At the time of writing this post, the famous song by The Mamas & The Papas, “California Dreamin”, came to my mind, as there have been many occasions when, after drinking a Californian wine, I have dreamt of California. Travelling along the west coast of the United States is like being in a road movie. There are so many films in which this mythical American area appears that the landscape is not strange, although, without a doubt, it is always captivating. Everything there is in a big way. Infinite roads with infinite lanes, infinite trailers, infinite distances, infinite landscapes, infinite vineyards?
Ninety percent of the wine produced in the United States comes from California, which is an indication of the wine-growing importance of the area. If I had to sum up my opinion of Californian wines, I would say, in general terms, that they represent roundness. They are well-made, well-balanced, clean, beautiful, technological wines, but always with everything in its place.
Although it might seem otherwise, Californian viticulture is not a copy of Bordeaux or Burgundy, not at all, but it is the perfect example of adapting European grape varieties to a terroir that has its own idiosyncrasies, from which Californian winegrowers have been able to extract all the juice by creating their own know-how. The double trial in Paris was a good example of this.
Unlike the wine-growing areas of old Europe, the key to the Californian vineyard lies in the climate that dominates its coastline. The uniqueness lies in the fogs caused by warm, humid air from the Pacific Ocean coming into contact with the cold waters off the Californian coast, which are then carried inland by the warm air from the mainland. This meteorological phenomenon explains the famous phrase “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco”, attributed to Mark Twain.
The lower temperatures caused by the fog favour viticulture along the coast, especially in Napa Valley, Sonoma, Mendocino, and the Central Coast, where excellent wines are made from chardonnay, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon or syrah. There are so many interesting producers that it is impossible to mention them all, but all you have to do is start drinking their wines to discover that wine excellence can be found anywhere on the planet. So, let’s take a car and tour the wine regions of the American West Coast, while “California Dreamin” is blaring from the radio.