Angeleno Wine Company "Swayze Vineyard" Zinfandel 2019

Los Angeles County

In the middle of the Mojave desert in Los Angeles County, amidst sprawling salt-flats at 3000 feet elevation, an unlikely patch of vines grow. One may not immediately equate wine with Los Angeles County, but you might be surprised to know this is where, in 1833, the first European vines were planted by Spanish missionaries. By the end of the 19th century the county was the largest wine region in California.

This astounding plot is located in what might be the most fun-to-say wine region: "Antelope Valley of the California High Desert."

The Swayze Vineyard is in Lancaster, literally in the middle of the Mojave desert. Most of the desert is a salt pan (Edwards Air Force Base uses parts of the flat as an airstrip.) The Swayze Vineyard, however, exists on a postage stamp-sized square of vineyards in sandier soil, an improbable outpost of grapes surviving in an unforgiving climate. 

In the winemakers' words, "Don’t let most of California’s Zinfandel fool you into thinking this grape is heavy and tannic – in fact, Zinfandel is a soft, elegant grape with skin as soft as Pinot Noir’s." That sums it up perfectly – this is a pretty, floral, red with notes of cherry pie, red-rope licorice, rhubarb, mint, and a sweet, mouth-coating red-fruited mid-palate. Very much Pinot-like and clocks in at a crazy-moderate 13.8% abv.

The key to these grapes' survival is in the altitude; the Antelope Valley sits at 3000 feet above sea level; even in the summer the nighttime temps plunge, preserving the grapes vitality and ensuring a slower pace of ripening.

And for those whose interest is especially piqued and wouldn't mind living in the middle of a desert, the property and vineyard are for sale for a cool $1.1 million!

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