Winecast: California Wine

Winecast: California Wine

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hello everybody and welcome to the wine caste I've had my hands full for the last several weeks getting ready for a certification exam and I wasn't planning to release another caste for at least another week but with the wildfires that have been raging in Northern California causing so much harm and destruction I haven't been able to stop thinking about the state where I grew up and how much it and its wines mean to me so I'm taking a break from my studies so I can put it down for California and it's remarkable wine industry it was great to prepare for this cast and to spend time thinking about California and California wine but thinking alone isn't going to cut it
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when it comes to getting much-needed relief to those affected by the fires so I want to encourage all my listeners to do whatever they're able to make a difference and help make that easier I've linked to a great article in the information section of this video from the LA Times with lots of advice on how you can help so I hope you'll all check that out as well so with that said let's go to Cali California's love affair with vidis vinifera began in the mid 1700s with the arrival of that species of grape at the hands of Spanish missionaries who
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planted it primarily as a source of sacramental wine for the chain of missions they were establishing up and down California things took a while to warm up so to speak because the great that the Franciscan fathers who founded the missions brought with them was the least on pleople grape that they also took with them to other parts of the Spanish Empire like Chile where it was known as biiis and that in California would come to be known as the mission or mission grape whatever name it goes by it's justly credited as a dependable and productive workhorse of a grape but it's
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never really received much praise for the quality of its wines things were looking up by the mid-1800s though as other more interesting cuttings of vidis vinifera began making their way to the state with many of them showing up thanks to the efforts of one a Gaston harathi an immigrant scion of a noble Hungarian family a huge viticultural enthusiast he's been called the father of California viticulture in fact and quite possibly the original most interesting man in the world harathi imported cuttings to California from
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both the eastern seaboard of the United States and from Europe mostly at his own expense and found time in the midst of all this to found the first commercial winery in California in eight 57 the Buena Vista winery in Sonoma he did all of this after a couple of productive stints in both Wisconsin and San Diego and before he left California for Nicaragua to try his hand at sugar growing in rum production and where he was possibly eaten by an alligator or not nobody knows the body was never found hey I said the dude was interesting
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porosity is importance to the development of California's a wine producing region is hard to overstate but ironically he also may have contributed to one of the biggest crises the California wine faced because it was at Buena Vista in the mid 1860s that philosopher was first detected in California probably hitching a ride on one of the many East Coast vines that harass he brought out west thankfully by the time the flocks were really started spreading the solution to the crisis grafting was well understood and the
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California industry bounced back quickly successfully and too much renown California had a much tougher time though with that 13 year nightmare of a bad idea national prohibition with the industry there severely hobbled and with only a hundred and 40 wineries still up and running at the end of it down from just over 700 before prohibition became law what came after prohibition well that's a really long story filled with larger-than-life characters like Robert Mondavi and seminal events like the 1976
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Paris tasting of California versus French wines it's such a long and colorful story that even my best Reader's Digest efforts to cut it down to size failed miserably and people and events like Mondavi and the judgment of Paris will have to wait for another cast or even better for their own dedicated casts for now you can just know that it was a huge uphill struggle to get California to where it is today as a wine producer and where is it today well for starters it's producing the majority
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of US wine by a very large margin according to the alcohol and tobacco tax and trade Bureau that keeps tabs on production every year California is responsible for a full eighty-five percent of US wine but as I covered in my cast on American wine that number is misleading because the tax and trade Bureau figures represent not just grape wine but wine made from other fruits or agricultural products and some informal estimates suggests that if you only consider grape wine then the percentage goes up to around eighty eight percent of all wine
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and maybe even higher to around ninety percent if you just consider wine made from vidis vinifera and not from American native grapes or hybrids in fact California's production is so large that if it were its own country it would still ranked as the fourth largest wine producer in the world behind France Italy and Spain and it would still have a wine economy just a little bit larger than Australia's as far as wine law goes California follows the u.s. system of Appalachians that's actually a hybrid system allowing for Appalachians based
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on either state and county names or based on the later system of American viticultural areas or AV A's even though it doesn't regulate much in terms of grape growing and wine production the u.s. system is still surprisingly intricate and if you want more information on it you should check out my cast on American viticultural areas which covers a VA s as well as the state and County appellation system speaking of a VA is California's home to most of them with the Golden State at the time of this cast hosting a hundred and thirty eight of the United States 239 a
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VA s how did california become this important to us wine there are a lot of reasons but two of the most important ones are a geography and climate if you remember the cast on wine and latitude you'll know that though wine regions location north or south of the Equator is important latitude isn't the whole story and California is a textbook example of this see most of California's vineyards are located between 40 degrees north and 33 degrees south latitude that's actually pretty far south as northern hemisphere wine producing
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regions go it's farther south than anything in France and the north end of that zone is about where Naples Italy and Madrid Spain are and the south end is right around Beirut Lebanon and like these areas though not necessarily like other areas at this latitude the coastal parts of California are blessed with a very warm to hot Mediterranean climate the problem is that relatively few of the state's vineyards are right on the coast instead they're inland separated from the by the north-south running mountain
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ranges that make drives up and down the California coast so spectacular the separation from the ocean would normally make for a much hotter continental climate where only the hardiest warm climate grapes could thrive but California is also blessed with a very cold current the creatively named California Current that flows south along its coast this current not only moderates temperatures along the coast but thanks to a series of gaps in the mountains the cool air from the current is pulled inland bringing temperatures down and otherwise affecting the local
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climate to allow for a very wide variety of grapes to grow throughout California these gaps include the Petaluma gap in Sonoma County that has a powerful effect on the climate of the Russian River Valley and that helps make it a great place to grow Pinot Noir the San Francisco Bay that pulls cool air toward the interior of Northern California and the Sierra Foothills the north end of the San Francisco Bay the San Pablo Bay that makes Pinot and Chardonnay production work at the southern end of Napa Valley as well as other major gaps
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in Monterey and Santa Barbara counties that allow quality production of cooler climate grapes also all of these mountains and foothills associated with them means a lot of opportunities to plant at different elevations and that helps make different growing areas capable of supporting a wider range of grapes so California really is remarkable for the diversity of the climates and terroirs that it offers to grape growers and winemakers and its situation for making great wines in the US could be described as unique so where
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are all these remarkable grapes most of California's 138a VA s are located within five of what have come to be called super a BAS the north coast San Francisco Bay Sierra Foothills Central Coast and south coast a VA s the so called super a VA s are not particularly homogeneous when it comes to terroir and climate in fact there's a good argument to be made that they were created primarily to allow large-scale wine producers the opportunity to source grapes from vineyards that they own
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across a wide area and still be able to attach a navy a designation and an estate grown designation to the wines they make from the but they do give you a good idea of where most of California's quality vineyard sites lie and no surprise these sites are all in areas that are to some degree affected by the moderating influence of the California Current either directly or thanks to gaps in the mountains or the take advantage of the altitude afforded by hillsides and mountainous vineyard sites or both there is one other area that should be mentioned in connection with grape
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growing in California and that's the Central Valley which is not a Navy a mostly because of its deep inland position insulating it from the effects of cool sea air and its low altitude making it a less than prime spot for quality grape growing instead it's a great spot for growing lots and lots of grapes that don't necessarily benefit from the hot dry climate there are very literally hundreds of thousands of acres of grapes here and the wines made from these grapes often end up as part of inexpensive large-format jug wines that don't do much to benefit California's
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reputation as a wine producer however there are a few spots particularly at the north end of the Central Valley that can produce great grapes most notably the Lodi a VA and its sub a VA s that are home to some really excellent Zinfandel and petite Syrah California's wine industry takes advantage of hundreds of available varietals the top seven of which are chardonnay cabernet sauvignon pinot noir merlot Sauvignon Blanc Syrah and Zinfandel but as with
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any large complex wine region it's best to think regionally to get a sense of what the state's strengths are the North Coast is home to both Napa Valley and Sonoma County with Napa famous for its Cabernet and Merlot both a single varietals and in blends but thanks to the cooling fog and breezes coming up from the San Pablo Bay Napa can also grow great Chardonnay and Pinot particularly in its Carneros uh bay VA that it shares with Sonoma speaking of Sonoma its well known for its Pinos and
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shards too and for the sparkling wines that can be made from them but it's also a home for well-respected Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc and petite Syrah from Napa can be out of sight the Sierra Foothills that benefit from both cool air via the San Francisco Bay from relatively high elevation or home to a fair amount of Zinfandel but it also grows fine cabin Syrah and it's home to a lot of interesting plantings of Italian varietals like Barbera and the Central Coast is home to a big chunk of California chardonnay plantings along
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with well-regarded Pinos and more recently roan varietals like Grenache Syrah Anwar ved and that's just the beginning of what there is to explore in California there's so much to explore in fact that some advice on styles to sample might be helpful so here's what I got first off California made its modern reputation on single varietal wines featuring international grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon Chardonnay and Pinot Noir among a host of others single varietal wines like these from
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California tend to be big Affairs with lots of alcohol and extraction and that often feature aggressive oak treatments especially among the cabs and shards though the best of them will still always have excellent balance this is a great place to start and don't shy away from blends either especially the Meritage of Bordeaux style blends that are also a California hallmark and while big gnarly reds and whites are totally a California thing to be aware of you should also note that that hasn't always been the case and there's even a
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movement afoot that emphasizes wines with lower alcohol and higher acid profiles that are more in keeping with the kind of wines that were coming out of the Golden State up through the 1970s before everyone started assuming that bigger was necessarily better so much for the heavy hitters made from international varieties but keep an eye out as well for some more recent trends like the great Rhone styled wines that are coming out of different parts of the state but especially from the South Central Coast California is home to the endearingly named Rhone Rangers a group
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that's been doing a lot to promote Rome style blends and single varietal wines throughout the US and abroad and their efforts have been paying off with more and more producers making more and more excellent wines in the key of our California is also home to a bunch of older plantings of Italian varietals especially Sangiovese a and Barbera but with multiple Giano and a bunch of others in the mix as well some of these plantings go back to a wave of interest in using Italian styled wines in California called the Cala towel movement that hit its peak in the 1980s as
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producers especially innovative ones like Robert Mondavi we're looking to make something different than the usual Bordeaux style dreads and while the initial movement lost steam after the 80s a lot of those plantings are still there there's renewed interest in crafting something really special from them and finally don't forget to spend some time checking out that vast quilt of styles and grapes that can only be thought of as quintessentially California like powerful and often oak treated Sauvignon Blanc dusty petite Syrah brimming over with chocolate and blueberries big honkin Zinfandels and
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mystery wines made as filled blends from old vineyards with a hodgepodge of different grapes all mixed together like they did it back in the day before single varietals were king I don't normally recommend individual producers on these casts but I'll cut my home state a special deal and just note that any of the wines that I just flashed before you are from personal favorite producers that I found to be incredibly dependable thanks for joining me for another wine cast I really do hope to return to California as a subject and do an appropriately thorough
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treatment of its history and its contribution to world wine culture but meanwhile I hope this cast has given you some insight into what makes California special and in a more personal level I hope it got you thinking of California and what you can do to help during this very bad time thanks as always for watching and otherwise supporting this channel I'm very much looking forward to getting back into the full swing of regular weekly cast once I'm done with my exam so thanks for sticking with me and my channel I've been busy I'm your host the unknown wine caster and I'm out enjoy the grape but always
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enjoy it responsibly

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