California has definitely seen a rollercoaster ride of changing styles and tastes over the last few decades. In the 1980s when phylloxera returned, completely devastating vines planted on AXR1 rootstocks, a rethink and replanting programme turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as grape varieties were matched to more suitable sites.
At a similar time, powerful critics were influencing winemaking styles, and California producers were moving into huge, oaky, high-alcohol wines – the bigger the better, when it came to chasing higher scores. Jump forward to 2004 and the wine-themed movie Sideways was released, promoting elegant and ethereal Pinot Noir, when in reality many in California were making brutish Pinot that was more akin to Syrah. Perhaps the time for change was coming…
The US is the fourth largest producer of wines in the world, with the majority made in California. While mainstream markets, both in the US and the rest of the world, may have a taste for the richer, riper style of wines, with some residual sugar, oak and warm alcohol, here I want to showcase a selection of wines more likely to be of interest to Decanter readers, from established names who have always valued elegance and finesse over power, and from a new wave of producers who share the same philosophy.
Scroll down to see Sayburn’s top 30 Californian whites to try
See Sayburn’s pick of the best 30 Californian whites to try