GOLDEN STATE WINES ARE BETTER THAN EVER - AND SO IS THE EARTH FROM WHICH THEY GROW.
Lovers of California red wines will know that the largest wine-producing state in the United States is not one to rest on its laurels. For more than 150 years and with each passing decade, winemaking across the state has evolved, diversified, and reached new heights for quality and stylistic variety.
One of the most recent chapters in California’s wine-producing history involves a deep focus on sustainability. As winemakers like to say, “We farm like the earth depends on it.” They recognized that a healthy earth — and a healthy community — leads to better wine. More than 80 percent of wine made in California is produced in a certified sustainable winery, a definition that encompasses such essential elements as wages, child care, education assistance, and other services. You can see this commitment right on a bottle of California wine, with the Certified California Sustainable logo that was introduced with the 2017 vintage. Today, more than 55 percent of vineyard acreage in California — 350,000 acres out of a total of 620,000 — is certified sustainable, according to the Wine Institute, an advocacy group representing more than 1,000 wineries and affiliated businesses in the state. Considering that California is the fourth largest wine-producing region in the world, this represents a beacon for the global wine industry.
In the Napa Valley, nearly 80 percent of the wineries are family-owned, with production of less than 10,000 cases a year. Caring for the land naturally has been an important part of the winemaking philosophy here for decades. It’s part of that “Golden State of Mind” immediately tangible when you visit. But it also helps to have legislated guidelines, and in 1968 the first designated Agricultural Preserve was established here to protect and preserve vineyard acreage on the valley floor.
What does this all mean for the wines? For lovers of red wines, it should be comforting to know that the style of some of the legendary wine houses (see below) have not changed — these wines are as big, bold, balanced, and precise as ever. And there are plenty of new wineries coming onto the scene, exploring grape varieties, blends, and techniques — and pushing the boundaries and definitions of California wine.
There are some wine lovers who will say you can taste the soul or vitality in a wine that comes from a good place. California is such a place — and these wines certainly have soul.
Zinfandel, Syrah, Carignan, Petite Sirah, and Grenache are sourced from a network of growers, and subject to varying treatments (cold soak, maceration, etc.) as befits each variety. Blending stretches from late winter to early spring following harvest. The wine is deep, complex, and inviting, with generous sweet plum, cinnamon, and red berries. Tannins are soft and reserved, the wine juicy, plush and delicious. Enjoy now.
Grapes are sourced from the Napa Valley, with most of the vineyards owned by the family for generations. The long, slow maturation nurtured by the 2019 season is revealed in Merlot that is complex, lush, savoury — it dances between fruity (cherries and pomegranate) and spicy (cinnamon and cocoa). Drink now, or hold for a decade.
An outstanding wine of equally outstanding pedigree, this is made with grapes from Mondavi’s own vineyards (Oakville and Stag’s Leap), bolstered with grapes contracted from such venerable AVAs as Yountville and Rutherford. This is classic, yet contemporary, Napa cab, with fresh, pristine, and ripe fruit showing now — and heralding the promise of greatness to come. A wine structured for longevity. Drink 2023 to 2035+.
The pedigree of AVAs (American Viticultural Area) — Oak Knoll, Yountville, Coombsville, Calistoga, Atlas Peak — promises a wine of considerable fortitude. This is delivered on the palate — drinking well now with expressive fruit and a posed structure, it will carry another decade or more. Recommend insert at first reference.
If you can get past the gorgeous nose — plum, baking spice, soft leather, and a hint of cedar — the palate offers even more allure: concentrated, brimming with blueberry and currant, perfumed with violet and balsam. Tannins are medium, gritty, and resolving wonderfully. This is ready to drink but will improve for 10 years or more.
Created with 99.5 percent of Napa Valley’s finest Cabernet Sauvignon (the rest, Merlot), this wine might be rightly considered the ne plus ultra of classic Napa cab flavour profiles. Concentrated, with blackberry, plum, black cherries, kirsh, chocolate, mocha, marzipan…along with savoury notes of olive tapenade and pine forest — enhanced by generous new oak, judiciously integrated. Drink now for a fresh perspective, or hold a decade or more.