The association of the California style of wine with deep flavors, forward fruits, high alcohol and a hint of oak, is a thing of the past. However, its a common belief that America witnessed an increase in the revenue of the wine industry, in recent times. The U.S. and Canada were previously accused of favoring beer and spirits over wine, till the magical effects of wine were discovered by the present generation. The burgeoning California wine industry has an origin, prior to the Prohibition in the 1920s. Over 140 wineries had sprouted all over the Napa Valley alone, in 1889.
The Spanish government banned wine grape cultivation in Mexico after the wine industry started competing with Spanish imports, in the late 16th century. The effects of the prohibition were evident in Mexico till the 20th century. The California missions, throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, needed wine on a regular basis. Fr. Junipero Serra at the Mission San Diego de Alcala planted the first vineyard of California in 1769. Fr. Serra brought the Mission grape to California, supposedly from cuttings brought from South America. Though, initially this grape was not considered to be ideal as a table wine, by the mid nineteenth century over 4,000 acres were cultivated around the missions.
Immediately after the Santa Cruz Mission, in 1804, vineyards were planted throughout California. Owing to the deforestation by the lumber industry, vineyards sprouted up on the Santa Cruz Mountains in the following years. Padre Jose Altimira planted several thousand grape vines at the northernmost mission, twenty years after that. Los Angeles had its first European table grape varietals plantation cultivated by Jean-Louis Vignes, in 1833. Richard Henry Dana discussed the wine of early California in his historic account of life on the California coast, in 1934. George Calvert Yount planted the first vineyard in Napa Valley, in 1836.
In the mid nineteenth century, most of the table wines consumed in California were Portuguese imports. Portuguese red wine, cooked in the sun on sailing ships and inadvertently oxidized, was made palatable by sweetening them. This led to the commercialization of Madeira wines, one of the most preferred wines in America. Till date, whenever wines take on a tinge of brown because of being old or due to poor cellaring, they are said to be maderized.
However, consumerism has played a significant role in determining the quality, quantity and even the process involved in wine making. The English designed a rating system for French wines in the eighteenth century and also created Sherry and Madeira. Consumerism steered the California wine industry and later the market determined that the wines should be a little sweet and smooth on the palate. In addition, the market demanded that the acid level should be low. Thus, owing to these requirements, the wine industry had to turn grapes used for making table wines for processing several base wines.
Unlike cheese lovers, wine lovers have better options, as they can find good wines in the supermarkets, provided they know which ones to choose. The market is the most powerful factor that determines not only which varietals will sink or swim, but also which ones will thrive.
California Cook: Focaccia, straight up, no twists
Real focaccia is a lot closer to pizza than it is to anything that could be used to make a sandwich. In fact, if you imagine a slightly thicker, crisp-crusted, rectangular pizza with very restrained toppings, you’re just about there.
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