Before buying a new variety of wine to add to your collection, it makes sense to know its characteristics. The main reason you are collecting wine is to consume it after it reaches maturation, thus it is important to have a good bottle in your residential wine cellar.
Knowing something about the history of wine also makes sense. It can be the topic of conversation during wine tasting parties with your friends. Let’s talk about California wine’s history and a specific wine variety that deserves to have a place in your California home wine cellar.
California Wine History
California has been very important in the United States’ wine industry. Considered the world’s 4th largest wine producing region, California produces almost 250 million cases of wine annually. Nearly 20% of the production is exported.
In 1683, the first planting of a vineyard recorded was by Eusebio Francisco Kino, a Jesuit Missionary. The vineyard, which was located at San Bruno was never harvested. Franciscan missionaries planted the first sustained vineyard of California at Mission San Diego.
The missionaries were directed by Father Junípero Serra, who has been known as the “Father of California Wine”. The grape variety he planted became what they call the Mission grape. This variety dominated the wine production in California until about 1880.
Today, there are more than 100 different grape varieties cultivated in California and around 3, 500 wineries. One of the leading varietals is Chardonnay, which can adapt well to different climates and soil types, resulting in a wide range of styles. Chardonnay is popularly known as the “queen of whites” and has become the generic white wine in America.
California Chardonnay – Characteristics
California Chardonnays are categorized based on the region where the grapes are grown such as Napa Valley, North Coast, Carneros and many sub-regions. Different vintners produce different styles within the region.
Old styles of Chardonnay are characterized by vanilla and buttery flavors imparted by aging in oak barrels. Today, many wine companies in California produce Chardonnay wines that exhibit citrus and green apple flavors. Creamy, buttery and fruity Chardonnays are now rare.
Chardonnay’s complexity and distinct taste make it a great choice for casual or fine dining. Just like other wines, Chardonnay develops its complex nuances and rich flavors when aged. It is common for wine collectors in the United States to have California Chardonnay stored in their home wine cellars. Not only is it great tasting, but it can easily be paired with various dishes too. If you want to drink a California Chardonnay, pair it with pasta or seafood.
Some of the Best California Chardonnay Wine Producers
If you’re planning to add Chardonnay to the bottles stored in your wine racks, it is a good idea to buy one from a reputable California winery. This will ensure that you have a good bottle added to your collection.
Stony Hill Vineyards
The owners of Stony Hill Vineyards are Fred and Eleanor McCrea. They began planting their vineyards with Chardonnay in 1947. Today, their vineyards have 25 acres of Chardonnay, 3 acres of Gewurztraminer, 10 acres of white Riesling and 1 acre of Semillon. Their small winery was completed in 1952.
Stony Hill Chardonnay (2011 vintage) has distinctive notes of apple and citrus. Its crisp acidity gives it the ability to develop richness as it matures. It is ideally aged for more than 5 years. It was fermented for 2 weeks in barrels (5 to 25 years old) and aged in old French oak barrels for 10 months.
Mount Eden Vineyards
Farming 20 acres of Chardonnay, Mount Eden Vineyards produces 1,200 – 2,000 cases annually. The Estate Chardonnay grapes they harvest are pressed without crushing. They use 1-year old French oak barrels for fermenting all the fruit juice. They release the wine for sale after 2 years of cellaring.
If you are looking for lemon, mineral flavors and hints of hazelnut, Mount Eden Vineyards’ Chardonnay deserves to be stored in your wine cellar. Two to four years of aging is recommended for the wine to release its most desirable characteristics. Many vintages of Mount Eden Estate Chardonnay are enjoyable after 15 years.
Build a Wine Cellar for Your California Chardonnay – Contact Coastal
California Chardonnay, the generic white wine of America, is a great addition to your home wine cellar. When aged well in a stable environment, you and your guests will enjoy its crisp, fruity flavor.