THE STEALTH GRAPE, 1891–1918
THE AMOUNT OF SPACE I HAVE TAKEN TO EXPLAIN THE ORIGINS OF the Haraszthy legend and Zinfandel really misrepresents the importance of such concerns at the time. By 1887 the great boom of the 1880s was flattening out. Industry leaders and promoters, except for Arpad Haraszthy, had little real interest in the history or origins of grapes. Prices were falling, and by 1893 the bottom had fallen out of the wine market. During the depression that lasted through 1897, farmers of all commodities faced economic disaster. Thousands went under. This was the time of the great agrarian revolt we call the Populist movement.
The demand for wine plummeted. Dozens of winery owners in California were forced into bankruptcy. The most glaring fact about the state's vineyards was that there seemed to be too many of them. Some blamed the wine industry's ills on overproduction. Others blamed underconsumption, and those who did so pointed to the huge expanses of vineyard land created in Californiasince 1878. Able wine pioneers such as Napa's Charles Krugand Sonoma's Emil Dresel argued that too many vines had been planted in the wrong places, resulting in poor wine that couldn't be sold except at rock-bottom prices. Such prices and such low quality drove down prices and demand for