March 10, 2023 by Arden Montgomery
Spotlight on NorCal Wine
The California most non-Calfornians have in their minds is either Hollywood, sprawling palm-lined white sand beaches, and rolling desert valleys studded with cacti and other parched-looking vegetation. And no mistake, this is a lot of California and an important aspect of the Golden State’s often dualistic identity. But go a little further north and you will experience a very different aspect of this giant of the West Coast – Arecaceae give way to redwoods, pines, and junipers, white sand becomes studded with pebbles and red rock spilling from the sea cliffs, and the perpetual sunshine of further south is punctuated by extraordinary downpours, sea fog, and the occasional blanket of snow.
And this is the side of California credited with the cultivation and fermentation of some of the best and most iconic wines in the world. Anchoring the standard of viticultural production on Turtle Island, regions like Sonoma, Napa Valley, and the often-obscure Mendocino coastline have delivered some of our very favorite bottles in the collection – so now we’re taking a moment to honor them. Let’s dive in.
A (very) brief history of the California wine scene
California’s viticultural history follows a religious storyline which served to found a positively devout modern oenophilic lifestyle.
The west coast vineyards sank their roots in first at the encouragement of Spanish colonizers who encouraged Franciscan Missionarios to plant grapes to feed the demand for Catholic communion wine. An environment and soil makeup ideal for grape-growing facilitated the easy spread of these original farms across the state, cultivating an active culture of winemaking for many hundreds of years.
Fast forward to the prohibition era and the region’s winemakers face some serious trouble – however some historic growers including the Martinez brothers were able to keep up production by continuing to legally produce sacramental wines for religious consumption.
Following the repeal of prohibition legislation in the early 1930s, California’s numerous vineyards exploded, and especially Napa Valley and the surrounding regions bloomed to build the contemporary icon of the wine world.
Five fabulous Northern California wines from the Argaux collection
- 2020 Wonderland Project No. 9 Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon – $55
From the heart of Napa Valley comes this Cab Sauv whose grapes were grown in a blessed location high in the hills where the young uvae can escape the coastal fog and ripen slowly. The result is a deep and velvety wine that is bodacious but silky-smooth, gracing the menu of restaurants like The French Laundry. Sweet, savory, with fruits, herbs, and chocolate, this is the one to bring to your cold-weather BBQ. Pair with burgers and your favorite North Face vest.
- 2021 Wonderland Project ‘White Queen’ Sonoma Chardonnay – $30
And for the lighter side of things. Wonderland does it again, bringing forward a Chardonnay which is both classic and exemplary of the uber-popular genre. Ushering in a Burgundian experience that is nonetheless a true-blue California bottle, the oaked Chard teases French bakery while doling out a healthy helping of tropical flavors. Have her with avocado toast.
- 2017 Ultramarine Heintz Vineyard Sparkling Rosé – $235
If you haven’t experienced the rolling hills and oak forests that illustrate the Sonoma Valley, we really encourage you to go. But if you can’t make it, this bottle of elegant pink bubbles will get you close. Trance into the effervescent blush of this opulent but wildly food-friendly bottle and imagine yourself running though rain-soaked vineyards with fields of strawberries, citrus, and roses blossoming nearby. Mwah.
- 2021 Scribe Carneros Pinot Noir – $52
A Pinot for all seasons. This textbook demonstration of Sonoma terroir is got from slow-ripened fruits that grow in the constant flow of sunshine and cooling ocean winds, giving you a balanced glass packed full of intriguing flavors wrapped in a delectable and classically Pinot Noir package. She’s super food-friendly – we’re thinking a dim sum spread featuring garlic green beans, xiao long bao, and shiitakes.
- 2020 Edaphos ‘Alder Springs’ Petite Arvine – $46
Mendocino isn’t quite the icon is slightly more southern cousins have grown up to be, but that’s part of what makes the wines grown in the region so very special. Including this one, which happens to be the crowning favorite in our collection here at Argaux. The preceding grape variety originated in Switzerland, and just happens to have found a beautiful new home on the Northern California coast. Something like a really delicate chard, we are treated to notes of lemon and apple decorated with chamomile and jasmine.
Other offerings from Argaux
California’s winemaking traditions at once exemplify, honor, and totally do away with some of the practices present in old-world viticultural protocols. We could talk about the nuances in old world vs. new world wines all day – but it’s far more interesting to taste it for yourself.
That’s why Argaux is offering the Old World vs. New World Tasting Set, so you can learn with your taste buds and experience how history, land, and culture have brought forth such familiar, delicious, and disparate wines.
The kit includes 2 or 4 bottles of wine – half from California, half from France, offering a rich look into a couple classics including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Cab Sauv.
Long has the debate raged on as to which anchor of the wine world produces the better bottle, and now you can decide for yourself. Or not! Either way, you win.