California is one of the world’s great wine-producing regions, and its products can rival European wines, even the high prestige wines from France and Spain. The industry has grown and matured over the years and now produces world-class bottles appreciated by oenophiles along with affordable, good-tasting wines for the average consumer. Knowing a little about wine cultivation in California can help you choose the Best California Wine for your table.
The wine was first cultivated in the state by Spanish missionaries in the 1800s. The grapes they planted were a Mexican variety known as the black grape, and the wine the priests produced was used for religious purposes as well as personal consumption. With the Gold Rush of the 19th century, the population of California grew exponentially, and so did the demand for wine. An epidemic of phylloxera followed by Prohibition, however, nearly destroyed the wine-making industry in the early part of the 20th century, and wine production was slow until it took off in the 1960s.
Although California wines were considered inferior to European wines in the mid-twentieth century, one significant event changed the perception of California wines and led to the growth it has continued to experience ever since. In 1976, several California wineries were invited to participate in a blind taste test held in Paris. To everyone’s surprise, the California wines won most of the contests in both white and red categories.
The wine country of California is a 700-mile stretch extending from Mendocino County in the north to Riverside County in the south, and it is divided into four main regions: the North Coast, including Napa Valley and Sonoma County; the Central Coast, from San Francisco Bay down to Santa Barbara County; the South Coast, from Los Angeles down to the Mexican border; and the Central Valley, an inland region and the state’s largest wine-growing area.
California vineyards grow the seven major varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Merlot, along with most other familiar grapes, and wineries produce every type of wine, from sparkling wines to dessert wines. If you need more help finding the Best California Wine, visit Towne Cellars Wines & Liquors Inc.
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