Last Friday I was privileged to participate in a tasting of Amador Zinfandels at Appellation America. It's a fascinating process, more geared at understanding the distinctiveness of what's happening in an appellation (both terroir and historical marketing influences) than just handing out medals (They do this, too.) This is one of the few tools wineries can use for longterm promotion rather than just moving the vintage on the shelves, and I hope AA will see submittals of the best regional wines, sold out or no.
Anywho, even I, who have been generally disdainful of appellation identity in California am forced to admit that if there is anywhere deserving of a local identity tantamount to, say, Roquefort cheese, it is Amador Zinfandel.
And as much as I beseech winemakers to knock it off with the excessive hangtime, already, I've got to grant that an historical position for these wines as truly the Amarone of the New World qualifies them, even behooves them, to produce the blowsy, overblown prune bombs (with more than a little residual sugar) for which they are justly known. I must admit those Shenandoah Zins were awfully good with a doobie of weed back in my twenties, and although I can't remember much of those experiences, the taste profile lingers.
Yet two of the four panelists had a different view. Largely unaware of the tradtion, they judged these wines on more generic terms, comparing to, say, your average Dry Creek Zin, and found them lacking, even alarming. And there you have it. Amador can't get started on the world stage simply because it's odd/distinctive. So unlike Roquefort, it actually isn't well known for its style unless you're an old fogey like me or a local day tourist from Stockton. So you either go global in a more generic style or you stay small and cheap for the locals.
I wish all the blogging and Internet lip service to distinctiveness translated into sales, but in truth, it doesn't. So what, pray tell, is the point of local distinctiveness?