California produces more than 90 percent of the wine made in America. The state’s wine history goes back to the Spanish explorers and Franciscans who built missions and planted grapes to supply wine for the Mass. Wine making became successful after the gold rush, until phylloxora and Prohibition brought devastation. It wasn’t until the late 1960s that California again became a thriving wine region.
Today there are about 1200 wine producers, ranging from extremely large to very small. There are about 100 grape varieties being grown here, but just 6 are primary to the production of fine wines: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. Blessed by plenty of sunlight, it seems ideally suited to producing fully ripe fruit and consequently rich expressive wines. It is a place of amazing geologic and climactic diversity. Most of the top wine growing regions are poised in between the ocean and the Central Valley, taking advantage of the warmth from the east and the cooling ocean winds.
Unlike in Europe, early California vintners had no traditions or knowledge to draw from. They had to learn as they went from trial and error. In the mid-1880s phylloxera wreaked havoc thoughout the state. The industry replanted and forged ahead, only to have Prohibition take effect in 1920. Wineries dwindled from 800 down to about 140, who were only able to survive by making sacramental wines.
By the late 1960s winemaking began to get going again, and within a decade California became one of the most accomplished wine regions in the world. Remaking itself from a producer of cheap, sweet jug wines into a state who’s wines rivaled the best in the world.
This months’ White Wine of the Month is Donna Olimpia, 2012,Vermintino from Tuscany. This is a delicious, fragrant wine with tart citrus fruit and hints of flowers and honey.
Our Red Wine of the Month is Catedral, 2008, Reserva Red, from Dao, Portugal. It’s a soft, fruity, well- structured red with nice acidity and balance.
Wine Club members come in and get your bottles early, before they’re gone.
Sommelier, Maynards Market and Kitchen