From Medocino County all the way down to San Diego, throughout the state of California, the love of viticulture has flourished since the mid-nineteenth century. Welcome to the United States wine country. In an ecologically diverse countryside of mountains, forests and vast plains, colonial settlers who arrived here during the Spanish Colonial Period, spanning from the 1760’s to the 1820’s, began diversifying agriculture and brought with them the fine art of vineyard cultivation. This was to be the beginning of a new era in wine. Prohibition was established in the 1920’s, however, and the wine industry was hit hard by this, but thirteen years later the ban was lifted and the growing of world-class grapes was taken up once more with renewed vigour and has been going from strength to strength ever since.
One of the oldest wineries is Buena Vista, just outside of Sonoma. Founded in 1857 by Hungarian-born Agoston Harazsthy, known as the forefather of Californian wine, or simply as ‘The Count’, it is a historic landmark rich in culture and tradition, which is exemplified in the simplistically gorgeous architecture, in the idyllic gardens surrounding the estate and, of course, in the wine itself. It boasts a wide variety of cultivars as can be discerned from their Private Reserve, Viticultural Society and Heritage Collection ranges. Under the expert care of French vintner Jean-Charles Boisset, this magnificent tribute to winemaking brings forth a perfect blend of variety and heritage.
On the side of a lush green hill in Calistoga sits the monolithic stone castle of Castello di Amorosa. This thirteenth-century Tuscan style complex, with its 8 storeys, vaulted ceilings and even a torture chamber, is a living representation of Italian traditions and is as bold and daring as its wines. Owned and run by vintner Dario Suttui, it produces a great selection of wines such as Sangiovese, Muscato and Pinot Grigio among others. This winery truly is a monument to the art of wine, connecting to the past and the origins of fine wines.
Another magnificent structure in a different vein is the Opus One Winery. The creation of Baron Philippe Rothschild in collaboration with Robert Mondavi, this wine is one of a kind, which is why it is the only one produced by the winery. Its name is connected with wealth, class and extravagance and this exquisite wine is innovatively made under the strictest of conditions after which it is aged in French oak barrels, all to ensure that the level of quality is perfectly maintained. Simplistic and stylish, neither Opus One wine nor the winery that has dedicated itself to the continued legacy of this drinking sensation should be missed.
After twenty-three years in the industry, Yorkville Cellars in Mendocino County is still celebrated for the craft with which it cultivates all eight of the most prominent Bordeaux grape varieties. Not only is the winery dedicated to producing excellent wine but it also promotes sustainability and an environmentally conscious attitude to farming practices. This beautiful vineyard was founded by Edward and Deborah Wallo with the vision of brining old-world Bordeaux to America. With its ethical approach to cultivation and its dedication to quality, Yorkville Cellars has a splendid path ahead.
This was merely a taste of what the wine country has to offer and there are hundreds of wineries dotted all over the state of California that each deserves due consideration as they are all a tribute to the wonders of winemaking and the proud heritage that enriches it.