California's wine trails have long been admired in the modern winemaking world for its variety and quality, due to diverse terroir and winemakers' ability to bring out unique, high quality wines that are truly California dreams.
Commercial winemaking gained a foothold in the 18th Century, with worldwide reputation increasing steadily from the 1970's. With over 90% of all American wines produced in the Golden State, it has become as common a request for a Californian Zinfandel as it is to ask for a French Merlot.
California has over 100 appellations - smaller areas with high standard guarantees. The most planted grapes across the state are Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, followed by Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier.
The mix of terroir creates a diverse range of grapes that can be cultivated, from flat plains and rolling hills to mountain slopes and valley floors shielded from the elements. This ensures a range of soils and micro climates, from coastal regions helping cool climate varieties such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, to warm, sunny inland areas perfect for Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.
This means that California favourites can range from deep and fruity reds or toasty, full Chardonnays to light, yet smoky Pinot Noirs or refreshing, crisp Sauvignon Blancs.
Let's take a look at our producers and their beautiful wines:
Gnarly Head started in 2004 with a mission to make a big, bold Zinfandel from famed old vine Zinfandel vineyards in Lodi, central California. The result was authentic, structured wines with a hint of something unexpected. Today, they select grapes from some of the best vineyards in Northern California to produce wines in a big and juicy 'gnarly' style.
Their Pinot Noir £22.00 14.5% is a powerful wine with voluptuous aromas of red cherry, vanilla, earth and spice. A rush of black cherry and plum falls on the palate, alongside toasted hazelnut, tobacco and cigar box.
Their Petite Sirah £17.50 14.5% shows lots of jammy fruit from beginning to end. Aromas of blueberry pie, nutmeg and pepper expand into flavours of boysenberry, plum, blueberry and spice. Full bodied with bold tannin structure and balanced acidity leading to a long finish.
And finally, the Unoaked Viognier £17.80 13.5% is carefully produced to preserve the delicate fruit and floral aroma characteristics of Viognier. Fragrances of white peach, honeysuckle and citrus blossom precede a palate of refreshing peach, white nectarine and guava enhancing the delicate, tropical aromatics.
J Lohr helped push the emergence of the California Central Coast for winemaking four decades ago, beginning production in the 1970s. Jerry Lohr was among the first to realize the inherent potential of the Monterey and Paso Robles sub-regions for producing high quality grapes and superb wines.
Monterey County brings cool, windy climate and rocky soils as ideal for Chardonnay, whilst Paso Robles is excellent for growing Bordeaux varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon due to rich soils and dramatic temperature swings between warm days and cool nights.
Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon £16.20 13.5% has an intense character with velvety richness and supple tannins. Dense and soft with a bouquet of vanilla and spice from one year of barrel ageing, with blackcurrant and cherry flavours.
Los Osos Merlot £16.30 13.5% has a full year of oak barrel ageing. A blackcurrant signature bouquet precedes a soft and supple texture with bold, juicy flavours of pomegranate, black cherry and dark chocolate.
Falcon's Perch Pinot Noir £23.90 13.5% shows aromas of cherry preserves, fresh strawberries, violet and creme brulee. A rich, soft palate with fine grained tannins and plenty of fruit invites a wide range of food pairings.
The Maggio family produce their wines from Oak Ridge Winery, the oldest operating winery in Lodi, California, built in 1934 and jointly owned by the Maggio & Reynolds families since 2002.
Now a state-of-the-art winery, grapes are cultivated in 7,500 acres of estate vineyards throughout the Lodi region, with the winery and vineyards situated between the Sierra Nevada foothills and the San Francisco Bay.
Their Old Vine Zinfandel £14.00 13% is partially treated in American and French oak for 8 months to achieve desired complexity. Aromas burst with ripe black fruit, subtle jam and chocolate overtones, whilst the palate is surprisingly gentle with a subtle, smoky finish.
Their Chardonnay £13.40 13.5% is aged 75% in stainless steel for fresh fruit characters, and 25% in 70% American and French oak for soft complexity and mellow creaminess. Aromas of ripe tropical fruit combine with hints of vanilla before the voluptuous and smooth palate brings beautiful balance with citrus, butterscotch and a smooth, long finish.