Oi oi the Led Zep reference to kick things off!
Funnily enough whenever I think of California that’s the kind of things I think about. I grew up in the 80s and 90s in the UK, with our TVs littered with Baywatch and The OC and stuff like that. It makes you think of beautifully tanned boys and girls, with more convertible cars than you can shake a stick at, and they’re all somehow famous!
These days the superstars I look to follow are the winemakers that dot the State all the way up and down, from LA in the South to the yip of Mendocino in the North. It’s not always been plain sailing for these guys, with vine infections in the 1800s, and prohibition in the 1920s and 30s, the wine industry here didn’t really get going til as late as the 1960s, but since then it’s gone nuts in terms of volume and the outstanding quality!
If you take a quick look at the map above, you’ll see how big California is (bear in mind I’m saying this as someone from the UK!). All I mean to point out here is that with the size of the place, it means there are lots of different climates. That means wine growers can pick and choose the grapes they want to grow. And they do. If a grape is grown commercially somewhere in the world, chances are someone in California is having a go at it too!
American Viticulture Areas (AVAs) are the US version of AOCs in France, WOs in South Africa, etc. You’ll have heard of the famous ones in California. Napa County, Sonoma County, Santa Barbera County, and so on. There’s also the most famous “bulk wine” region, further inland, called the Central Valley Region. It’s hotter and drier here, so yields are higher, but arguably the wines are quite as well structured.
Last important thing to know about the areas of California is this thing called the Davis Zone system. Developed by the University of California, it’s a way to rate the climate in each area, from 1 (coolest) to 5 (hottest). It’s done for a few reasons, but amoungst others it helps the producer pick which grape to go for, and the consumer to judge the style of the wine from the region.
As I said, they grow nearly every grape going in California. One grape however is absolutely synonymous with the State, and that’s our New Wine This Week: Zinfandel.
Other posts in NWTW Week 16: