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by Fred McMillin
for May 2006

Wine

 

Label Talk—Are "California" Wines Inferior?

You are looking at affordable Golden State wines. Some bottles are from a county such as Monterey. Other labels simply say "California," which means the grapes for that wine could have come from anywhere in the state. "Califorina" wines tend to be less expensive, but are they actually inferior? That is, for we huddled masses does a $15 Monterey Chardonnay actually taste better than a $13 "California" Chardonnay? To get an answer, my picky panel tasted 10 pair. The "California" squad averaged $10 a bottle, and the more prestigious county wines averaged $13. Here are...

The Results

Of the 10 pairings (tasted blind), "California" won FIVE! That is, my group of ordinary wine enthusiasts found the ordinary wine to be about as good as the pricier flight. If you'd like to check our results, here are the six highest-rated wines, with the best bottle listed last. Thus, the further you read, the better the bottle.

Rank   Wine
6th - COUNTY, Valley of the Moon Zinfandel, Sonoma, 2003, $16
5th - California, Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel, 2003, $11
4th - COUNTY, Barefoot Reserve Chardonnay, Sonoma, 2002, $15
3rd - California, Dancing Bull Zinfandel, 2003, $12
2nd - COUNTY, Shenandoah Vineyards Zinfandel, Amador, '03, $10

And the big enchilada is...

1st - California, Beringer Founders' Estate Chardonnay, 2003, $12
 

Conclusion

"California" wines are not inferior in this price range.

 

And a Final Wine Smile

Wine improves with age. The older I get, the more I like it.

 
 
About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.

 


 

 
 

This page created May 2006

Copyright © 2006
electronic Gourmet Guide, Inc.

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