California, On My Terms.

This past May I took one of my bi-annual trips to California.  I love California — the wine, food, natural beauty and diverse culture is an ever-beckoning call to visit.

As a Sommelier I am fortunate enough to have visited many times, and have gotten to know Sonoma and Napa Valley in a very in-depth way.  However, all of the trips I have taken in the past were group oriented, and everything needed to be on a tight schedule, and, most importantly, I had no choice over which wineries I was able to visit.  I decided that this trip would be different, I would make my own personal California pilgrimage.  The wineries I wanted to visit? The icons, the wineries that have been making wine for almost half a century and have never changed their style, the wineries that did not care when their wines were out of fashion, and never blinked nor gloated when their wines were praised. I was on a mission to find and define for myself, classic California wine, and perhaps answer some questions about that elusive thing called terroir, and its place in the conversation about the future of California wine.

Once I had my travel dates confirmed I started booking appointments. The trip started with two days at the Peter Michael Winery in the Knights Valley of Sonoma (which I will write about in the weeks to come). After that I got in the rental car and started my journey.

Day One: Ridge Montebello

Day Two: Hanzell

Day Three Storybook Vineyards

Day Four Mayacamas

These were wineries that piqued my interest long ago and influenced my decision to become a Sommelier.  In their early days they were renegades, and in a way they still are renegades, in that they believe in their land, they believe in making their wine the same way they did when they started their wineries (albeit with some modernization), and they believe in the greatness of California.  Their passion and determination are undeniable, and after my visits I BELIEVE even more than in the past in the greatness of California.

Over the summer, I will write about my visits to these wineries, and give you an in-depth look of their wines, their vineyards, and their people. Join me on my search for balance in wine, in taste, and the good life.

– Maximilian Kast