Believe it not only four percent of wine produced in California started as a grape in the all-hallowed Napa Valley. Additionally, California itself accounts for 90 percent of the total production in the United States, leaving another ten percent to be shared among the other 49 states, all of which are said to produce wine. As for other regions within California, it must be said that California itself is a large and varied place. It boasts just about every type of microclimate, soil, and weather imaginable. Outside of California there are great wines produced in lots of other places including Virginia, and Upper New York State, but the most important regions are in Oregon and Washington State.
California’s Central Coast
Midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco is California’s Central Coast Region. The areas best wines are made from cool weather grapes but also boasts some warmer weather areas, and a lot of Spanish language place names, so look for wines from places like Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo and Santa Lucia. Often chilly ocean breezes ease in from the cool pacific making these hilly, dry areas great for grapes like Pinot Noir. They are often great values, and taste fantastic boasting bountiful fruit, and harmonious balance.
While we’re talking Pinot, and who doesn’t these days, let’s look at Oregon’s Willamette Valley. This region sits on roughly the same latitude, and has similar climatic conditions to France’s Burgundy Region. In fact, many of the wineries there are partnered with, or owned by Burgundian houses. Although winemaking as a craft began in the 1860s, commercial production didn’t begin in earnest until the 1960s and Pinot wasn’t even really introduced here until the 1970s. Look for some great Oregon values (some available right here in Vietnam), as compared to many Old and New World Pinots.
Continuing north we encounter Washington State. This isn’t, the Washington State of Starbuck’s and Microsoft fame. The state is cleaved in geographical halves by the Cascade Mountains. The western side is moist and marine (think gloomy, Nirvana sound-tracked Seattle), while the East side is arid and relatively warm, making for nice long grape growing summers. The area’s latitude, makes for cool nights, tempering the warm days. This combination of dry summers, warm days and cool nights makes magic when growing wine grapes. There are several Washington State wines available locally. Look for their juicy (often sweet, but often dry) Rieslings, Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignon from warmer regions of the state.
Michael Kloster spent a lifetime drinking, pouring and brewing to research this column. He has been involved in the hospitality industry for the better part of two decades, nearly half of that time in our very own Ho Chi Minh City. Feel free to invite him out for a few: firstname.lastname@example.org.