Wine making in California was begun by Spanish missionaries in the vineyard1700’s. Wine was produced at most of the 21 missions and used in religious ceremonies and as a daily beverage. Later, in the 1800’s, the many Chinese immigrant laborers helped develop the California wine industry by building wineries, excavating cellars as well as planting and harvesting grapes.
By the turn of the 20th century, the wine business was booming in California, with almost 800 wineries and close to 300 grape varieties being grown.
After a mid-century renaissance, California wine took the international wine community by surprise at a Paris wine competition in 1976. British wine merchant, Steven Spurrier invited several California wineries to compete in a blind tasting event. Known as the Judgment of Paris, Californian wines swept the competition, besting the French wines in both red and white wine categories.
Award Winning Wines
Now, California wine is recognized as among the finest in the world. With an ideal climate and many diverse soil types and micro climates, the Golden State produces nearly every variety of wine. There are over 93 distinct wine growing areas producing a wide range of distinctive fine wines. New California wineries are starting each year and many existing wineries are expanding the types of wine they produce. Wine making in the state continues to grow.
California, which is smaller than France, produces nearly 90 percent of all American wine. And two of every three bottles consumed in the United States is made in California. Currently, California’s wine production is twice that of Australia and is the fourth largest in the world. California wine is highly valued and exported to 164 countries.
California wine was primarily Chardonnay and Bordeaux varietals until the late 1980’s. When wine aficionados became bored with the sameness, wine makers began experimenting with new varieties. A new generation of wine makers soon entered the scene and reinvigorated the industry with new grape varieties, new technologies and a focus on quality. California wine can now be found in nearly all typical varieties and many obscure varieties most every style including sparkling, dessert and fortified wine. Today there are more than 1,200 wineries in California, ranging from small boutique wineries to large corporations like E & J Gallo.
Starting with the Spanish missionaries and their “Mission” grapes, California wine has grown to include over 100 French, Italian and Spanish varieties. From humble beginnings to world class offerings, California wine is now considered some of the finest in the world with countless awards.