Hot this Summer: California

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Vintages Feature Story

Follow us on a sensory journey to sunny California and discover five reasons why it’s a regular player on our summer hot list.

Creativity and innovation are essential elements in winemaking, but they need not be solely the purview of the winemaker. Challenging times like the ones we’re experiencing require imagination to help us see them through. Wine speaks to where it’s from, allowing us to visit places without ever leaving our homes. Vintages can help you explore the world. The wines in our latest release and on our store shelves can take you to France, Portugal, Australia, New Zealand, Niagara, PEC and the Okanagan – anywhere you want to go. Close your eyes, nose one of these Californian gems, and join us as we take a sensory journey that highlights just some of the many things we love about the Golden State.

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California has a storied past and a bright future

Perfect weather, stunning landscapes and a “sky’s the limit” attitude have made California a living metaphor for making it big. From the influx of people and energy that the 1848 gold rush wrought to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, California embodies the dream of success like nowhere else. And we’re not merely talking about fame and fortune. Sunny skies and varied, complex soils, along with a range of climatic circumstances that support virtually every wine grape there is, have made California an attractive location for pioneering winemakers, too. Franciscan missionaries, with their plantings for sacramental wine, demonstrated the viability of the region as far back as the 1700s. And when Buena Vista was founded in 1857 by Hungarian born Count Agoston Haraszthy, it confirmed the region as a place to watch. California’s wine history is long and storied, and many of the most popular wines on the Vintages shelves reach back into this rich past. Producers like Beringer (founded 1876) and Inglenook (1879), modern influencers such as Robert Mondavi (1966) and Stag’s Leap (1970), and cult wineries such as Orin Swift are regularly featured in our bi-weekly releases, monthly Classics Collections and exclusive online offers.


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Sun and surf are a way of life

From every angle – wine, landscape, climate, food, past present and future – California is a buffet of wow!

It’s impossible to imagine California without picturing convertibles, perfect beaches, and people surfing sparkling waves or rollerblading along seafront boardwalks, but just like the diverse wines produced here, the Golden State is awash with a wide range of things to do and places to see. And though travel is a complicated endeavor at the moment, pouring a glass of Californian wine can let you bring a taste of that vitality and energy home – a virtual wine tour, if you will. Think about kayaking on Lake Sonoma or Monterey Bay, or hiking or biking in Death Valley or the Anza-Borrego Desert, where natural beauty and metal sculptures make for unforgettable scenery. There are ancient forests, the Joshua Tree National Park, the hilly streets of San Francisco, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, and so much more. Even if you can’t visit these places, the wines from California will transport your senses, encapsulating California’s vast potential to inspire.


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Every corner of wine country inspires wanderlust

Fog-cooled, sun-kissed vineyards and diverse soils and mesoclimates have made the tiny Napa Valley the champion of premium New World wine. Napa’s position was confirmed by the stunning results of the 1976 Judgment of Paris, and it remains. Sonoma was California’s original fine-wine region, and wines of distinction have been created here since the early 1800s. Sonoma contains more soil types than all of France, and site selection has a massive influence on the texture and structure of the region’s wines. With winemakers able to produce premium wines from more than 100 varietals, Lodi exemplifies the diversity of California’s terroir. Monterey’s growing areas benefit from some of the longest growing seasons in California, which combine with ocean fogs to produce wines that possess both great intensity of flavour and freshness; factors that are vividly on display in the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for which the region is famous. Paso Robles is an area with a strong independent cowboy mystique, and the vast majority of the more than 200 wineries here are family-owned and -operated. Paso Robles sees the largest swing in daytime and nighttime temperatures in all of California, and wines have been made among the rolling hills, flatlands and mountainous terrain here since 1790.


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The wines are awe-inspiring

No matter what you’re looking for in a wine, California has it. Everything from highly rated, highly allocated boutique wines for the connoisseur and collector right down to superb-value everyday wines for the rest of us. The king of California is without doubt the ripe, intense Cabernet Sauvignon produced here. These wines are always impressive and structured, with black fruit, earth, and a pure cassis tone that’s especially notable in those from the Napa Valley. Merlot in California is soft, luscious and approachable, with a rich texture, ripe cherry, plum, and a refined herbal note. Pinot Noir shines in the breezy, cool-climate coastal areas, where it reveals bright berry and earth tones and a lifted, fresh acidity. Petite Sirah is often seen as a blending grape, but where conditions allow, it creates big, fruity, characterful stand-alone wines that are earning it a strong following as a varietal wine.

California Chardonnay comes in a range of styles from the fresh and crisp to the buttery and rich. As with its Burgundian neighbour Pinot Noir, the best sites are found in coastal areas. Grassy, with grapefruit, apple and tropical fruit notes, Sauvignon Blanc is another winning white wine from California, as are the crisp, bright, fruity wines made from Pinot Gris.


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The food’s as fine as the wine

Wine and food go together like California and dreaming. Keeping in perfect step with the pioneering spirit that fueled the wine industry here, chefs in the Golden State are famous for being risk takers and rule breakers. There has long been a bold and even playful energy to the food scene here, and like the wines, there’s a rich history and an exciting future to Californian cuisine. Chez Panisse opened in 1971, and owner Alice Waters ushered in the farm-to-table revolution and inspired people like Judy Rodgers of the Zuni Café, which rose to delicious prominence in the 1980s. This year, Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne brought their Californian twist on Spanish and Portuguese fare to LA when they opened Caldo Verde at the Proper Hotel. And celebrity chef Michael Mina has begun making mouths water with the two locations of his newly opened Bungalow Kitchen. From every angle – wine, landscape, climate, food, past present and future – California is a buffet of wow!

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