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 Enthusiast, 92 points: A whole-cluster pressed white aged in both French oak and stainless steel, this wine is richly woven in lemon verbena, pineapple, quince and grapefruit, its structure complex, lengthy and moderate in acidity.
jamessuckling.com, 92 points: An authentic sauvignon blanc that shows elegance and harmony. Sliced pear, mango and lemon skin. Full body, refined texture, medium to high acidity with a clear finish. Drink now.
Wine Spectator, 93 points: Aromatic and distinctive, with rich notes of honeycomb, coconut oil and lanolin that give way to fresh apricot and mango flavors, freshened by a crisp jolt of acidity akin to a squeeze of lime juice. Despite the lush...
Vinous, 94 points: The 2016 Sauvignon Blanc Vogelzang Vineyard offers tons of varietal character, with a sense of vertical lift and structure that gives the wine its distinctive shape. Orange peel, mint, jasmine and a host of tropical...
Wine Enthusiast, 91 points: A grip of reduction on the nose in tones of flint and matchstick is consistent for the producer's style. On the palate are light-bodied layers of green olive, pineapple, peach and lemon, a contrasting set of fruit and...
Wine Spectator, 90 points: Rich, honeyed notes of pear and peach are lush and creamy, with plenty of spice. The supple texture comes with a crisp edge of pineapple juice and fresh acidity that reaches a crescendo on the finish. Drink now. 800 cases...
Wine Spectator, 90 points: Smooth and succulent, offering ripe pear, yellow apple and peach flavors that are bright and crisp on a juicy frame, with a hint of Key lime pie lingering. Drink now. – MW
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