Here’s a quick statistical summary of the California wine scene.
- The Golden State produces 90% of all U.S. wine.
- If California were a country, it would be the world’s No. 4 producer, trailing only France, Italy and Spain.
- There are 3,540 bonded wineries as of 2012, up 108% from 1992.
- The state’s 4,600 grape growers farm 543,000 acres of vineyards.
*Courtesy of Wine Institute.
So what do all these numbers mean?
To me, it means that one should not be afraid of the “California” designation on a wine label.
Years ago, such a designation served as something of a “warning label” for wine lovers—an indication that the wine in the bottle might not be of the finest quality since it was an amalgam of juice from all over the state, rather than a single esteemed region such as “Napa Valley” or “Sonoma County.”
But Kendall Jackson changed that out-dated thinking when it began crafting highly rated and sought-after “California” wines by blending grapes from up and down the state. This process enabled the winery to develop a dependable “house style” that scores of consumers came to love.
The more “micro” a winery becomes, the less able it is to develop a “style,” a la Kendall Jackson. Because no two vintages are the same, due to varying weather patterns, a single-vineyard wine is more likely to vary widely from year to year than an “appellation” wine or a “regional” wine or a “state” wine.
As a result, savvy wine drinkers no longer scorn bottlings with “California” designations, because “California” wines can be great in vintages when “Rutherford” wines are just so-so.
They have learned to judge the wine rather than the label.