California vintners branch out to Italian grapes

Nov 04, 2013 567

By S. Irene Virbila

Italian immigrants were instrumental in founding the California wine industry, yet when winemakers sought to upgrade the image of their wines in the mid-20th century, they followed the then-current fashion and went with French grapes — Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Though perhaps better suited to California's climate, Italian varietals didn't have much cachet at the time and were basically relegated to blends and low-cost jug wines.

Steve Matthiasson of Matthiasson Wines in Napa Valley thinks that was shortsighted. "There are thousands and thousands of Italian varietals, but for the most part they are Mediterranean varieties and can handle very dry summers and heat," he says. Perfect for California.

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