California is now world famous for its wine. But this wasn't always the case. The story of Californian wine is as old as the state itself and could be directly compared to the history and spirit of America.
With the arrival of the first settlers in the area came the advent of grape growing in the state. When they landed they brought a wide spectrum of European techniques and varietes with them. Over time the U.S. became a melting pot of wine ideologies, methods, grapes and blends; this was true in both the vineyard and winery. Once recognised and discovered by the rest of the world California became a powerhouse of innovation and one of the most important driving forces behind the modernisation of the global wine industry.
Recently however, producers have started to look back upon those early days, rediscovering traditions, grapes and less intensive ways of winemaking. These new emerging wines are often far more elegant and balanced with poise and an old world feel; yet still retaining a distinctive West Coast accent.
The GhostRunner Ungrafted Red for example brings together Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel(a blend that would never have existed in Europe), from right across Lodi - achieving exactly what good producers always strive for - quality.
Over the last decade or so the industry has started to diversify and broaden its appeal further. One way this has been achieved is through the planting of more unusual Mediterranean varieties, especially those from Italy.
Pre-prohibition the majority of vines in California were from the 'Land of the Vine' or 'Enotria' as the ancient Greeks used to call Italy. Grapes such as Sangiovese, Nero d'Avola, Aglianico and Negroamaro are well suited to the sunny climes of California and have enormous potential for quality - just look at Primitivo's success (you might know it as Zinfandel- heard of it?I).
California is also a land of extremes. Massive, large scale production, next to tiny boutique wineries that produce just a few hundred cases a year....and everything in-between.
Take the Campesino Estate. Family run, individual vineyards of well known and lesser known varieties dotted all over Sonoma. This type of producer can connect you with the place, the vintage and their passion through wines with personality and sole.
The future direction of quality in California rests with estates like this. Driving innovation, developing a deeper understanding and connection with the land and most importantly, focusing on creating really delicious wines.