Recently, I held a tasting featuring the wines of my home state, California. It’s a topic I’ve been so excited to discuss as these are the wines that prompted me to become a sommelier in the first place!
California winemaking as a whole is relatively young when compared to say Burgundy or Sicily. Yes, the missionaries planted the “Mission” grape up and down the coast centuries ago and early wineries such as Buena Vista and Krug made fine wines in the late 1800’s, but with the destruction of the Phylloxera pest in the 1880’s-90’s and the man made destruction of Prohibition (I mean, this would be my nightmare ha) it wasn’t until the 1970’s that the industry of fine wine making began to boom.
But with that shift from bulk wine to fine table wines came the rise of cult wines and Parker scores that favored bigger, fruit forward styles of winemaking. There are classic producers like Turnbull, Chappellet and Larkmead (just to name of few) who’ve steadfastly made quality wine but there were also those who chased scores and turned to additives and over-manipulation to achieve them. With that, much of the wine’s nuance was lost and the reputation of California became one of big taste with heavy oak usage.
Now, California is having a renaissance. In response to this 90’s wave of over-manipulation and extraction, a new generation of producers are taking cues from the Old World and striving to create balanced wines through organic growing practices, site specificity and minimal intervention. Producers such as Broc Cellars, Wind Gap, and Matthiasson are pioneers of this style which is why I happily featured them at this tasting!
Sharing these wines is such a joy for me. As someone who grew up in the Bay Area in the 90’s, watching this stylistic shift is a thrill and being able to share this with new and old friends is why I became a sommelier. Wine truly brings people together and I can’t wait to share even more of these producers at my upcoming tastings!