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.
jamessuckling.com, 90 points: Bright and fruity style of merlot with blueberry and blackberry, light and silky tannins and a bright finish. High-toned but fresh and clean. Drink now.
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 95 points: I loved Kobalt’s 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. At 100% of the varietal, this 490-case cuvée made by Mark Herold has an opaque purple color, notes of pen ink, blackberry and cassis, cedar wood, a touch of toasty oak and plenty...
Wine Enthusiast, 94 points: Delicious aromas of ripe cherry pie and black cardamom are quite sexy. The palate is far more complicated and layered, with the tartness of plum skins, richness of strawberry, balsamic reduction and spiciness of black sage.
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 97 points: The opaque blue/purple 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Perseid, from vineyard in the southeast sector of Napa Valley, really is strutting its stuff. It's backward, shows loads of minerality and earth, but the tannic structure is...
Wine Enthusiast, 95 points: Dark, concentrated and grippy, this is a sizable Pinot from a cool, coveted vineyard. Juicy blue and blackberry fruit dominate on the nose and palate, surrounded by exotic cedar, clove, oak and toffee, a swipe of vanilla...
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 95 points: The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain has an inky purple color that is certainly as saturated as any in the impressive Robert Craig lineup. This is 88% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Merlot with similar élevage as the...
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.
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 93 points: A bigger, richer wine is the 2014 Chardonnay Solomon Hills, which comes from a terrific site in the Santa Maria Valley, just to the southwest of Bien Nacido. It offers ample apple, brioche, flowers and spice...
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 92 points: Readers looking for a classic, incredibly well made Pinot Noir to buy by the case should look no further than Josh's 2014 Pinot Noir from the Central Coast AVA. Supple, sexy, seamless and elegant, with classic Calera...
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