Nearly 90% of the wine made in the United States is produced in California. In fact, only France, Italy, and Spain out-produce California in terms of quantity. Wines from California’s 2,000 wineries can be found not only across the country but indeed around the world.
If you’re a fan of California wines or just getting to know them, here’s a little background to help you experiment or choose one to try out at your next meal.
Napa Valley is probably the most famous and prestigious wine region in California, with its cabernet sauvignon achieving world-class status. Only cabernet sauvignons from France’s Bordeaux region—where the hardy grape originated from an accidental breeding between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc grapes—carry an equal rating. You can find great Napa cabs at a reasonable price, although higher-end wines will compete for parity with France’s best not only in quality, but also price.
Sonoma County is another popular wine region in California and is well-known for its pinot noir and zinfandel wines. Zinfandel grapes were the most-planted red grapes in California until cabernet sauvignon gained in popularity in the mid-19th century. While the state is sometimes mistaken for originating zinfandels, the vines are ultimately exports from Croatia, where the wine is known as Crljenak Kaštelanski: “the red from Kaštela.”
Sparkling wine makers the Korbel brothers made California bubbly a contender beginning in the 1880s. Ever since, some of the world’s most popular champagne houses have joined suit, opening wineries in California as well, including subsets of Moët et Chandon and Taittinger. These sparkling wines are often made from the pinot noir, pinot meunier, and chardonnay grapes favored in the Champagne region’s wines, but many other varietals are available and offer a great palette from which to experiment.
Whether you live in California or have plans to travel there, visiting one of its wineries makes for a soothing adventure full of beautiful scenery, gourmet food, and, of course, exquisite wines.
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January 18, 2022