Let’s start turning the page on 2011 and start looking forward to the year ahead. Here are some thoughts on what 2012 has in store for California wine.
MORE UNDERDOG VARIETALS: The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in California wine making. Although Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are by far the most widely planeted varietals in the state, there are a good number of quality producers seeking out less heralded varietals, and thereby continuing to explore the full potential of California wine. Since 2009, Arnot-Roberts has been making Trousseau sourced from the Clear Lake AVA, and this year Duncan and Nathan are working on a new project with RN74’s Rajat Parr: a Gamay from the Sierra Foothills. This was one of my favorite ferments during my time working harvest at AR — the clusters were gorgeous, the ferment tank was giving me highs, and the color was stunning. The blogosphere also is eagerly awaiting the inaugural release from Dirty and Rowdy Family Winery, including a Semillon and a Mourvedre. Started by two bloggers, D&R is “America’s #1 Winery” so you know it’s gonna be good!
LOCAL BUBBLES: Unlike Cole Porter, I do get a kick from Champagne. But domestic sparkling doesn’t thrill me at all. Actually, that’s a bit harsh. But let’s just say that it’s been a while since I’ve been excited about buying a bottle of domestic sparkling. That may change soon: Kevin Kelley of Salinia and The NPA is making a petillant, and rumor has it Donkey and Goat has some bubbly juice in the cellar, too. Keep an eye out for these wines — might turn out to be something new and fun to open up on New Year’s Eve 2012.
Note: Picture is from The NPA’s Facebook page.
RE-VISIONING CHARDONNAY: The market is flooded with domestic Chardonnay that tastes like it should be poured on top of movie theater popcorn instead of being served at the dinner table. But there’s a change afoot in California, and 2012 should see an uptick in the number of balanced (dare I say, nuanced) Chardonnay. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing what John Raytek, the new winemaker at Lioco, does with access to the broad range of Chardonnay sourced from the Sonoma Coast, Anderson Valley, and Chalone AVAs.
Still need more convincing that Chardonnay is on the upswing? The folks who pulled together the In Pursuit of Balance: Pinot Noir event this past March will be hosting a similar event focused on — you guessed it — Chardonnay. And according to some tweets and pics posted by sommelier and James Beard Award winning author Rajat Parr, it looks like he is working on a Chardonnay book as a follow-up to Secrets of the Sommelier.
For an entertaining read, check out this newsletter from Lioco, comparing Chard to Fat Elvis (RIP, King!).
UPDATE 12/30/2011: Dirty South Wines gives a shout out to CA Chard and small fizz producers in his 2012 wish list.
“CA Chardonnay: Become the #geekwine that we know you can be. Some producers are rolling in this direction (some have always been there). But- thisnerdigo goes far beyond the lame wood or no wood pulpits. Break the glass and release the monkeys….
Domestic Sparkling Wine: We’ve got mid-sized covered, where are our little guys focussed on the fizz?”