California is the fourth largest producer of wine in the world, after Italy, France and Spain, and produces 90 percent of the US wine.
The first vineyards were planted in California at the end of the 18th century. They served mostly for wine for religious purposes. Wine industry was born only 100 years later. Thanks to a small group of European emigrants, Napa and Sonoma have begun to acquire their current appearance during President Abraham Lincoln.
Around 1830, Jean Louis Vince, arriving from Bordeaux, sees the potential of the terroir and carries cuttings of many varieties of native European Vitis vinifera. Its vineyard was located in the center of present-day Los Angeles. Shortly thereafter, a group of German immigrants kicked off large vineyards in Anaheim. Now is the world-famous Disneyland.
In 1848, California's Golden Fever began. This leads to a huge increase in population and development in northern California (for only one year the population of San Francisco rises from 1,000 to 25,000). There are many immigrants from France, Italy, Germany and other European countries among the gold seekers. Few manage to get rich. But many of those who fail, understand that the land offers unlimited potential for growing vines.
With the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, California wines find markets in the eastern states and Europe. Around 1880, the University of California created a large research center in Berkeley and experimental vineyards in many areas of the state. He was moved to Davis in 1906 as the world-renowned Department of Vine and Oenology at the University of California.
The phylloxera of the late 19th century, the dry regime between 1920 and 1933 and the two World Wars have a devastating effect on California wine. It takes 20-30 years before it recovers strength. In fact, until the 1960s, sweet wine production was more popular than the dry red wine in the Napa Valley.
The 60s of the last century redefined many aspects of American life. Americans travel to Europe and start to move closer to European. Hippies drink wine to revolt against their parents who drink cocktails, and California winemakers are beginning to make world-class wines. The result is astounding - a 40% increase in US wine consumption between 1968 and 1972.
May 24, 1976. Manufacturers from California participated in a blind tasting, comparing their wines with French. The panel of judges consists only of Frenchmen. California wines are ranked in the Whales in both categories: "Chardonnay" and "Red", to the greatest surprise of their representatives and great humiliation for the hosts.
The results of what is known as the "Parisian verdict" were printed in the Time magazine, while the French press barely reflected the event. When the noise of the triumph of the winners is settled, the audience's recognition - a leap in sales and wine prices - is not too late. The modern age of the California wine industry begins.
By the end of the 80s in California a series of excellent harvests gave a boost. Better wine brings more points than Robert Parker, the most influential critic ever made. Higher points are quickly transformed into more money, and things go away. This became apparent in the 1990s, which many consider the first Gold Decade of California wine.
The popularity and power of Robert Parker is also growing. His enthusiastic praise is made by unknown stars. Many people blame Robert Parker for the escalating prices of California wine. Without underestimating its role, however, such a view may be too simple. Market processes have a significantly wider range of impacts on them.
Here are some figures to get an idea of how fast and rapid the growth of the California wine industry is. In 1965 there were 232 producers, in 1975 - 330, 1985 - 712, 1995 - 944, in 2005 - 2,275. Today, there are 4700 wineries in California.
Situated on the Pacific coast of the United States, California is the third largest (after Alaska and Texas) and the most populous state with nearly 40 million inhabitants. California extends about 560km wide in the east-west direction and nearly 1300km north-south.
Bordering north with Oregon, eastward with Nevada, southeast with Arizona (separated by the Colorado River) and south with Mexico (Baja California Norte). From the west are the shores of the Pacific Ocean.
Plenty of sun, making the grape harvest season long, is perhaps the unifying factor when it comes to California's climate and the growing of vines. The size of the state itself and its topography create a wide range of temperature differences, precipitation and winds.
Over a thousand kilometers of coastline is also of great importance for wine throughout the state. Depending on the type and strength of the oceanic influence, the wine-growing regions choose planting sites with appropriate varieties. Nearby vines are exposed to natural "air conditioning" by winds and mists, making them excellent for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and other cool climatic varieties.
Warmer inland valleys receive a similar cooling effect thanks to lakes, rivers and their deltas. Vineyards planted on the hills of California enjoy a cool combination of cool air and bright rays of sunshine, which Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are doing well. Overall, the climate of the state can be defined as Mediterranean, but there are also many areas with a significantly more continental, dry climate.
California, unlike Europe, enjoys a lot of good weather, with enough heat, sunlight and rain to ripen the grapes. The periods of drought are compensated by irrigation, which is legal for the producers there.
The turbulent geological past of California is most visible from the San Andreas fault, which extends over 1200km across the state. It is the tectonic boundary between the Pacific and North American plates, where the first moves inwards into the ocean by 1.3 centimeters per year. The tectonic forces have "folded" enormous layers, bringing some to the surface, and others submerging in depth.
The geology of California offers a vast variety of soils at a slight distance from one another, sometimes literally from a hilltop to a hill. You'll find combinations of limestone, volcanic, clay and sandy soils on metamorphic rocks just a few feet below that provide nutrients and minerals to vines whose roots penetrate deep into the layers to find water.
Vineyards and Varieties
California offers variety not only in the wine styles but also in the varieties it uses. The long list starts with the noble ones: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semiyon, Riesling. Zinfandel, Pty Syrah, Grenache, Mourveder, Malbec, Caberbay Fran, Rousan, Marsan, Nebolo, Sangiovese are also grown. California also makes sweet wines from botanical grapes, sparkling Champagne-style and even fortified wines.
The vast variety of varieties in California is a reflection of the innovative and experimental spirit of the people who create the blame of the Golden State. Climate and soils offer a place for almost every variety they choose to try. The Department of Vine and Oenology in Davis, California, has concentrated knowledge from around the world and has been constantly exploring the capabilities of various micro-regions in the state for over 100 years.
Wine Production and Wines
The warm climate of the New World allows many wineries to use well-ripened fruit with more intense fruit flavors and tastes than the earthly and mineral shades most common in the Old World. More sugars accumulate in the grains and the long season allows for optimal phenolic maturation. Many California wines have an alcohol content of over 13.5%.
The style of California's Chardonnay differs from the Chablis wines. Californians prefer to use malolactic fermentation and aging in American oak barrels to make wines with softness and density full of taste.
Californian Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, who first put California on the world wine map in 1976 in Paris, are doing the same style today. These are wines with concentration and complexity.
By 1998, when Cabernet Sauvignon emerged, Zinfandel was the most widely planted red grapes in California. This is due to the popularity of the sweet white Zinfandel at that time, made of the same red grape - white technology.
Although they are made primarily of the same varieties and methods, Californian sparkling wines are not considered as imitators of Champagne but rather for wines with their own style. Instead of having the note of yeast cookies, a quality that distinguishes the best French sparkling, California's high class demonstrates the clarity of fruit flavors without being highly pronounced. Wines strive for finesse and elegance. The optimal climatic location allows most sparkling wine producers to achieve almost every year a vintage wine, whereas in Champagne this happens only in exceptional years.
Recently, the style discrepancy between the two worlds of wine seems to begin to fall back into the past. Today, the world is smaller, more educated and more people cross the continents, bringing ideas, practices and traditions to exchange in pursuit of perfect wine from the perfect place.