“Cabernet over errythang” doesn’t ring true in Napa any longer. A fresh generation of young winemakers are taking responsibility for building awareness on an experimental level as they take loving control of California’s temperate climate and rich soils. Shelved are the oak bomb chardonnays and the drunken chart busting reds. Replacing them are lean, quirky and off-the-grid alternates that gush liberation. Think of the new generation of vintners as “dinner party winemakers”- smaller wine lists, relaxed atmosphere, more intimate stories. Compare this to older generations of “fine dining wine makers,” who perhaps relied more on technicalities and less on identity.
There are more than 100 different grape varieties grown in California, so make some new friends. Cabs? Been there. Sauv Blancs? Drank ‘em all. Some of the “new” varietals are being challenged by CA’s mild climate, thus giving them a fun and offbeat personality, while other newbie grapes settle in quite nicely and are molded into lovely, restrained yet still progressive wines. Some of these up-and-comers might not be received in the major leagues of California wine, but it doesn’t mean they wont pleasantly challenge and please the palate.
Look for these grapes being reworked Cali-style:
Tempranillo: Spanish born Tempranillo is Rioja’s main squeeze.
Petit Sirah: high tannin meets high acid for an age-worthy red.
Mourvèdre: the new Rhone grape receiving attention. Typical California grown palate of power and fruit, but with a deeper edge.
Gamay: the strawberried grape of Beaujolais is quietly allotted spots in cooler regions of the foothills.
Trousseau: an aromatic French white grape that requires time and effort.
Ribolla Gialla: a high acid white grape from Friuli in northern Italy. Tiny lots are being used to create some compelling whites.
Take a peep at these new wave producers: Massican for Ribolla Gialla, Trousseau from Wind Gap, and Mourvèdre from Dirty & Rowdy.