be good. I don’t particularly care about more $7 populist wine though.

I am also not trying to be argumentative. I just think you are using a different definition of populism than the author intended. No biggie. [cheers.gif]


I do care about more $7 populist wine. The United States is 52nd per capita in the world in wine consumption. I think more people drinking more wine would only be good for the wine business in America (and allow for more pressure on lawmakers to allow direct shipping, etc). Perhaps I am happy with the simple things.

Perhaps you are right about Populism being only applied to style (though I think the comments about the ZAP tasting might lead one to conclude otherwise. The Populism theme has been there for awhile: It's time to heal the great Zinfandel divide and San Francisco Restaurants and Food News - SFGATE. It is worth noting the 2014 tasting was the second change in the Tasting format in the last two years). BUT, whatever the case, I still don’t know that even that style populism has been shown to leading to any type of downfall for Zinfandel. Again, I’d be interested to see if that is the case.

Also, just an odd piece of information…but in 2011 (coldest vintage in recent memory, etc) the average brix for Zinfandel in Sonoma was 24.8 and 25 in Napa. That’s up about 1.5 brix from 2000 and between 2-3 brix from 1997 (a warmer year). What makes it difficult to figure is how much White Zinfandel is included in these numbers (less because it is Napa and Sonoma, but still some). Perhaps more instructive is that the brix for Zinfandel in Napa and Sonoma in 2012, a moderate vintage, was almost the same as it was in the two hottest recent vintages, 2003 and 2004. White Zin was not, I don’t think, a big factor in any of those numbers.

Adam Lee
Siduri Wines

I’ve been to a new winery a couple of times where they had an off-dry super-ripe Zin in the line-up, where the wine maker wasn’t happy with it (it stuck and nothing they tried got it going), my wine friends I was with and I didn’t much care for it, but it was clearly the crowd favorite and top seller. I think those two(!) snap shots capture something. How many more winemakers stumbled upon this style not as a goal to make a “populist” wine, but merely by taking the easiest path to avoid green character in their Zins.

Also, remember that Sutter Home started out making dry White Zin, and customer feedback led them on their path to sweetness. The way it took off, the way it brought people to wine, certainly was populist.

Au Contraire, Monsieur Lee… the Perdoncelli and Foppiano (and Parducci) Zins were boring as hell.
The Novy Zins are definitely not.

Also, remember that Sutter Home started out making dry White Zin, and customer feedback led them on their path to sweetness. The way it took off, the way it brought people to wine, certainly was populist.

The first SH WZ was, indeed, dry. And quite an attractive wine it was…followed it from the very start, I did. It was actually much better that the first WZ of DavidBruce/DaveBennion in 1968…
those two were pretty dry & austere (kinda like some WhitePinots I’ve had from some producers). But, as SH ratcheted up the RS (and the sales as well), it became a charactericture of their first WZ.
I thought Jon’s article was a bit on the quotidian side…I didn’t learn all that much from it. Maybe he’s feeling some pressure (from his Editors? From the InterNet bloggers?) to write a column
a bit more mainstream?? If his next column is on a 10 yr vertical of Rombauer Chard, then we know that’s the case. I suspect they give Jon pretty much free-rein at the Chron, though.