The Franciscan missionaries planted the first vineyards at Mission San Juan Capistrano in 1779. The resulting wine was used for sacramental purposes as well as for trading with other settlements in the area. The original varietal planted was presumed from South America and became known as the Mission grape, which dominated California wine production until 1880.
The California Gold Rush brought in a new era of expansion and experimentation by gold seekers looking to try their luck producing wine. These enthusiastic producers began importing grapes from France, Italy and Spain to the Mediterranean climates of Central and Northern California. Just as the quality of wine began to peak, phylloxera, Prohibition and both World Wars nearly wiped out the industry.
California winegrowing resurfaced in the 1960s and ‘70s when a wave of wealthy intellectuals sought out more leisurely lifestyles and status-oriented investments by establishing world-class wineries. New technology and insight launched California into world-class status and led to unparalleled wealth; this funded ventures into other regions of the country including Washington, Oregon and New York.
Sought out by many for its warm climate, beautiful coastline and laid-back atmosphere, California’s past is heavily influenced by Spanish, Mexican, Latin American and Asia cultures, making it an international melting pot. The mild Mediterranean climate produces ample fruits and vegetables, while the North and Central Coast regions provide a bountiful source of seafood to create innovative, ultra-fresh cuisine.
Spanning 800 miles along the Pacific Coast from the 32nd to 42nd parallels, California produces some of the most diverse wines in the country. From exquisitely balanced and bracingly acidic Pinot Noir in the cool, coastal regions of Sonoma and Santa Barbara, to intensely extracted and ripe Zinfandel in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the state seems to have it all.
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