While I remain enamored with the great wines of California’s past, I am on the fence in regards to what can be called their more modern style first embraced in the very early 1980s. The wines from the 1960s and 1970s were often made by winemakers operating in the field, basing their actions on the accumulated wisdom of the generations that had come before them.

In one fell swoop, the University of California at Davis changed almost all of that. In the late 1970s there was a backlash against wines that were perceived as too tannic, alcoholic, and over-ripe. Boy how things have changed! In an effort to tame these brutes, and bring elegance to the wines of California the concept of “food wines” was born. A marketing major could not have come up with a better idea!

Food wines, simply put, were wines that were to be lighter, more elegant and less aggressive in their youth. What the winemakers actually achieved was to strip the glory that is California from the wines and make them resemble cheap, almost innocuous table wines.  Guess what happened next.

What to expect: Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

California's Napa Valley has been a source of world-class Cabernet Sauvignon for well over a century. It's warm climate, and varied terrain, allows for many styles of wine. One thread that runs through almost all the Cabernet based wines from Napa is their lush, ripe full-bodied feel and rich flavors of currant and berry. Wines from the valley floor, particularly around Rutherford, are famed for a dusty quality, while those coming from the hillsides surrounding the valley, Mt. Veeder, Diamond Mountain and Howell Mountain for example, tend to be a little leaner with more obvious structural elements.