California is steeped in grape growing history and winemaking know how, the first vines were planted in 1863 by Spanish missionaries. The Californian gold rush started in 1848 which increased and the numbers of people arriving in the state and the subsequent demand for the local wines increased.
Today California has an impressive Sustainable Winegrowing Program. It has far reaching objectives including biodiversity, ecosystem management, energy efficiency, water quality and air quality are all key priorities. When driving through the vineyards of Napa, bat boxes and owl boxes are common place. Land set aside to encourage pollinator insects and vegetable gardens growing beside the vines are frequently seen. Refreshingly, in keeping with this philosophy, 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.
It's the people however who bring the California wine scene alive, with their abounding devotion to making the best quality wines they can. Here are just a few worth seeking out.
Raymond Winery is owned by the well know Burgundian Jean Charles Boisset. A fully functioning Biodynamic winery making interesting Cabernet Sauvignon. Kitted out internally with a night club, a wine sensory area and a “Winemaker for a Day Experience”, the external area is the complete opposite with a biodynamic garden populated by goats and sheep because Jean Charles is committed to sustainable practises. Raymond Winery is open to visitors.
At the smaller more traditional end of the scale is Schramsberg. This property was established in 1965 by Jack and Jamie Davis, now run by their son, this is one of the most prestigious sparkling wines made in the US. Made in the same way as Champagne, the elegance and quality of the wines are exceptional and well worth seeking out. A visit to this winery promises traditional cellars and traditional winemaking practises as well as the opportunity to taste high quality sparkling wines.
There was no doubt when arriving at Ingelnook, that the owner was a “movie mogul”. This is a stunning estate that has a French style Chateau at its heart. Owned by Francis Ford Copolla, the visitors centre is stuffed with movie industry paraphernalia including the hand written cast list from The Godfather. Making stunning Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, elegance and fruit purity are the hallmarks of the estates wine style.
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 and Pinot Noir. Burgundian in approach, the wines are exceptional quality and an honest reflection of the climate and vineyards of this beautiful river influenced inland region.
100% Chardonnay, made in the same way as Champagne, elegant and complex with toasted brioche on the nose and palate balanced by refreshing citrus notes and a touch of honey.
A field blend, this is where the different vines are grown together in the same vineyard, this is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and Zinfandel. Supple, ripe and concentrated.
Purity of fruit, intense and concentrated with a ripe tannin profile, hints of spice and vanilla, this wine is perfect with red meats and hearty stews and would do a hard cheese proud.
An elegant, rich Chardonnay, lemon freshness and green apple balances a creamy mid palate, some underlying hints of toasted hazelnuts gives an exotic feel, serve with grilled white fish.
Please note prices are correct at time of publishing. Please check our website or stores for the most up to date pricing.