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A winding path through the world of wine brought Johnson in January 2001 to Pepi (owned by Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates in Napa Valley). Chris went to work in 1996 for Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates. Less than two years later he took on the job of winemaker at the original Kendall-Jackson winery in Lake County.
Pepi is something different, however, Chris said he loves its spontaneous, risk-taking approach to wine. He favors the crisp, unfettered and natural character of those varietals in his Pepi bottlings. And his experience with Pinot Grigio in New York and Sauvignon Blanc in Lake County prepared him to master two of Pepi's leading wines. It's all part of forming a closer kinship with the creative magic/science of winemaking. "The natural cycles, the creatively, skill, great people, beautiful land - all the connections come together in wine," Chris said. "Just punching down, you see the skins, the red juice bubbling away. There's something about that whole transformation. It's cool."
Responsible for the vast majority of American wine production, if California were a country, it would be the world’s fourth largest wine-producing nation. The state’s diverse terrain and microclimates allow for an incredibly wide-ranging selection of wine styles, and unlike tradition-bound Europe, experimentation is more than welcome here. Wineries range from boutique to massive corporations, and price and quality are equally varied—plenty of inexpensive bulk wine is made in the Central Coast area, while Napa is responsible for some of the world’s most prestigious and expensive “cult” wines.
Just about every style of wine you can imagine is made in California, from bone dry to unctuously sweet, still to sparkling, light and fresh to rich and full-bodied. Each AVA and sub-AVA has its own distinct personality. In the Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and other Bordeaux varieties dominate, as well as Sauvignon Blanc. Sonoma County is best known for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel. The Central Coast has carved out a niche with Rhône blends based on Grenache and Syrah, while Mendocino has found success with Alsatian varieties such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer. With all the diversity that California has to offer, it is certain that any wine lover will find something to get excited about.
Persistent jasmine aromas coupled with ripe tropical and stone fruit flavors are pervasive in many wines that call themselves Malvasia. Both grape and name are far-reaching. Over 20 different varieties grow throughout Italy, Spain, Greece and other countries.
But variations on the name itself are plentiful too. There are actually approximately 70 registered grapes with Malvasia as part of their name or listed as a synonym for Malvasia. Some think that the actual name, Malvasia, stems from the Italian mispronunciation of Monemvasia, a southern Greek port. The French call it Malvoisie, the British say Malmsey and the Germans call it Malvasier. In any case, Italy has more forms of Malvasia than any other country. Most popular are Malvasia Bianca di Candia from Lazio, Malvasia di Candia Aromatico, which is planted widely and the red-skinned Malvasia di Casorzo from Piedmont. The list goes on.
Mainly known as a white grape, wines made from some type of Malvasia are adored for their spicy, fruity and exotic floral aromas, coupled with an assortment of fruits on the plate and a fresh zippy finish, whether bone dry or carrying any sort of residual sugar.