The California Gold Rush in the mid-19th century brought waves of new settlers to the region, increasing the population and local demand for wine.
The newly growing wine industry took hold in Northern California around the counties of Sonoma County and Napa.
Chinese immigrants played a prominent role in the developing of the Californian wine industry during this period - building wineries, planting vineyards, digging the underground cellars and harvesting grapes.
Nowadays California accounts for nearly 90 per cent of entire American wine production,the production in California alone is one third larger than that of Australia. If California were a separate country, it would be the world's fourth-largest wine producer!
Today there are more than 1,200 wineries in the state, ranging from small boutique wineries to large corporations. While Californian winemakers increasingly craft wines in more "Old World" or European wine styles, most Californian wines favour simpler, more fruit dominant New World wines.
The reliably warm weather allows many wineries to use very ripe fruit which brings up a more fruit forward rather than earthy or mineral style of wine. It also creates the opportunity for higher alcohol levels with many Californian wines having over 13.5%.
The style of Californian Chardonnay differs greatly from wines like Chablis with Californian winemakers frequently using malolactic fermentation and oak aging to make buttery, full bodied wines.
Californian Sauvignon blancs are not as herbaceous as wines from the Loire Valley or New Zealand but do have racy acidity and fresh, floral notes. Some Sauvignon Blanc are given time in oak which can dramatically change the profile of the wine, and are sometimes known as Fume Blanc.
The style of Cabernet Sauvignon that first put California on the world's wine map at the Judgment of Paris is still a trademark style today. The wines are known for their concentration of fruits and structure which produces lush, rich wines that can age well.
Merlot became widely planted in the 1990s due to its wide popularity, and is still the highest selling of all varietal wines in the country. Merlot planted on better sites tend to produce a plush, concentrated style.
The profile of Californian Pinot Noir generally favours a more intense, fruity style than the subtler, more elegant wines of Burgundy or Oregon.
Until being passed by Cabernet in 1998, Zinfandel was the most widely planted red wine grape in California. This was due in part to the wide popularity of White Zinfandel. Despite being made from the same grape, the only similarity between White and Red Zinfandel is the name. Red Zinfandel is a powerful, fruity wine with high levels of acidity and a jammy type flavour. White Zinfandel is a thin, slightly sweet blush wine with delicate summer fruit notes.
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