If Dogtown, Rockpile and Rattlesnake Acres sound like the names of trailer parks to you, it may mean you're not on the cutting edge when it comes to collectible California wines. The fact is, these are vineyards from which winemakers Kent Rosenblum and Helen Turley are making first-rate bottlings of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, and they are among a seemingly endless number of vineyards whose names are showing up on more and more American (largely Californian) wine labels.
Vineyards, once fairly anonymous, have become the new celebrities of the American wine world. Indeed, at this country's current rate of "vineyardization," even fashionable grapes like Chardonnay and Cabernet may soon be overshadowed on labels by the fame of the vineyards in which they are grown. But a bigger issue looms: with so many wineries bandying vineyard names about, it's become harder to tell which ones truly deserve star treatment and which ones have been singled out as part of a marketing plan.
A vineyard, quite simply, is any piece of land where grapes are grown. A single vineyard may constitute an entire winery or a winery may have many vineyards. For example, Colgin Cellars' sole product is a Cabernet Sauvignon made exclusively with grapes from the Herb Lamb Vineyard. A large winery such as Beringer, however, holds title to many vineyards and thus offers multiple vineyard bottlings.