The United States makes the finest wines outside of Europe, and California is responsible for almost 90% of American wine production. Yet, when used on a wine label as an appellation, or legal designation of where its grapes were grown, the word “California” has considerably less cachet among wine lovers.
As a general rule, higher wine quality is strongly associated with greater specificity in the region of origin of its grapes — so smaller appellations like the tiny Rutherford subdistrict of Napa Valley are the most prestigious and command the highest prices, while larger zones like Sonoma County or the even larger Central Coast make more affordable wines.
The cheapest wines of all are those from California’s vast, baking-hot Central Valley, which produces roughly three quarters of the state’s wine volume but few wines of good quality. Savvy wine shoppers therefore tend to assume that California on the label means Central Valley fruit of questionable quality, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes a wine is labeled California simply because it blends fruit from a number of different premium zones, as with this delicious California-appellated pinot gris, sourced from four coastal counties known for excellent wine.
Pinot gris needs warm days and cool nights to make wines that taste this balanced, with exotic tropical fruit aromas of guava and pineapple brightened by a backbone of citrusy acidity. Try it with salads, seafood, or almost any Asian cuisine.
Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Pinot Gris — California (13.5% ABV)
On sale for $12.99 through Jan. 5 (regularly $15.99); PLCB Item #8937
Also available at: G’s Liquor Gallery in Gloucester, N.J., for $10.09; Gloucester City Bottlestop in Gloucester City, N.J., for $10.09; Canal’s Bottlestop in Marlton, N.J., for $11.96; Kreston Wine & Spirits in Wilmington, Del., for $11.99; Joe Canal’s in Marlton, N.J., for $11.99.