Thursday, December 13, 2012

In vino veritas est: Wines of California.

Tonight, week 16, was the final, full tasting night of my Wines of the World class.  Next week my classmates and I will take our final exam, a component of which will be a blind tasting of six wines from who knows where in the world...yikes!  There was a whopping total of 39 wines tonight, the majority of which were donated from the wineries where my fellow students are gainfully employed.
Although California is my current home, and I am employed at a winery that was well represented tonight, I think I can be pretty impartial, as I did not grow up drinking California wines.  There are a lot of naysayers out in the world who decry anything oenologically-Californian, I myself have an aversion to high alcohol, over blown Pinot noirs and Cabernet Sauvignons.  But the truth is that California, and in particular Northern California, is an almost perfect place in which to grow wine grapes.  Some growing seasons maybe cooler and therefore not as ideal as others, but the grapes always ripen.  California's vintages are always good. However, some vintages are spectacular.
Each varietal wine that was poured tonight - Merlot, Tempranillo, Viognier, Tannat, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Muscat Canelli and Albariño, to name but a few - were all near perfect renditions of their olde worlde benchmark classics.  After all, isn't imitation the sincerest form of flattery?  Sure, one could still, if one had an axe to grind, lament the very existence of the jammy, oaky, alcoholic, massively extracted wines that people associate with California, but that would be a gross generalisation. But the fact remains, the Californian climate allows winemakers to express the inherent characters found in almost every grape variety on the planet. Something which can't be said for other parts of the world, or even other parts of the USA.
The wine in the photograph was the first wine of the evening.  The Domaine Carneros, 2010 blanc de noirs, very recently disgorged and sporting a crown cap and an Avery label, was charming.  The acid and sugar were not as yet well integrated, but this wine had loads of potential: one could just see that this gangly adolescent was going to grow up to be one mature, bubbly individual.
So in conclusion, in my humble opinion, Dr. Krebs saved the best for last.
Next...Nothing, the semester is almost at an end.


NHwineman said...

V-girl: "next-nothing", is that a good thing?
As for Cali wines, I've never been one to denigrate them as a whole, though there certainly is a slew of the plonk variety to beguile those with only $5-$10 in their pockets;
I just finished a post on the Hahn 2009 GSM, and for three dollars more than that, you are getting a very tasty red wine indeed.
Let us know if you get 100% on that blind tasting, but if you end-up with only 60%, you'd have beaten the rest of us!

Vinogirl said...

NHW: "Nothing" is a bit sad. I will miss going to this class, it's been a good experience.
Not all the wines were great. Three wines had Brett (one was a very expensive wine), some were over-oaked, ABVs were high, and in some cases, it seems to me, the winemaker had jumped through far too many hoops. But the fact remains that Northern California has a great climate that one can grow almost anything well in...which allows winemakers to perform their vinous-gymnastics.

About Last Weekend said...

I may have done many wines and THEN a final but never 39 wines FOR a final. Wow, I realised long ago I just don't have that palate. It's a gift. My friend Kenny has it and he can describe a wine - like you - immediately. As I've said before here, I'm not always keen on all the Ca chards and sauvies -maybe I'm too used to the Kiwi ones which others find too watery - but most in this area are very loyal to them. I agree with you - having done a column for the East Bay Express about wines under $10, if only you pay just a little more, the upgrade is substantial.

Thud said...

This has beena advert for the Npa tourist and wine board....thank you for your custom. Nobody in Napa can make an Italian style wine to save their lives.

Vinogirl said...

ALW: It was a lot of wine! My final is next Thursday.

Thud: No, not a perfect copy - who would want that? But Napa farmers can take an Italian grape variety and do pretty well with it here, under fabulous growing conditions, and produce something that would be very palatable. That can't be said for other wine growing regions.