A new crop of Californian wines are hitting liquor store shelves this month. Here to tell us about which ones we should look for is Natalie MacLean, who offers North America’s most popular online wine classes at nataliemaclean.com.
Give us an overview of California wine, Natalie.
California wine country is vast, stretching from the Oregon border in the north, down to Mexico in the south: wine grapes grown in 49 of California’s 58 counties.
California accounts for more than 80%of U.S. wine production and is the fourth leading wine producer in the world. That said, many wineries are family-owned like this one from the Wagner Family, who also produce Caymus wines. This is a smooth, full-bodied Cabernet with fleshy ripe aromas of dark berries, plums and mocha. It would be great with brisket or prime rib.
Bonanza California Cabernet Sauvignon
California, United States
I also have the Josh Cellars Pinot Noir from the Central Coast, named after the founding father of the winery, Josh Carr, that’s now run by his son, Joseph Carr. This is like liquid silk and medium-bodied with lush cherry notes. It would be terrific with roast turkey or veal.
Josh Cellars Pinot Noir
Central Coast, California, United States
What else should we know about Californian wines?
More than 80% of Californian wine is produced by certified sustainable wineries. That certification process has strict rules about environmental issues like water and energy use, biodiversity, as well as the economic and social well-being of farm and winery employees.
I have Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay from the Central Coast of California, which is sustainably farmed and owned by the Wente family. They created the clone of this grape that many others now use in the state. I love the Morning Fog name that refers to the fog that rolls in from the Pacific Ocean in the mornings and blankets the vineyards, then slowly burns off during the day with the sun, slowing the ripening process.This is a fresh, vibrant, mouth-watering Chardonnay that would pair beautifully with roast chicken.
Wente Vineyards Morning Fog Chardonnay
Livermore Valley, California, United States
I also have Bonterra Merlot, which is both sustainable and organic. There have been a number of wines marketed lately as “clean” like clean beauty, clean wines. Many are just marketing gimmicks, but Bonterra is the real thing. It’s also climate neutral certified in terms of its environmental footprint. It offers juicy notes of black plums and spice. It would be great with a rack of lamb.
Mendocino County, California, United States
Tell us more about the grapes that are the specialties of California?
Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are the most popular white and red grapes, like these two beauties: Imagery Chardonnay is full-bodied with aromas of fresh peach and juicy pear. It would be terrific with pasta in cream sauce.
Imagery Estate Winery Chardonnay
California, United States
I also have the 7 Deadly Cabernet from the Lodi region, robust, dark and delicious with ripe blackberry notes. It would be killer with a pepper steak.
7 Deadly Cabernet Sauvignon
Lodi, California, United States
Then finally we have Merlot and Pinot Noir, like these terrific examples from Ghost Pines, a blend of Merlot grapes from Sonoma, Lake County and Napa. It’s smooth with seductive blackberry notes. Great with pork tenderloin.
Ghost Pines Winemaker’s Blend Merlot
Sonoma County and Napa County, California, United States
And this Bread and Butter Pinot Noir from Napa with its lush black cherry notes that would soak into veal.
Bread & Butter Pinot Noir
Napa, California, United States
How many different grapes are grown in the state?
How many grape growers?
How many wineries are there?
How many cases of wine does the state produce each year?
How many tourists are drawn to California wine regions each year?
Posted with permission of CTV.