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.
Wine Spectator, 92 points: A luxurious sparkler, with toasty brioche, mineral and lemon
brûlée aromas and rich, complex flavors of crisp apple and
raspberry, showing accents of fresh ginger and spice. Drink now
through 2017. — T.F.
Wine Enthusiast, 95 points: Combining 76% Pinot Noir and 24% Chardonnay, this wine has a depth of richness and focused, supportive acidity that work well to complement each other. Stone fruit, vanilla biscuit, cherry kirsch and green apple are all...
Wine Spectator, 90 points: Vivid aromas of passion fruit and strawberry lead to lively and layered nectarine and spice flavors that taste like summer. Drink now. 5,900 cases made.
Wine Spectator, 93 points: Seamless and silky, showing an almost effortless sense of complexity, with notes of lemon and pear paired with toasty brioche,
fresh ginger and hazelnut details. Drink now. — T.F.
Wine Enthusiast, 92 points: Editors' Choice. Delicious lemon-meringue aromas make a great start for this medium-bodied Chardonnay-based wine. Flavors are lively, lemony, with baking-spice accents. A buttery, creamy element carries into the...
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 90 points: Coming 66% from Napa, 31% Sonoma and 3% Marin, the 2014 Blanc de Blancs Napa Valley reveals a wonderfully toasty nose with suggestions of almonds and fresh hay over a core of spiced apples and baked pears. The palate is...
Wine Spectator, 91 points: Refined and vibrant, with floral strawberry and yeasty almond aromas and plush, layered lemon curd and vanilla spice flavors. Drink now. 9,450 cases made.
Wine Spectator, 93 points: Dynamic yet elegantly refined, with expressive Asian pear, raspberry and
toasted spice flavors that build vibrancy toward a long, steely finish. Drink
now through 2019. — T.F.
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 94 points: (94+) Blended of 82% Chardonnay and 18% Pinot Noir, the 2008 J Schram is intensely scented of brioche and toasted nuts with a core of peach cobbler, cinnamon toast and beeswax, plus a hint of dried mandarin peel. The...
Wine Spectator, 93 points: Dynamic and polished, with expressive Meyer lemon and cinnamon nut roll
aromas and plush and luxurious baked apple and fresh ginger flavors that
glide on a long finish. Drink now through 2019. —
Showing 11 of 11 wines
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