California is a very large wine region in which the following guaranteed places of origin are the best known: Mendocino Country, Lake Country, Sonoma Country (includes the famous Russian River Valley and Sonoma Valley),
Napa Valley, Los Carneros, Central Valley, Sierra Foothills, Livermore Valley, Santa Cruz Mountains, Monterey Country, San Joaquin Valley, San Luis Obispo Valley, and Santa Barbara Country.
Irrigation is permitted throughout California but not necessary everywhere. The most popular grape varieties are Chardonnay, Colonbard, Chenin Blanc, Fumé Blanc, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, and Viognier for white wines and Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Barbera, Sangiovese, Syrah, and Grenache for red wine. The classic Californian grape variety of Zinfandel is starting to play an incresingly important role.
You mai encounter thousands of different types of Californian wine because of the great differences in climate, soil, wine-making method, yield, and target group for marketing.
The powerful house of Champagne forbid everyone from using their name outside the designated area of Champagne in France yet you will find the term ‘Champagne’ used in the USA on other wines. To avoid long drawn out and costly law siuts in the American courts, the Champagne houses have had to accept that names such as ‘Californian Champagne’ are legally permitted here.
They are however restricted to the domestic markets so that the so-called Californian Champagne must be sold in Europe merely as ‘sparkling wine’. American sparkling wines are made in both pink (rosé) and white and from quite dry to sweet. The driest is the Brut, followed by Extra Dry, Dry/Sec, and Demi-Sec, which is the sweetest.
Only the highest quality sparkling are made in the United States by the traditional method with second fermentation in the bottle. Most are produced by the charmat or bulk method. This shows to be made down to a price. A thrid method is the transfer method which combines aspects of both the other methods. The results are of better quality than with the ordinary bulk method but remain cheaper than the traditional way.
Whether white or rosé, some of these wines are well worth discovering. Two of the leading Champagne nouses make good ‘Champagne’ style wines in America. Those of Mumm are good while the Taittinger product is excellent.
|| The Mumm wines from the Napa Valley are livelier and more unrully tha those of Taittinger, which come from Carneros, and are more grown-up and full-bodied. Drinking temperature is 42.8 – 46.4°F (6-8°C).