Earthquakes aside, California has perfect conditions to harvest amazing, world-class wines. Established leaders like Robert Mondavi put Napa and The Golden State on the map for wine-making. But now, there’s a new guard paving the way for more experimental, less traditional vintages created using unconventional practices, like dry farming and earlier harvest dates. And instead of learning from vineyards in Bordeaux, this new wave of winemakers is expanding their gaze to lesser known regions for inspiration, in order to offer something different in terms of flavor, while remaining true to their Cali roots. So to celebrate California wine month, happening all of September, we’ve compiled a few of our favorites from this new wave.
Abe Schoener’s one-man winery, the Scholium Project, produces ridiculously delicious, ridiculously small quantities of wine from modest, yet robust vineyards around Napa Valley. His 2,000 cases of wine cultivated annually are sought after by a growing cult following who come back for his unusual varieties that continually challenge—in the best way. A former philosophy professor, this renegade winemaker’s Petite Sirah is not to be missed, and can be enjoyed for the lucky few who get to The Bazaar by José Andrés at SLS Beverly Hills, first.
Napa natives, friends since third grade and avid cyclists Arnot Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts are the force behind Arnot-Roberts. Their small, single lot vineyard yields extraordinary Cabernets, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noirs that stay true to their California roots while expanding beyond traditional notes and flavors. Their hands-on, DIY approach to winemaking leads to truly special blends, like the obscure, 2013 Trousseau North Coast. The vintage—now sold out online—can still be tasted at The Bazaar by José Andrés at SLS Beverly Hills.
Dirty & Rowdy is the brainchild of two couples who came together in 2010 to create small batch runs of reds and whites. Their belief is that “wine’s real story is about source” so their harvest comes from consciously farmed vineyards in Santa Barbara, Mendecino and Napa. Then, they let the wine “go about its business.”
As a vine nursery field man, Andrew Jones has spent time in nearly every vineyard on the Central Coast, forming lasting relationships with their owners. Through these friendships Jones began being offered tiny lots of the vineyards’ best fruits. This gave life to Field Recordings—small batches of wines that can never be reproduced, because the source is always changing. Jones has an eye for untapped potential, and a flair for the aromatic, like his classic Californian grape varietal the 2013 Almanac Zinfandel.