'Pour' Decision: Schwarzenegger Zings Zinfandel

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-Calif., nixed a bill Monday that would have made zinfandel California's official "historic wine."

Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed the measure, saying it would be "inappropriate" to distinguish between the state's numerous and diverse varietals, a decision that reflects the negative feelings of many of the state vintners toward the bill.

"Whether it is a cabernet from Napa or Sonoma, a delicate pinot noir from the Central Coast, a zinfandel from the San Joaquin Valley or Sierra foothills, California produces some of the finest wines in the world. California wines have inspired authors, artists and Oscar-winning motion pictures," the governor wrote in explaining his veto.

Zinfandel, known for its sweet undertones and intensely fruity flavors, is just one of many varieties coming from the booming California wine industry, which net $26 billion and shipped more than 532.4 gallons in 2005.

Wine consumption has steadily increased in the United States, ever since a "60 Minutes" story in 1991 extolled the health benefits of moderate wine consumption. Other areas of popular culture have also boosted American's wine drinking, notably the 2004 Academy Award-winning movie "Sideways," which spun a tale of two men looking for love and the perfect pinot noir in California's vineyards.

The American and Austalian wine industries recently won the right from the World Trade Organization to market their "sparkling wine" as "champagne," a term that historically applied only to the bubbly that emerges from the Champagne region of France.

Perhaps most significantly for California's wine industry, Schwarzenegger has proclaimed September as the official "California wine celebration" month, a measure that is expected to further hike sales and visits to vineyards.

But when it comes to singing the praises of California zins, acclaim is old hat. "It's not the first time people have tried to introduce zinfandel as the state wine, and we took no position at that point," said Gladys Horiuchi, communications manager at the California Wine Institute.

The Wine Institute supported the zinfandel bill in May 2006.

"By highlighting zinfandel's unique history," reads the Institute's statement in part, "the bill also recognizes the history and culture of the California wine community and its acceptance as one of the state's signature industries."

The bill's veto comes in the midst of attempts by Democratic legislators to "find common ground" with the Republican governor, the Los Angeles Times noted.

Despite the bill's dismissal, its Democratic sponsor, Sen. Carole Migden, could still make light of the situation to the San Francisco Chronicle, telling the paper, "It ought not to be a 'zin' to be for zinfandel."