California has a long and storied vineyard history. Despite the emergence of successful, smaller vineyards on the East Coast of the United States as far north as the finger lakes area of New York, California wine country, primarily Napa Valley and Sonoma, remain the heart of the U.S. wine industry in terms of production and popular understanding.
Contemporary Californian wine has come a long way, and both well known and smaller vineyards produce some of the best grapes in the world. Wine makers like Robert Mondavi take that excellence a step further, selling award winning vintages through charity brands, which has created an entire Napa charity wine industry within the wine world.
Obviously, California vineyards aren’t the most important in the world. With some grapes having been grown in the same region or even plot of land in France and Italy for dozens of generations, those vineyards and wine makers clearly have a lot to offer the wine world. And many of the best vineyards in California were actually started with grape cutting from those bastions of wine tradition.
But for many wine drinkers, this just serves to add to the appeal of those California vineyards and wines, which are much more relevant in their minds anyway.
The debate about which is California’s best vineyard will never be settled. However, it is much easier to identify a few of the top growers. The Monte Rosso Vineyard, for example, is one of the state’s oldest vineyards and produces high-quality bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandels every year. On the other hand, Clos du Bois Winery, just outside San Francisco, is not even 50 years old yet, but its classic and reserve wines are well-appreciated by visitors and wine-lovers alike.
And of course, Robert Mondavi wine benefits from over a century of emphasis on quality and integrity that has helped to bring “New World Wines” to a level of quality and respect that lets them compete with classic European strains and growers. But these examples only touch the surface of California’s vineyard and wine maker sector. Moving outside of the more well-known growers opens up a wealth of exciting, high-quality bottles and makes.
The secret to discovering these wines, which can often be an incredible value that even inexperienced wine drinkers will appreciate, is being willing to try an unknown name based on the suggestions of experts in the know. Although the vineyards may not have achieved broader popularity across the state or the country, experts at smaller, more personal wine shops are specifically focused on finding these kinds of deals for their customers. So once you find a store or retailer that can make suggestions for affordable bottles that you love, stick with them.
Charity wine retailers are a perfect example of this. They are able to secure good prices on lesser known wines from famous vintners like Robert Mondavi, and have experts whose only job is to find great but unknown growers. Then they offer these relatively affordable, high-quality wines at a minor markup from market price to enable buyers to support important charities with their purchases. And in the end, the customers learn about new California vineyards, new wines, and great bottles of wine. Clearly, California winery has come a long way, and charity wines are just one of the many ways new vineyards can continue to improve on the state’s wine industry, to the benefit of wine drinkers everywhere.