The natural association we make to the words â€œwineâ€ and â€œcountryâ€ is France, and there is no way around that. France is the heavyweight champion in wine making, and for good reason. The love affair the French have with wine has a long history and it is still represented through music, movies and pop culture. It would be unfair, however, to deprive other regions of this flattering title. Though there is only one wino champion, many other regions deserve recognition for their fair contribution to bon-vivants worldwide, and California is one of them.
A long tradition
Californian wine has a very long history, as far back as the 17th century, when the Jesuit priest Eusebio Francisco Kino planted the first Californian vineyard recorded, spreading old European traditions on new soil. Commercial viticulture started as early as 1830s and exploded in 1850s as a consequence of the gold rush and increased demand for wine. Many areas planted during that period, like Napa Valley and Sonoma County, still remain major centers of wine production and cultivation, containing over 800 wineries.
A developed industry
The modern Californian wine industry had its inception in the 1970s when local winemaking experienced some sort of renaissance, creating a momentum that continues today. Some of the largest American wine companies are still located in California. Whether through mass production or local artisanal winemaking, 90% of all wine produced on American soil comes from this federal state as well as over 60% of wine consumed in the whole country. In 2011 California shipped a whopping 211.9 million cases.
Soil and climate
One of the most important reasons for Californiaâ€™s rise as the unofficial homeland of American wine is the mild Mediterranean climate and lovely hilly landscape. Most vineyards in the region are located between Central Valley and the Pacific Coast, where the Pacific Ocean and large bays, such as San Francisco Bay, create tempering influence by providing fog and cool winds to balance the sunshine and heat. Most of California is drought-free because they receive sufficient amounts of rainfall. Winters are very mild with minimal threat of frost.
Californian cult wines
Not only does California produce massive amounts of wine, in this case, quality accompanies quantity. Since May the 24th, 1976 and the blind tasting held in Paris with French experts, when three out of four best raking wines were Californian Chardonnays, American wines got a great deal of attention and became serious rivals to their French cousins. Today, California produces some of the most attractive cult wines, like Screaming Eagle, for which wine enthusiasts will be ready to spend a little fortune.
Every region that has developed wine tourism can proudly present itself as a miniature Land of Wine and California is surely one of them, with the Napa Valley Wine train as one of the more memorable experiences. Other ways to discover Californian wine culture includes such means of transport like cars, bikes, boats and even a balloon or a horseback. At the end of the day, if you want to try the best of Californian wines in their respective vineyards, sign up for a culinary vacation in California, and let expert oenophiles lead the way.