Andrew Quady started making wine in the mid 1970's. Working for a major wine company he moonlighted to produce his own ports and in 1980 experimented with Orange Muscat, ultimately making an amazing floral fruit character wine that he called Essensia. In 1990, Quady decided to produce a new type of dessert wine, light, delicate and very refreshing. He tasted Orange Muscat juice as it was turning into wine. When the juice was just on the verge - halfway between wine and grape juice, he bottled a test batch. The wine tasted wonderful, but the alcohol was only 4% (most wines are at least 11%). Using sterile filtration to prevent refermentation, he bottled it anyway and named the new creation Electra.
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Called gold country since the mid-1800's, the Sierra Foothills, located between Sacramento and the Nevada border, was a hot spot for those seeking a gold rush fortune. Some of these settlers brought some European vines with them and somewhere in that mix was the Zinfandel grape.
Zinfandel remains the grape of choice here, followed by Rhone Blends. Volcanic rock & granite-based soils give their wines a robustness that make them unique, and highly sought after, particularly from the two best-known counties, Amador and El Dorado. Zinfandels here are spicy and structures, with brambly fruit and excellent backbone. Once a well-kept secret, wine from the Sierra Foothills is now on the national wine map.
It's not rare to see a wine's country of origin listed as "California." A country into itself in the wine world, California makes enough varieties and styles to match many European wine countries. It produces a diverse range of wines that span the quality spectrum.
The most famous of the California wine regions is Napa Valley, and these wines are certainly outstanding – but it's not as broad and diverse as its larger neighbor, Sonoma County. Down south, Santa Barbara's Santa Maria Valley is well-known for its Rhône blends, as well as cool-climate varieties like Pinot and Chardonnay. The Central Coast, the largest California AVA, has many different microclimates that lead to a wide range of wines with many sub-AVAs.
Most wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Crisp
Light to medium bodied wines that are high in acid and light to medium fruit. Typically no oak.
Fruity & Smooth
Light to medium bodied wines with lots of juicy fruit, typically medium acid and medium oak.
Rich & Creamy
Full bodied wines that have typically undergone malo-lactic fermentation and/or spent time in oak.