Wine Talk

Snooth User: napagirl68

California Prejudice.. can we discuss this?

Posted by napagirl68, Nov 19, 2010.

Yes, I am native SF bay area Californian... 2nd gen.  Yes, I love and drink CA wines.  Yes, I have started to go outside my comfort zone and drink wine from other regions, many of which I really like.

However, my hands down fav. wines are California wines.. unless it is a grape done more commonly in another area and not CA- examples are Torrontes and Malbec.

That aside, I must say that I never drink the commonly distributed CA wines.  As a matter of fact, I cannot tell you the last time I have bought wine from a grocery store.  I tend to buy from very small wineries that do very amazing things.  If someone on the East coast, abroad, or elsewhere is basing their opinion of CA wines on what they can easily find, you are missing out!   Without being local, or visiting a lot, it is hard to get out and taste those GEMS that trump wines from all over the world.

I recently bought several french wines, which came highly recommended.  And... I REALLY liked them!  They were great!  Better than my top level picks from CA?? - Well, no... but comparable.  So yes, there are amazing wines from France, etc.  But I can almost always find one here I like a little better.  I do like the lower alcohol CA wines, I am not a fan of the high alcohol wines. 

Another issue is the VASTLY different regions here in CA... What variety we have here!  Not opening myself up for personal invitation, but give me a month with you in CA, and I will have even the the most stubborn anti-CA person converted.  :-)

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Reply by Joseph Salerno, Nov 19, 2010.

Sounds good but couldn't anyone from their own country, region, appelation say the same? (Though I'm not quite ready to convert people to michigan wines)  The thing I have against CA wines is it seems they want to make great wines without all the qualities that come from aging in the bottle. Not all wines of course, but all this "I want it now" attitude is forcing old world wineries to sort of dumb down their age worthy stock and create more competative wines that they can sell over seas right meow. Money Money Money, and where's all the heart and passion in making a great wine!  Wine is not about profit, it's about romance!  The love affair between man and nature, tradition and style, character and charisma that starts in the soil and ends in a bottle!  When someone makes a wine for Robert Parker to rate high, it leaves me with an awful astringent feeling in my mouth. 

Ok now don't get me wrong, I don't hate CA wines at all. In fact I can't wait to get out there and get my nose buried in a few glasses, see my friends in Sonoma and hopefully get a first hand view of their neighbors vineyards and maybe some one-on-ones with the winemakes.  I'm still so young and impressionable at this stage in my studying so I get all fired up, lol

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Reply by napagirl68, Nov 19, 2010.

I agree that all areas have their fav/amazing wines.  What is unique about CA is the soil and cliimate...  over hundreds of microclimates/10's of hundreds of districts, and lots of capital for those mom/pop operations to start creating true art. 

Seriously, give me a WEEK with you and you will go home speaking in tongues!!! LOL!  SERIOUSLY!!!  If you ever plan a trip out here, contact me.  Would love to steer you right (correctly, that is :-)

PS- I am talking smaller outfits here.. LOTS of  major romance, love, nature, creation....Italy is great, France is great, but when you have an equal in your backyard, would YOU look elsewhere???   (Compare it to a woman, if you have to :-)

The vast majority of the wines you will see that I have rated are VERY small vineyards, not distributed widely.  That is a NORM out here.  You can literally visit, in a span of a week, 60 wineries, and not have access to 90% of them out of the area (unless you order directly through the winery, which I do).  Thousands of wineries here.. many doing supreme work.  For now, just ignore the big names.  There are some that have some good wines, but sold in winery only.. not distributed (library wines).  I hate when a previously decent label, such as Merryvale, goes viral and spreads Starmont everywhere.. YUCK!  But  they do have some PHENOMENAL library wines.....  thus how we get the bad rep for those not actively tasting/buying local.

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Reply by napagirl68, Nov 19, 2010.

And yes... there is the argument of "big" wines in CA to sell... AKA high ETOH.  Well.... I personally, HATE hi ETOH wines.  I like a low alcohol so I can DRINK more! LOL!  Seriously, I hate that overpowering, alcohol nose on wines.  Hate it.  I agree, there are some wines in CA that can't help it... Paso Robles is one area.  The climate forces that ETOH.  However, regarding the best winemakers is Paso, I am amazed that I cannot taste/smell the alcohol when sipping their wines listed at 14.5% and above!  I am floored. I don't know how they do it, maybe someone else can chime in.  But some amazing rhones from down there... just wonderful.

Not all CA wines are BIG and fruit/tannin bombs.   Even with the Cab.  I have tasted the bordeaux's and they are ok..  I like their lightness in particular, but dislike their lack of depth (for the most part).

I have a cab I challenge you to procure and taste...I find it wonderful for the price of ~75USD.  It definitely can sit a few more years, but taste that potential..IT is phenomenal:

http://www.girardwinery.com/index/page/product/product_id/66/category_id/16/product_name/2006+Girard+Cabernet+Sauvignon%2C+Diamond+Mountain%2C+Napa+Valley%2C+750ml

It is too late to get me started on sonoma coast pinot and napa cab franc...  Let alone russian river chards, and Sonoma zins and Sauv blancs...And paso robles rhones.  And let's not forget about Santa cruz mts rhones and chards...   I could go on and on, but I won't.

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Reply by gregt, Nov 19, 2010.

Napagirl - I agree.  As I've said repeatedly, France, Spain, and CA are roughly the same size so when people refer generically to a "French" or "Spanish" or "CA" wine, that's usually because they don't know that much about the subject.  And that's quite OK, nobody knows everything about everything.  In the US, people confuse things like Rioja and Priorat because after all, they're both "Spanish".  In Europe, they think of "big" wines that get praised like huge Zins from Sonoma and ripe Cabs from Napa.

One reason may be that Napa defines Cab Sauvignon for many people, Sonoma perhaps Zinfandel, and and perhaps Sonoma also defines Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. 

And then, look at the wines that get big press.  Let's take SQN for example.  Lots of money, gets big press, and I completely understand why some dismiss it as overripe fruit.  Look at that thread about classification of CA wines - how many were initially made by Helen Turley, for example?  What's she known for but super-ripe, extracted, soft, gooey wine?  Yesterday I tasted about 40 CA Cabs.  Not necessarily "supermarket" wine either because it's illegal to sell wine in supermarkets in NY.   So passing over things like Beringer Knights Valley and Chat St Jean Sonoma Cab, the higher-level cabs from all over the state had a similarity.  A lot of that is Cab itself - it keeps its identity far more than a grape like Chardonnay for example, but a lot of it has to do with the style of the winemaking.  There are a few in Napa who pull back - Mayacamas comes to mind, Dunn, Corison, Monticello, Van der Hayden perhaps, Mondavi, BV, but most of them, and the newer ones in particular, push the envelope.  Grgich, for example, changed considerably in the mid 90s, becoming riper and higher in alcohol.

For Syrah, it's much the same.  Cabot has a nice meaty, bacony quality, and the Wind Gap wines tend to have more restraint, as does Edmund St John and perhaps a few others, but a lot of it is pushed really hard.  By and large, CA is a sunny place and that's part of it, but I think part of it is also the fact that it's still a relatively young winemaking place and it's taken a few generations to create a diversity of styles.

And the other thing is that there really aren't that many producers who are putting out things beyond the French varieties.  Why not more Italian grapes?  Mostly because wine weenies sniff and whine that if you grow Nebbiolo, "It's not Piedmont, it's not Piedmont, it's not Piedmont," and similarly disparage Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Blaufrankisch, Lagrein, Barbera, Aglianico, Carignan, etc.  There used to be acres and acres of Barbera and Carignan - that's what went into a lot of the Inglenook jug wine and some of those would be old vines that could make interesting wine but most of them are gone because of the tyranny of the French grapes. 

Palmina stands nearly alone as a great proponent of Italian grapes, also Seghesio and for a while, Pietra Santa.  All of them make or made good wine - but people want Merlot, Cab, Zin and Pinot Noir. 

I think Zin for example, can be made in a wonderful variety of styles, much like Chardonnay.  It can be light and fruity like Pinot Noir, more direct and stylish like Cab, or big and juicy like only Zin.  But it's usually the latter that gets the press and the attention. It's the only non-French grape that the US market seems to accept widely.

If CA in general laid off the new oak, produced some wines at under 14.2 alcohol, and worried less about size than about elegance, it would produce a wider variety of interesting wine.

I love CA wines and I'd be interested in knowning any that you'd recommend that I haven't tried.

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Reply by napagirl68, Nov 19, 2010.

GregT-  re; recommendations- I don't know if you are into the Rhone-type varietals, but one of my favorite wineries is a small one in Paso Robles called Anglim.  I love their Mourvedre http://www.anglimwinery.com/pdf/TS2007%20-%20MOHRV.pdf as well as their white blends (which I think are sold out).

I just had a cab I mentioned that I really liked- Girard 2006 Diamond mtn. cab http://www.girardwinery.com/index/page/product/product_id/66/category_id/16/product_name/2006+Girard+Cabernet+Sauvignon%2C+Diamond+Mountain%2C+Napa+Valley%2C+750ml 

They also make a 100% Malbec which is amazing, and a very decent petite syrah. 

I have also mentioned Gracianna's 2008 Bacigalupi vineyard Pinot Noir- tasted at Taste of Sonoma and really liked this wine. 

So many wines, so little time :-)

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Reply by Vine Master Fanucchi, Nov 19, 2010.

Good Post! Well Said napagirl68

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Reply by PaPa Jack, Nov 19, 2010.

A day in some of the Russian River wineries (and brunch in Healdsburg) in the autumn is a day to remember and some fine wine clubs to join. How many in  one (or two if you are lucky) day?  How much time do you have to relax and luxuriate?

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Reply by JMacey, Nov 19, 2010.

Ca has really good wines. Duckhorn has good White wine and pretty good Red wines.Marcassin Pinot Noir is also a great CA wine. Opus One 2003, 05 & 06 are good. Larmead is one of my favorities for Ca wines. "Learkmead Firebelle 2005" Really good one. French wines are good but can be heavy, but I have to say that Italy knows how to make wine. Good wine in the Italy area I would have to say would be in Tuscany, Toscano.Redigaffi is a good red wine from that area.

 

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Reply by gregt, Nov 19, 2010.

Napagirl - Amglim is one I'm going to have to try. Of course I like Rhone varieties - I sell Spanish wine and Carinena, Garnacha, and Monastrell all came from Spain!  And as I said, I'm a fan of CA.  But I don't know Amglim and thanks for the rec!   I love that in spite of the numerous times I've been to CA and all the wines I've tried, I can still find new ones. Thanks loads!

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Reply by VegasOenophile, Nov 20, 2010.

I think if you're brought into wine drinking wines from your own native area, you develop a propensity to prefer those, just as the French prefer their own wines (usually) etc.  At least you don't like the over alcoholic "big CA" wines and prefer the smaller boutique wines.  Points for that! hehe

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Reply by napagirl68, Nov 20, 2010.

Vegas- perhaps true.. you come to love the wines from your native area.  The only problem with that theory is that the vast majority of winelovers living here in CA that I know, are NOT native Californians... Being in the scientific field, I know many Canadian, French, and Germans, as well as transplants from the East coast, who have moved to CA within the last 5-10yrs.  Guess what?  They're all drinking CA now, for the most part...  hehe;-)

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Reply by Girl Drink Drunk, Nov 21, 2010.

I think they drink CA wines because they're easier to find in CA, whereas in, say, New England, there's lots and lots  of Euro stuff, too.

Also, and this is just my opinion, but CA wines are easy to drink.  In general, they're fruity and neither highly acidic or tannic.  Many of them are more of a "drink now" style than wines from cooler climates.  I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing.  It just is what it is.

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Reply by outthere, Nov 21, 2010.

Quite a generalization GDD. But I have sen where you poo poo some of the finest labels from Ca so I shouldn't be surprised.

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Reply by Girl Drink Drunk, Nov 21, 2010.

I intentionally used words like "in general", "many" and "in my opinion".  ;)

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Nov 21, 2010.

NG

I think we are all supportive of our local product so we should.  That is not to say we should not be critical of trends etc we do not like.

I suspect that most people who work/live in a region for an extended period of time will drink mostly the local product.

I have no doubt that you learn about styles by trying them often.  I think back over all my wine experiences and most new styles have taken me some time to learn and undertstand the what the wine is meant to deliver as an experience.

I think Pinot Noir is a great example, until 10 years ago there existed virtually no decent examples of Pinot in Australia.  As a consequence we did not drink the wine or if we did it was in very small quantities and we were quick to dismiss it as light and bland[which many early Aussie pinots were]

But as our winemakers have got better with the style and we have become more educated about Pinot, tried some nice examples from New Zealand and due to the strength of our dollar the inflow of Burgundies has increased and so has our opportunity to develop more knowledge through experience with Pinot.  It is fair to say many Aussie wine drinkers now include Pinot as an important part of our wine drinking.

In summary I have no doubt if I was relocated to SF for work I would quickly develop a knowledge and I suspect liking for wines from your home region.

 

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Reply by napagirl68, Nov 21, 2010.

SH- If I remember correctly, you have lamented the difficulty of getting CA wine into OZ ;-) ;-)  Not saying that we don't support/drink our local wines wherever we are raised, but I cannot help but see a trend of people who come here from other areas (most Californians are NOT natives), and CHOOSE the CA wines over their native area.  And wines from other areas are NOT hard to get here, GDD- their are many, many wine shops that specialize in imports (so, yes, someone is buying them here! LOL!) 

I am not knocking all wines but CA for everyone... we all have our own palates, and as I stated, there are many imports I love.  But on the OTHER SIDE, I am sick and tired of hearing people from other areas of the country/world INSULT CA wines AS A WHOLE.  With so many different regions, apellations, districts, and sheer number of wineries, that is almost "racist", for lack of better term.

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Reply by krisee, Nov 21, 2010.

O.K. ya'll, I think the region theory might be a little bunk :)  I live in Texas we have a few wineries very near where I live.  LLano and Mesina Hof, I must say that I do not and would not find myself drinking these wines more often because they are close, LOL.  I am new to the website and love reading your remarks. 

 @napagirl68 I've been fortunate enough to visit Paso Robles a couple of times and totally agree they offer some fantastic wines.  I especially loved the mom and pop feel of the area.  One you didn't mention is Tablas Creek, that grows French varietals.  This was one of our favorite's as well, but hard to find down here.  I don't know much about French or Italian wine, but I am more intrigued then ever and plan on trying a few.  I always get confused on exactly what type of wine I'm drinking.  I've read up on the regions but not having any frame of reference I get confused.  I also want to say I love Girard, it is one of my favorite wineries and is definetely worth trying. 

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Reply by napagirl68, Nov 21, 2010.

Hi Krisee! 

I LOVE Tablas Creek.. DAMN forgot to mention them in this thread, but have in others.  They are doing some true Rhone clones, as I learned at last year's Rhone Rangers show in SF (GREAT show).  Girard is great.  Just discovered them.  I was skeptical before I tasted.  Not anymore.  If you ever visit their Yountville room in Napa area (vs. their main tasting room in Healdsburg), I hope Eric is working.  He is a pleasure to spend time with.

NG

 

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Nov 22, 2010.

NG

Your point is probably right but I think what I was trying to say that once in an area you tend get seduced by the local stuff it is good.

Many Americans who work in Australia develop an Aussie wine palate after awhile.  The Head of Audit in Australia is a SF girl and will return to home after her stint here [probably onto bigger and better things in the US firm].  She has fallen in love with Barossa Shiraz and loves to drink it regularly and visits the Barossa when in SA.. She has her brother coming over from SF at Christmas and I have organised them a two trip to the Barossa.

I suspect however once she returns home she will quickly go back to SF wines as her staple but with an educated palate for Aussie wines as second bow to her palate.

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Nov 22, 2010.

Speaking of Californian Wines

We had a bottle of 97 Caymus Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon on Friday night

It was impressive once it opened up, did take a while to evolve in the glass.  I will supply notes as part of summary of our six monthly dinner

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