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Louis Martini Cream Sherry
One of the world's most highly regarded regions for wine production and tourism, the Napa Valley is the AVA that brought worldwide recognition to California winemaking. The area was settled by a few choice wine families in the 1960's who bet that the wines of the area would grow and flourish. They were right. The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980's, when vineyard lands were scooped up and vines were planted throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, from large conglomerates to small boutiques to cult classics. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux blends. Whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie many smaller sub-AVAs that lend even more character specifics to the wines. Furthest south is Carneros, followed by Yountville, Oakville & Rutherford. Above those two are St.-Helena and the valley's newest AVA, Calistoga. These areas are situated on the valley floor and are known for creating rich, smooth Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. There are a few mountain regions as well, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs. Those include Howell Mountain, Stags Leap District, and Mt. Veeder. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from more time in the bottle to evolve and soften.
Most Sherries are dry and meant to pair alongside food but Americans have traditionally focused on the sweet ones. Sherry comes from only one place in the entire world, Andalucía, where the soil and unique seasonal changes give an unsurpassed character to its wines. The many styles change with the process of production, not really the grape, though certain styles are reserved for different grapes. The main grapes are Palomino, Pedro Ximénez and Muscat of Alexandria.
Pedro Ximénez can make some amazing sweet Sherries. Cream Sherry is technically the sweetest, darkest style of Sherry, except sometimes Pedro Ximénez can be sweeter. The rest of the styles are dry and dependent on the action of flor, benevolent film-forming yeasts that make a floating veil on the surface of the wine.
Fino and Manzanilla are the lightest styles and are meant to be drunk young.
Amontillado happens when a Fino’s layer of flor fades and the wine starts to oxidize. Quite simply it is an aged Fino that has a darker color and richer palate.
When flor yeast dies unexpectedly, the result is Palo Cortado. Palo Cortado Sherries can behave like Amontillado on the palate but often show a greater balance of richness and delicacy.
Oloroso never develops flor but is oxidized for five to twenty five years and become aromatic and strong like a fine bourbon.