I was in California just over a year ago, though it feels like a different lifetime now.
A lot has changed since then, and I’m not just talking about COVID-19. It was a devastating year of wildfires, the worst on record in the state, claiming 33 lives and billions of dollars in damage. In Napa and Sonoma, the Glass Fire damaged or destroyed 31 wineries. The fire’s impact on the 2020 harvest was significant, and some wineries have already written off their vintage.
We should be careful not to judge the wines that are released from 2020 prematurely. Although there’s been considerable research into smoke taint, led by the Australian Wine Research Institute, there’s a lot we don’t know. But we do know that proximity matters. So, not all vineyards will be affected to the same degree. Smoke taint can also emerge over time, whether post-fermentation or with time in a bottle.
Every year, wineries make decisions about whether individual lots meet their desired quality level. I imagine the scrutiny of the 2020 vintage will be even more rigid. So, let’s take a wait-and-see approach, and expect some good wines to come.
While we await the release of those wines, here are some of the top California wines currently available on the market. The list is an exciting reminder of the diversity of California wine, as new AVAs are identified and approved, less common grape varieties are planted and celebrated, and upcoming winemakers make their mark.
Look for our Top 10 : California Wines Part 2, on April 22. To be reminded, sign up for our free monthly newsletter: Subscribe
Wines by the GOW team.