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globalgourmet.com | WineDay | Annex

"Will the South Rise Again?"

  by Fred McMillin

Prologue

Firestone  
1850—Northern California had no significant commercial wine production. California wine was produced in the Southern part of the state.

1860—Propelled by the Gold Rush, commercial production started in the north. It immediately became apparent that the northern climate produced far superior table (dry) wines. Critics and vintners soon concluded that "in the south of California a superior table wine cannot be made. In fact, more often than not, not even a good table wine can be produced...The heat produces too much sugar and too little acid."

...Prof. Thomas Pinney, A History of Wine in America

 

The Rest of the Story

Over a century has passed, and the north remains the leader. However, there are cool marine breezes in Southern California as well as in the north, and vintners are now putting them to good use. Since the southern wines lack the prestige of Sonoma or Napa, we wondered how the South would do if matched against northern wines of the same price? To get an answer, my panel tasted BLIND ten such pairs, e.g., two 1997, $15 Zinfandels...one from the Livermore Valley (north), the other from Paso Robles (south). As regular readers have noticed, usually the results agree with the conventional wisdom...for example, young Merlots tasted better than young Cabs. Here's what we found this time.

 
  Winner Winning Margin (votes) Price Year The Wine
10th - North 1 $17 '97 Merlot by Chateau Souverain, Alexander Valley
9th - North 6 $25 '97 Meritage (red blend) by Dry Creek Vnyd., Sonoma County
8th - North 7 $26 '97 Chardonnay by Steele, Durell Vineyard, Carneros
7th - South 8 $15 '97 Dolcetto by Callaway, Temecula
6th - South 10 $13 '97 Chardonnay by Firestone, Santa Ynez Valley (pictured)
5th - South 11 $11 '98 Chardonnay by Meridian, Santa Barbara County
4th - South 12 $7 '97 Riesling by Firestone, Santa Barbara County
3rd - South 13 $33 '97 Reserve Pinot Noir by Laetitia,Arroyo Grande Valley
2nd - South 18 $15 '97 EOS Zinfandel Paso Robles
1st - South 20 $15 '98 Viognier by Callaway, Temecula
 

Comment

Of the four most expensive pairings, the North won three. However, below $17 dollars, the South won all six matches. So, the SOUTH has learned how to make GOOD table wines at GOOD prices.

 

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