Lately, I have heard several California trade buyers, from SF restaurants mostly, indicate that they have been instructed by their bosses to increase their local CA wine offerings.
The perception being that their lists were out of balance and favored imports over CA wines. And the inference being that this was 'politically' unacceptable.
And a few months ago, Jon Bonne from the SF Chronicle, wrote an article about local wines in the San Francisco marketplace that created a storm in a teacup reaction.
And here is a quote from the recent K&L Wines newsletter:
"...Then there was the sort of inconvenient fact that I don’t really like California wines, and I really almost never drink them...
All that would have to be put aside. Because, you see, I am a recently emerging eco-maniac. And part of my turning green, along with the bulk organic soap of a previous article, is a commitment to buying and drinking locally whenever possible, an idea that is certainly gaining fervor."
Elisabeth Schriber, K&L Wines
Don't get me wrong, I support the local wine industry and agree in principle from a ecological perspective that drinking local makes very good sense. But part of me feels like this smacks of the freedom fries debacle of a few years back (never been fond of knee-jerk political expediency).
I want to drink more wines that are made in CA. But I also want more CA winemakers to make wines in a style that I enjoy.
What would be really interesting is if this press attention and trade buyer bailout behavior becomes a harbinger of change to come.
Restaurant buyers have admittedly becoming reliant on imports for their attractive price to quality ratio, but also for their stylistic differences. CA wines tend to be full of big fruit and high alcohol, which makes them challenging to pair with food.
I am realistic. I know CA is a warm climate but that does not necessarily mean that every wine must have an alcohol level 14.5% and upwards to 16%. Or that they have their flavors drowned in toasty new oak or designer cultivated yeasts.
So this is a call for more CA winemakers and winery owners to stop and think before they create yet another fruit and oak bomb, crafted to land high scores. If they want more of the wine world's 'tastemakers' (i.e. restaurant sommeliers) to buy their wine, then they should consider if said wine is food friendly and well-priced.
All of that being said, there are obviously some wonderful and interesting wines being made in California. As regular readers of MyDailyWine already know, I prefer wines that are made from organically grown/chemical free grapes and just as importantly, wines that have not been overly-manipulated in the cellar (via massive sulfites, micro-ox, designer yeasts,etc).
I will keep on drinking plenty of imports because I love them and crave diversity. I will also endeavor to increase my local wine love this year.
Here are a few local CA wines to check out:
Donkey & Goat
NPA (Natural process Alliance)