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.
Vinous, 95 points: The 2013 Syrah Eddie's Patch Hoppe-Kelly Vineyard is the last wine made from this site before the vines were taken out in preparation for replanting. The Eddie's Patch is marked by a more voluptuous, fruit-driven...
Vinous, 91 points: The 2013 Syrah Tensley Vineyard, from Joey Tensley's home vineyard in Los Olivos, is one of the more open wines in the range. Round, supple and polished, the 2013 offers terrific depth and richness, with plenty of dark...
Vinous, 94 points: The 2013 Syrah Jack Robert's Run Gregori Vineyard has put on considerable weight and acquired gravitas over the last year. Tannic and imposing, the Jack Robert's Run shows the more savory, structured side of Syrah. Dark...
Wine Enthusiast, 95 points: A perennial standout, this Syrah is cofermented with 10% Viognier, all fruit sourced from a site on the western edge of Sonoma Mountain in the cool confines of the Petaluma Gap. Beautiful and bold, it imparts a focused...
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The selections from JJ Buckley are terrific including wines that are very difficult, or impossible to find at my favorite wine store.
-Tom H., September 2019
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