Winemakers in California have been producing wines from the Vitis vinifera grape (the traditional wine grapes) since the 18th century when the Spanish planted vineyards at each mission as they were being established along the El Camino Real. These grapes had come up through Mexico where they were introduced by Cortes in 1520. The Gold Rush saw rapid growth for the new state of California and this growth was seen in the winemaking industry as well as counties around the Bay Area in particular say the development of new wineries including Buena Vista, Charles Krug, Inglenook and more.
The industry was hit by two major setbacks in the late 19th and early 20th century. The phylloxera epidemic, an underground louse that attacks and destroys Vitis vinifera grapevines destroyed vast expanses of vineyards. The solution was to graft the Vitis vinifera vines to resistant American rootstock. By the early 20th century there were over 800 wineries in the state and the industry was growing rapidly. Then the second setback occurred with the passage of the 18th Amendment calling for Prohibition. Most wineries went out of business and by the time Prohibition was repealed in 1933, only 140 wineries were in operation.
It took several decades for the California wine industry to recover from these setbacks. California wines were not considered world class but there were a handful of wineries in Northern California that were concentrating on premium wines. In 1976, British wine merchant Steven Spurrier invited several of these California wineries to participate in a blind tasting event in Paris, comparing California wines to the best of France. The world was shocked when, at this Judgment of Paris, California won the events in both the white and red wine classes.
From this point California’s wine industry realized that this is a world class winemaking location and, particularly in the last 20 years, the industry has grown dramatically with the addition of thousands of wineries and now California is one of the world’s premier wine regions.
aerochug.com legion of wine examiners in California continue to provide you with the latest information on the industry in this state. This week on aerochug.com you saw the following stories.
San Jose Wine Examiner Steve Ferree introduced you to Travieso Winery, a premium wine producer in Campbell. Their distinctive labels based on Mexican folklore are wrapped around delicious full bodied wines.
Napa Valley Wine Examiner Laird Durham broke the news on a great wine buy at Trader Joe’s on Beringer 2006 Central Coast Chardonnay.
California Wine Examiner reviewed wines from Olson Ogden Wines in Sonoma county.
Santa Cruz Wine Examiners June Smith and Jerry Starr told you about the events this weekend in the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation including Passport Saturday and the fabulous Wine & Crab Taste-Off in Santa Cruz on Sunday.
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