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The California Wine Rush

Matt Kramer
From the Print Edition:
Wayne Gretzky, Mar/Apr 97

(continued from page 1)

Never have Zinfandels commanded such high prices. This, too, is a result of reaching the final threshold of the fine wine ambition. If a Zinfandel or Pinot Noir or Chardonnay grown in one spot consistently tastes better than the same grape grown somewhere else, people gladly pay more for it. That's why Burgundy's Richebourg vineyard gets $200 a bottle while a Pinot Noir grown just a few hundred (less perfect) yards away will fetch only $50.

California's new appreciation of place has transformed its wines, as well as its wine making. When winemakers prize "somewhereness" above all, their wine-making techniques will change to reveal this distinction. They'll use less new oak, so as not to mask the intrinsic flavor of the wine. They'll keep vineyard lots separate, the better to explore and reveal subtle--but real--distinctions. Above all, they'll get out of the way.

This new deference to place made the '94 vintage so exciting. For the first time, the new attitude coalesced with a spectacularly good growing season. Everywhere you turn in the '94 vintage you can find the results: in the luxuriant Chardonnays of Santa Barbara County's Santa Maria Valley; the pinpoint distinctions of wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains; the stunning new Pinot Noirs from the cool reaches of western Sonoma County; the delicate wines from Mendocino County's Anderson Valley; and the general abundance of wines proclaiming a particular, often small, appellation.

"If only we could bottle it," goes the old line about success. Well, that's just what California's winegrowers can do. The proof really is in the bottle. (For California's best, turn to page 345.)

Matt Kramer is the author of Making Sense of California Wine (William Morrow & Co.) and a regular columnist for Wine Spectator, Cigar Aficionado's sister publication. Wine Spectator's Picks for the Best California Wines for 1996 California Pinot Noir

96 / Rochioli Pinot Noir Russian River Valley West Block Reserve 1994 / $48

95 / Dehlinger Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Reserve 1994 / $32

95 / Rochioli Pinot Noir Russian River Valley East Block Reserve 1994 / $60

94 / Gary Farrell Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Rochioli Vineyard 1994 / $50

94 / Rochioli Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Three Corner Vineyard Reserve 1994 / $40

94 / Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Rochioli Vineyard 1994 / $60

93 / Dehlinger Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Goldridge Vineyard 20-Year-Old Vines 1994 / $32

93 / Talley Pinot Noir Arroyo Grande Valley Rosemary's Vineyard 1994 / $32

93 / Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Riverblock Vineyard 1994 / $34

92 / Saintsbury Pinot Noir Carneros Reserve 1994 / $35 California Cabernet Sauvignon & Blends

98 / Groth Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Reserve 1992 / $70

96 / Colgin Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Herb Lamb Vineyard 1993 /$40

96 / Dalla Valle Maya Napa Valley 1993 / $75

95 / Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County Reserve 1990 / $38

93 / Araujo Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Eisele Vineyard 1993 / $40

93 / Conn Creek Anthology Napa Valley 1993 /$30

93 / Cornerstone Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain Beatty Ranch 1993 / $33

93 / Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District Hillside Select 1992 / $50

93 / Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1992 / $45

93 / Simi Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley Reserve 1992 / $40 California Zinfandel & Blends

96 / Turley Zinfandel Napa Valley Hayne Vineyard 1994 / $27

94 / Turley Zinfandel Napa Valley Moore Earthquake Vineyard 1994 / $25

92 / Alderbrook Zinfandel Russian River Valley Gamba Vineyard 1995 / $20

92 / DeLoach Zinfandel Russian River Valley O.F.S. 1995 / $25

92 / Martinelli Zinfandel Russian River Valley Jackass Hill 1994 / $25

92 / Rosenblum Zinfandel Mount Veeder Brandlin Ranch 1994 / $20

92 / St. Francis Zinfandel Sonoma Valley Pagani Vineyard Reserve 1994 / $24

91 / Rabbit Ridge Zinfandel Sonoma County San Lorenzo Reserve 1994 / $23

91 / Ridge Geyserville Sonoma County 1994 / $20

90 / Ravenswood Zinfandel Sonoma Valley Monte Rosso 1994 / $20 California Chardonnay


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