September is California Wine Month

Forty years ago the world looked down its nose at American wine; today we have equalled or surpassed, in quality and reputation, countries with thousands of years of wine-making history. Americans are amazing! California has been at the forefront of this meteoric rise, ever since California wines stunned the world by beating French wines in the famous 1976 Paris Tasting. Sample a selection of red wine from the best of California and SAVE 50% with this week's Online Grapevine

 The first wine in California was produced in the chain of Spanish missions, initiated in 1769 by Father Junipero Serra, that extended 650 miles along the length of of the state. Later, as European immigrants, used to drinking wine with daily meals, came to the New World, many small home vineyards were established. Winemaking flourished during the Gold Rush, then was nearly eliminated between 1919 and 1933 with Prohibition. The years immediately after Prohibition saw the growth of cheap jug wine, but fine winemaking techniques and careful vineyard practices began to take place at wineries like BV, Souverain, Heitz and Mondavi, among many others. Choice soils, climates, and viticultural practices in California led to their domination in the 1976 Paris Tasting where the 1973 Stag Leap Cabernet Sauvignon won in a blind tasting over the 1970 Château Mouton Rothschild Pauillac Bordeaux, considered France's best red wine. The 1973 Château Montelena Chardonnay from CALIFORNIA won over the 1973 Domaine Roulot Mersault-Charmes Premier Cru. Investment and talent poured in, with the resulting explosion of great wine from Napa cult Cabs, to world-class Santa Barbara and Sonoma Pinot Noir, to award-winning Zinfandel (which many consider the quintessential American varietal) to...well, I think you get the point. American hard-work and innovation transformed our wine industry, so pour yourself a glass of California wine and toast to our success!
I missed wine class, but had the chance to try some hand-crafted wine in Santa Cruz. We had a lovely dinner at Christopher's on Lincoln in Carmel. The restaurant is casually elegant, with lovely food--nicely plated and delicious. The owner/chef came around to every table to chat with the diners, the waiter was not only humorous and affable, but very accommodating to my many culinary preferences. We had a crispy chili relleno stuffed with goat cheese, a marvelously light wild mushroom soup, freshly made pasta with seafood and a delicate tomato sauce, and my boyfriend had Muscovy duck with raspberry sauce. We tried the Cima Collina Hilltop Ranch Pinot Noir--made in Monterey by winemaker Annette Hoff--with rich flavors of berries and a bit of smoke and spice. We had a gourmet meal at a very reasonable price--I highly recommend Christopher's!
At Hoffman's Bistro and Patisserie in Santa Cruz, we had a salmon salad with a glass of the 2008 Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel--bold enough to match blackened salmon. Ridge Winery is in the Dry Creek AVA of Sonoma County, which has the cool mornings and hot afternoons to grow amazing Zinfandel redolent of cherries, berries and spice. Hoffman's was having a 50% off special that night, so we were able to taste the marvelous Lytton Springs Zin for just $18 for the half bottle!

From Shannon Ridge Vineyards and Winery, a recipe to pair with their 2007 Shannon Ridge Ranch Collection Zinfandel. Country-style ribs are slow cooked on the grill, then slathered with a spicy, sweet, citrusy BBQ sauce for a mouthwatering meal to complement their full-bodied Zin.
Pairs well with: Shannon Ridge Zinfandel
4 pounds pork country style ribs, individually cut
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Combine everything except the ribs in a bowl and mix. Prepare grill for indirect grilling. Place ribs on grill and cook for about 60 minutes [turning occasionally to cook evenly]. Brush with sauce. Continue grilling until done. A couple of minutes before you remove the ribs from the grill brush on a heavy coating of the sauce. Watch ribs carefully to avoid burning.

  • If California was a country, it would be the fourth largest producer of wine in the world
  • Over half the AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) in the U.S. are in California (107 out of 199)
  • Napa Valley was NOT the first AVA; the first was Augusta, Missouri. Napa was the second designated AVA, in 1983.
  • Sales of Pinot Noir jumped 45% during the year after the movie "Sideways", set in Santa Barbara County, was released.
  • The vast majority of California's 4,600 vineyards and 3,000 wineries are family-owned and operated.
  • More than 110 varieties of wine grapes are grown in California.
  • The California wine industry generates 820,000 U.S. jobs.

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