Mission deserves the title of California's own variety, not Zinfandel.
Mission was the first wine made in California more than two hundred and fifty years ago. Spanish missions needed wine for sacramental puposes, and no doubt to make meals and life in general more pleasant, and so planted vines. The variety is known as Mission, and appears to be the same as the Spanish variety Criolla.
I'd only read the vaguest reports of it, but anyone who mentioned it was dismissive of the quality, but I really wanted to taste this historic wine, so when I was in California in June 2002 I searched for it.
I went to the Amador County Wine Fair on 22 June and wandered around winery tables till I found Nine Gables Winery had Mission. It was red, dry and good, like - well - a rustic Spanish wine. Then we visited Story Winery at its wonderful location overlooking a valley.
As I sat on a picnic table looking down a valley in the shade of trees with a glass of Mission in hand, next to huge ancient knarled Mission vines like small trees, I felt I'd have been quite happy as a Spanish settler drinking Mission.
Few wineries seem to make this most historic wine. I understand why they won't persevere with a wine no-one will buy, but it puzzles me that in a country that so prizes historic things there is so little interest in this most historic of all wines - the first wine made in the New World and still being made from descendents of those original vines.
If you're in California, look out for Mission and let me know what you think.