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Steele Bien Nacido Pinot Noir 1998
A major force on the global playing field, California is the world’s fourth largest wine-producing region on the planet and the majority of its land under vine is devoted to red varieties—they cover nearly double the vineyard acreage compared to whites.
While the state’s incredibly diverse terrain and microclimates allow for countless red wine styles, the one factor unifying all California red wine is the abundance of sunshine and a long, consistent growing season, which leads to well-developed and fully ripened fruit.
Winemaking in California dates back to the 18th century when Spanish missionaries planted the first wines grapes. But the industry experienced its first boom with the Gold Rush in the last half of the 19th century when miners brought the Zinfandel vine to the Sierra Foothills and Lodi. Now considered by many to be the state’s flagship grape, Zinfandel grows in virtually all of its regions, expressing different personalities in each.
The most famous region today, of course, is the acclaimed Napa Valley, where Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Bordeaux blends garner global attention and in some cases, cult status. Zinfandel thrives here as well.
Sonoma County, nestled between Napa Valley and the Pacific Ocean claims great variability in geography and microclimates with vineyards climbs onto mountains, reaches far into valleys and stretches along some the state’s most dramatic coastlines. Here world-class Pinot Noir is possible from Sonoma’s cooler sites while Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon do well in its warmer locations.
The Central Coast and the Sierra Foothills also excel in the production of Zinfandel, and remain active new frontiers for Rhone and Spanish varieties.
Mendocino California’s cool North Coast region is a fantastic source of Pinot noir.