Legendary California Vineyards

BY JEFF COX

Vineyards are a lot like people with special talents: Many produce good fruit, some produce excellent fruit and a favored few consistently produce world-class fruit, shining brighter than others for reasons that are largely intangible. While European winegrowers have for centuries celebrated certain parcels where climate, soil and variety converge seamlessly - Romanée-Conti and Chambertin in Burgundy, for example - through much of California's comparatively nascent modern wine era it was the winemaker, rather than the vineyard, who was doted upon. It has taken some time, but as the 21st century dawned, a subtle shift of attitude in the collective California wine consciousness (among publicists, brand managers and critics) refocused la cause célèbre from vintner to vineyard. If there is a recurring theme among these legendary vineyards, it's the fact that most have had to struggle to achieve their fame. For winemakers, struggle is a good thing because vine stress yields small berries with a high solids-to-juice ratio, and it's from the solids, or skins, that a wine's chief flavors are imparted. Read full article