In 1966 Bob Dylan Released Blonde On Blonde, the Beach Boys released Pet Sounds, and the Beatles released Revolver. It’s arguable that no three albums together had more influence on the history of Rock n Roll. And it all happened in one year. It was a seminal year for Rock n Roll and one we can look back on it and, again, make the case that it was the pinnacle of the Rock genre.
I wonder if 2017 might, in later years, appear to be the pinnacle of the California wine industry—at least from the consumer’s perspective.
This is not to say that it’s all downhill from here for California wine. After all, the year following the release of Blonde On Blonde, Pet Sounds and Revolver, we got Aretha Franklin’s I Never Loved a Man The Way I Love You, The Doors’ The Doors, Jimi Hendrix’ Are You Experienced and The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
But just as 1967 can be looked back on as the year we learned what Rock n Roll can do for art, I think we can look at the state of California wine today and ask, can it possibly get better?
Napa Valley is currently making the best Cabernet and Cabernet blends in its history. With their creamy and powerful middle, they are also displaying great reference to their terroirs. Over in Sonoma, the pursuit of Pinot Noir is producing truly great wines with vintners now apparently in complete control of their cooler climate vineyards on the coast. Meanwhile, in Anderson Valley, we have perhaps the most underrated wine growing region in the United States. If Anderson Valley were located in Burgundy it would rival in reputation Chevalier-Montrachet, Corton Charlemagne and Richebourg the wines are so beautiful and distinctive. And appriciate how good the wines of Lodi, the Foothills, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Monterey are today.
Equally important, consider the diversity of wine being produced in California from the North Coast’s powerful bottlings to the coast’s ethereal Pinots, to the cold climate renditions of Syrah to the selection of great Rieslings being produced in well-scouted vineyards. And the diversity within the AVAs is wider and broader than ever. What the consumer wants in terms of style and variety can now be found inside the borders of the state. It is a remarkably good time to be a consumer of California wine.
When you listen to the intense majesty and innocence of Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds or the genre changing development heard in Revolver you appreciate the significance of those works. Fifty years later they produce in their fans reverence. Now consider the fans of California wine. Sure, some are label sniffers and point chasers. There were groupies too. But the real fans of California wine can now traverse the state and never be but a few miles away from great wines, and most well within their price range.
It’s not a matter of who are the Brian Wilsons, Paul McCartneys or Bob Dylans of California wine. It’s a matter of reckoning with the possibility that we are living in the moment when they are here and producing the best wines that can be produced in the state.
I of course only have limited perspective. I’ve only been drinking and tasting California wine for 30 years. And mine is only one opinion. But it is a fact that the wines of California have never collectively been as good as they are today. And it’s not even close.