by Fred McMillin
for August 2000
California Wine Trends
Chardonnay—Monterey with its 15,028 acres has
displaced Sonoma County (13,277 acres) as the
State Chardonnay leader. Napa lost first place
to Sonoma some 20 years ago, and about a decade
later Monterey went by it. But while Monterey has
the volume, Sonoma and Napa counties
still lead it in quality.
Merlot - Hot, hot, hot! Between 1990 and 1995,
state acreage doubled. From 1995 to 1999, it
Cabernet Sauvignon - The Napa Valley produces
triple the number of superb Cabs than do all the
other regions of California combined!
Zinfandel—It remains the most widely-planted
red wine grape in the Golden State. Old vines make
the better wines.
Grenache—The world's most widely-planted
red wine grape gets little respect in California,
but plenty of acreage (around 11,000). With
increasing interest in Rhone varieties, the name
may appear on labels more often in the future.
To see what it can do, try John Alban's Edna
These morsels come from just one section of the best current book on California wine...
California Wine, New Second Edition
By James Laube of the Wine Spectator
1999, 646 pages, $40
700 wineries, over 5,000 wines
If you aren't yet convinced of the value of this
book, let's look at one example from each of a few
Vintages—This has been a good decade. Going
back to the 1980s, there was but one five-star
vintage, 1985. How many five-star vintages for 1990
through 1997? FIVE!
New American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) -
The Feds have given official recognition to the
1998—Mendocino Ridge. The first AVA in
California to be non-contiguous. It covers
410 square miles, but excludes all land below
Greenwood Ridge estate vineyard is included.
1999—Chiles Valley. This is a valley
within Napa Valley, higher and cooler than
the floor of Napa Valley. WineDay has had
good luck with the Rustridge products.
1999—San Fancisco Bay Area. Contains over
1.5 million acres from seven counties that
have in common the cool Bay Area air. The AVA
extends South from the counties of San Francisco
and Contra Costa. The jury is out
regarding how much it will be used.
Quality Versus Quantity - Laube says, "Robert Mondavi
remains the single greatest influence on modern California
wine." His Napa winery bottles consistently rate four and
five stars. Yet, he also has a winery in the Central Valley,
that consistently draws only ONE star for each of its seven
wines. So why bother? It looks like most of we consumers
don't worry about stars. The Mondavi Woodbridge plant in
Lodi sells five MILLION cases a year, and generates more
income than any of the other Mondavi operations.
To order the book, Running Press Publishers, (215)567-5O8O FAX (215)568-2919
Where does James keep his 50,000+ tasting notes? At his home in the city of NAPA!
This page created August 2000