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, 93 points: Creamy, spicy, vanilla-tinged oak adds an attractive aromatic
element and textural suppleness to the core of zesty wild blackberry and spicy scents, enlivened by snappy acidity and vibrant
tannins. Drink now through...
Wine Spectator, 92 points: Dark-hued, rich and spicy, with an enticing core of mocha-laced
blackberry, cherry, spice and floral scents. Ends as it begins, bold
and rich. Drink now through 2026. — J.L.
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 92 points: Pale ruby-purple colored, the 2015 Pinot Noir Sierra Mar has a gorgeous perfume of violet and rose hip tea with suggestions of cinnamon toast over a core of kirsch and wild strawberries. Medium-bodied, silky and with a...
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 93 points: The 2015 Pinot Noir Rosella's Vineyard has an earthy nose of dried leaves and dusty soil over a core of red cherries and red plums, plus notes of spice box and black pepper. Medium-bodied and with a wicked backbone of...
Wine Spectator, 90 points: Juicy and generous, featuring a rich, smooth core of plum and raspberry flavors, highlighted by zesty floral scents that accentuate the aroma and fruitiness. Agreeably supple, with easygoing tannins. Drink now through...
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 91 points: 91+ Pale to medium ruby-purple colored, the 2015 Pinot Noir Pisoni Vineyard has intense notes of pomegranate, Bing cherries and cranberry sauce with hints of anise, lavender and underbrush. Medium-bodied, finely...
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