Wine tasting is a great activity for any season of the year. It is an awesome way to socialize with your friends or family while learning a thing or two about what differentiates each unique wine. There is much more that goes into this process than many people realize, and tasting and discussing the wines can be both educational and fun!
As you attend tastings and learn about the art of wine, you will discover that much of the United States’ non-imported wine comes from California. But why California? What makes California such an ideal climate for the grape growing process and how did wine become such a large part of the culture there?
In fact, California makes more wine than all other of the states combined. Beginning in the 1970s, California pioneered many winemaking innovations that actually improved the quality of the wine. Flaws that wines all over world used to have are now much rarer because of how certain California wine makers discovered ways to prevent them.
California wines are typically very fruity and flavorful in taste. These wines give off aromas and flavors that very heavily suggest certain fruits and are easy to notice when you drink them. California winemakers also pride themselves in the wide variety of wines that they make. They understand what wine consumers want and work diligently to cater to those desires.
While Napa Valley is a very common tourist attraction for wine lovers, only about 4% of California wine actually comes from this region. The wine production is much more spread out throughout the state than one may think. This northern region is mostly dedicated to the planting of red wine grapes, but still holds some variety. Specifically, in Napa Valley today, Cabernet Sauvignon is planted to about 20,000 acres of land, Merlot to about 5,000 acres, Pinot Nior to about 3,000 acres, Zinfandel to about 1,500 acres, and Cabernet Franc to about 1,000 acres.
At the exterior of the Napa Valley region, there exists “bench land”. This means that in this area, you will find more gravel and alluvial soils that provide naturally good drainage. This type of land is perfect for Cabernet Sauvignon.
California land that contains slopes, hillsides, and mountain vineyards is the home of volcanic soils, red and white clay as well as sandstone. These soils are not as deep as that which you would find in “bench land”, but are complex and unique micro-climates. The cooler temperatures lead to lower yields, more tannic, fresher, and concentrated wines that are usually the last area to complete harvesting.
The complexities of California climate and land in relation to its winemaking culture is a deeply studied and researched topic. There is always more to learn and understand if you are a wine lover. Even if you are not a wine lover, learning about winemaking culture can be fascinating and maybe even open you up to a new hobby!
So, next time you attend a wine tasting, you may be able to impress a few people with your newly acquired knowledge of the California wine-making industry.
With this in mind, come on down to the Chicago Wine Fest. Tickets for several dates are available at RiverNorthFests.com.
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