Steeped in grape growing history and wine-making know how, the first vines were planted in California by Spanish missionaries, the gold rush which started in 1848 increased the numbers of people arriving in the state and increased the demand for the local wines. In 1919 California faced the challenge of prohibition which all but wiped out the industry but in 1976, The Judgement of Paris tasting elevated the status of California wines and once again increased demand for them worldwide.
California is recognised for both high wine quality and its Sustainable Wine-growing Program. The abundance of bat and owl boxes spotted when driving through the Napa valley are testament to the commitment of the wineries to the program. Land set aside to encourage pollinator insects and vegetable gardens growing beside the vines are also frequently seen. Refreshingly, in keeping with a philosophy of diversity and ecosystems in the vineyards, cover crops and the decision not to use weed killer, leaves the vineyards alive and natural in appearance rather than manicured to within an inch of their lives.
Diversity in wine style too abounds, from world class sparkling wines to robust powerful reds. Top end method traditional Schramsberg was established in 1965 by Jack and Jamie Davis and is now run by their son. Made in the same way as Champagne, this is one of the most prestigious sparkling wines made in the US. 100% the wine is elegant and complex with toasted brioche on the nose and palate balanced by refreshing citrus notes and a touch of honey.
Of Irish heritage, is the Teac Mor estate in the Russian River Valley. Originally from County Galway, this Irish family are making premium Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from their own vineyards. The Russian River is technically cool climate in California so perfectly suited to growing Chardonnay, the wine is rich and complex with a creamy mid palate balanced by green apple notes and a hint of toasted hazelnuts, refreshing, lingering and elegant on the finish.
Kendall Jackson Zinfandel is one the most juicy, drinkable and delicious Zinfandels around. Jackson Family Wines are a family company who own numerous small prestigious wine estates across Napa but the Kendall Jackson range is the backbone of the portfolio. The Zinfandel grape is synonymous with US wines, and Napa is a great place to start exploring the reds. This Zin is plummy and ripe with a hint of spice and supple rounded tannins.
Stepping outside of California to Washington State, the climate is cooler and because of this, this region have the opportunity to grown aromatic whites that thrive in cooler climate locations. Château St Michelle Riesling is elegant, with crisp apple notes and a hint of ripeness gives balance to the freshness of the wine. Mosel specialist Ernie Loosen mentors Chateau St Michelle so an authentic expression of this classic grape is guaranteed.