Complacency comes easily for Californians who may easily find a good bottle of wine. On a recent boat trip through Mississippi and Arkansas, the difference between the wine haves and the have-nots was abundantly clear.
In Mississippi liquor and wine are sold in ‘package stores’ selling only alcohol. Visiting big-box retailers like Wal-Mart, you can only find beer. No wine, no spirits.
So it was interesting to visit a package store in Columbus, Mississippi to see what varietals of wine they sell, what they inventory. Let’s just say, it was disappointing.
The biggest seller was Merlot, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon. Basically, that was the inventory except for the two brands of Zinfandel and three brands of Shiraz (Yellowtail of course!) Of course there was a truckload of Chardonnay and Riesling.
There were no varietals like Syrah, Petit Sarah, Pinot Noir, Primitivo, Sangiovese, Viognier, Mourvedre, Carignane and no blends like GSM (Bordeaux style) or Cuvee.
This lack of variety was highlighted by a chance conversation on the flight home. My seatmate from Nashville, Tennessee enjoyed a particular Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and he wanted to visit California to tour Napa, tasting wines. To him, this was California wine.
I asked if he’d ever heard of Paso Robles, Monterey, Lodi & Gold Country and the hundreds (if not thousands) of wineries populating these regions? He had not. So I shared these regions and names of places he should visit (and of course URL of this web site.)
Imagine flying into San Jose or San Francisco airport, heading south for an hour or so you’ll be savoring the wines of Monterey and Carmel Valley area (probably for two days) like Schied, Hahn and Talbott. Then head south an hour and a half into the Paso Robles area for wine from Justin, Tablas Creek, Opolo, Derby, Eos and Tobin James. You could spend weeks exploring all of its wineries, varietals and regions (we break them up into Northwest, Southwest, Southeast and Northeast sections divided by Highway 46 and Pacific Coast Highway.)
‘Those of us in California, enjoying a good home grown bottle of wine should remember to enjoy this Golden Age of California Wine, and hope it keeps getting better and better.’
And then, if you really want to expand on the taste of California’s Golden Age of Wine, head south another hour and a half to Santa Maria and land in the northern expanse of Foxen Canyon. Head south through the canyon for a bottle of wine at some wonderful wineries like Sisquoc, Zaca Mesa, Cambria and Cottonwood Creek.
What a wine education this trip would provide!
For Californiains, it is easy to forget about the variety, the quality and the beauty of all these wines in our own backyard. Those of us in California, enjoying a good home grown bottle of wine should remember to enjoy this Golden Age of California Wine, and hope it keeps getting better and better.
Bill Hodge & Erin O’Neill-Hodge enjoy a good bottle of wine, visiting and enjoying California wineries from Lake County to Orange County, from the Paso Robles Gold Coast to Gold Country and from Lodi to Bakersfield.