One of the things that has become abundantly clear to me after three years of working on the Slow Wine Guide to the Wines of California is that the Californians keep all the good wine for themselves.
Well, that’s only half true: they keep the good stuff for themselves and their friends.
So many of the top wines, I’ve discovered — from the super collectible to the cool kids — are sold predominantly via the estates’ mailing lists and on premise (to restaurants).
Looking back over the years, it occurs to me now that one of the reasons California wine was so unfashionable among enohipsters was that it was hard to find the more soulful stuff. Even during my youth in my hometown of San Diego, the wine shelves were mostly stacked with the classic oaky, extracted, and supercharged goods. You know, the Schafers and the Caymus and the Silver Oaks etc. I’m not saying that those wines are “bad.” But they don’t fit the more youthful, woke (as it were) approach to wine. You had to look a little bit harder to find the vino buono. After taking the time to dig deeper, I’ve been blown away by the quality of the wine I’ve tasted and how much it aligns with the progressive wine lover’s palate.
Later today I’ll be visiting my all-time favorite Napa wine grower. And I have never seen their wines in a wine shop — never ever. And I go to a LOT of wine shops.
Yesterday I met and tasted with Mark Pisoni at his family’s Pisoni Ranch in the Santa Lucia Highlands. That’s a shot of their farm above. And the Lucia Pinot Noir he tasted me on was spectacular (and an amazing value, btw). But it’s sold, he told me, primarily through their mailing list and to restaurants.
The Californians aren’t keeping all the wine to themselves (and for their friends) because they are covetous. They are simply faced by too much demand for their labels.
I’ve been on the road this week in northern Californian wine country tasting with winemakers and grape growers for the 2020 edition of the Slow Wine guide. I’ve already had some amazing visits and have more today and tomorrow. I’ll share my notes soonest.
Have to hit the road again now but need to give a shout out to El Molino Central in Boyes Hot Springs, Sonoma County (where I stay at my best-kept-secret hotel).
That’s their Oaxacan zucchine flower quesadilla below. One of the best things I’ve eaten this year. Thanks again to John Lockwood of Enfield Wine for the recommendation!
That is so true. An insightful and delightful observation. – michael