Though less than half a century old, and remarkably young compared to its European counterparts, the wine industry in California has managed to enchant the country’s wine buying public as well as receive accolades from “across the pond.” This may be because of two realities. First is the undeniable quality of the wines—remarkably fruity, full and satisfying, rarely too austere or tannic to be savored from the first day. The second is the “buy American” angle. A very high number of American wine buyers simply prefer domestic to foreign wines.
The state plays host to an enormous range of microclimates and soils as well as a lot of sunshine, hot summer days and dry harvests. All these factors contribute to healthy ripe fruits that make European producers, in less dependable climates, green with envy. More than three out of every four years, California’s best sites produces excellent wines.
The U.S. is not protectionist when it comes to taxing imported wines compared to many other countries, but the California wine industry is inherently protected because of consumers wanting to buy American.
To most people, the Napa Valley is the home of California wine, and Cabernet is the clear king in Napa. Burgundy varieties like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir have moved to cooler areas, for the most part closer to the Pacific. This includes the western stretches of Sonoma County, the Anderson Valley in Mendocino County, and the Santa Maria and Santa Ynez valleys of Santa Barbara County. In regions as contrasting as Mendocino County, the Sonoma coast, Carneros, Paso Robles, and Santa Maria Valley, Syrah vines have yielded interesting wines. Excellent Zinfandel is also produced all over the state and may be the only California wine emulated abroad.
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 95 points: I tasted a half-dozen Zinfandel-based cuvées from Jeff Cohn – and all of them merit serious attention from wine consumers. The 2014 Zinfandel Cassata Vineyard is 75% Zinfandel and 25% Petite Sirah with 15% whole clusters...
Wine Spectator, 94 points: Luscious, complex and expressive, with floral raspberry jam
aromas and supple black cherry, bay leaf and cracked pepper
flavors that glide lithely toward the finish. Drink now through
2028. From California. — T.F.
Wine & Spirits, 95 points: For the third year in a row, Adrian Manspeaker and Micah Wirth’s zin from Grist Vineyard is a spellbinding wine. Planted in 1974, this hillside vineyard isn’t old in the context of California zin, but the vines are mature...
Antonio Galloni's Vinous, 94 points: Black cherry, violet, lavender, blueberry and spice notes give the 2014 Zinfandel Papera Ranch much of its distinctive cool, bracing personality. The acids are bright, but not at all intrusive. This is another striking...
Antonio Galloni's Vinous, 94 points: One of the most distinctive wines in this range, the 2014 Zinfandel DuPratt Vineyard, from a site in Mendocino Ridge, is wonderfully aromatic, nuanced and lifted. Bright red and bluish-hued fruits, violet, lavender and...
Wine Spectator, 94 points: Gushes with rich and powerful fruit, offering aromas of wild berry, nutmeg and cinnamon, and complex flavors of cherry pie, white pepper and licorice. A great package. Drink now through 2023. 3,200 cases made. –TF
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 90 points: The 2014 Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley has the varietal’s peppery, raspberry and black cherry fruit, earth and spice, nice meatiness, and a character that begs for something prepared outside on the grill. This is a...
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JJ Buckley has the best selection and prices on nearly every wine you can think of, including vintage old world wines. Bravo!
-John M., August 2017