Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Zinfandel Question

Effectively ignored as a member of the "media elite," I'm about to play my card as "citizen voter." About a month ago, I asked the campaign offices of California's principal gubernatorial candidates - Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman - how I could send them a question concerning the state's wine trade. Whitman's people never replied. Brown's people sent me the typical boilerplate response saying he was "hard at work putting together a comprehensive set of policies" that soon would be posted in the "solutions" area of his website. I've looked, and find nothing there concerning California's wine culture, let alone an answer to my question.

I'll be the first to admit that my question doesn't have the gravitas of the issues that Brown and Whitman will be asked to address in forthcoming debates and forums, such as public education, budget stalemates, environmental safeguards and the like. My question is much lighter and more playful, though it does have the potential to help define just who they are, where they stand and how they might differ from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Their answer to my question may interest only me, but it also might intrigue other wine enthusiasts, not exactly a small constituency in California.

My question: Would they sign into law or veto legislation to declare zinfandel California's state wine? A measure to this effect was introduced four years ago. It subsequently was watered down to designate zinfandel as the state's "historic wine." It breezed through the legislature, but Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed it on the grounds that California makes many historic wines and that it would be unfair to single out any one of them for special tribute. In short, the tough guy buckled to the cabernet-sauvignon, petite-sirah and carignane lobbyists. If earlier governors had followed Gov. Schwarzenegger's weak reasoning, the golden poppy wouldn't be the state flower because roses also grow in California, the desert tortoise wouldn't be the state reptile because the rattlesnake also thrives here, and the West Coast swing wouldn't be the state dance because the macarena also is popular.

The reasons why zinfandel should be California's "state wine" or "historic wine" are too numerous and persuasive to repeat here at this time. By now, Whitman and Brown should be up to speed on the state's history, economics and wine culture, and should be able to tell us where they stand on acknowledging and celebrating zinfandel's singular role in establishing the character and color of California.

While I'm not too hopeful they will answer my question, I have one last chance at getting it before them. Personal Democracy Forum has set up a website,, that gives ordinary folk a chance to ask gubernatorial and other candidates questions on matters that concern them. The format is an election itself. Visitors to the site vote on the questions they most want to see candidates answer, with the top 10 to be forwarded to candidates, who then have until Oct. 14 to post their replies. The intent of this give-and-take is "to allow voters, not media elites, to drive the conversation." My question has been posted. The deadline to add other questions and to vote is Tuesday. You can speed up your search for the zinfandel question by clicking on either "new" or "other." I wish I could say "vote often," but visitors can cast just one ballot per Google account. Nonetheless, get over there and vote positively, especially if you are a fellow fan of both politics and zinfandel.


  1. I am a fan of both zinfandel & politics and this is silly. California is near bankruptcy and your worried about designating zinfandel as the state grape? No wonder California is in the mess it is. Worry about something important.

  2. mike:
    who is the only california governor who worked in a winery? the answer, which even jerry forgot,
    is brown himself -- at novitiate when he was at the seminary. he has my vote.