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The New California Wine: A Guide to the Producers and Wines Behind a Revolution in Taste (Anglais) Relié – 5 novembre 2013

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“I hear you hate California wine.”
     The spokeswoman for one of the state’s most powerful wine personalities was on the phone. I wasn’t in the mood.
    “If I hated California wine,” I replied, “would I be doing what I do?”
     I knew, when I moved to California in 2006, that I was facing long odds. I had come to a place that believed, above all, in the superiority of its wines. Anyone who didn’t embrace that belief was viewed as a threat. And in the past I had dared to voice my dissatisfaction with a California wine culture that I saw as often self-satisfied and underwhelming. Worse, I was from the East Coast, an outsider. My years spent in New York, where I learned from my father about European wines from Vouvray to Valpolicella, were a liability instead of an asset.
     Six years earlier I had moved to Seattle, and while there I came to love West Coast wines—in particular the pioneering wines of Washington State. I began my wine-writing career there. Clearly, I was no foe of American winemaking. But none of that mattered the moment I landed at the Oakland airport.
     I had come to the Bay Area to run the wine section of the San Francisco Chronicle, six to ten pages of some of the country’s most influential wine journalism. The California wine industry was not pleased: their work was about to be judged by someone whose palate was honed not on hefty Cabernet and Zinfandel but on nuanced Old World wines.
     I approached my work earnestly. But from the moment I arrived, I had to confront my own deep skepticism about California’s winemaking reality. Again and again I was disappointed by what I found to be the shortfalls of California wine: a ubiquity of oaky, uninspired bottles and a presumption that bigger was indeed better.
     The truth was, I had come to California to be convinced. I was looking for signs that skeptics like me were wrong, and that what had long been a near-magical land for wine could still achieve greatness.
     Whatever I might have thought about California wines at that point, I had started from a place of love. In February 1985, when I was twelve, my father took our family to California. At the time I was far more interested in the Apple factory tour in Cupertino, but Dad had always brought us up around wine. He gave me my first glass at age five, and soon enough I was having a bit with dinner most nights. When he took us to Napa Valley, it was clear we were somewhere special. We visited the Robert Mondavi Winery, with its campanile and familiar arch, the brick-and-mortar icon from the labels I had often seen around the house. Even then I knew we had arrived at the cradle of American wine. California wines at the time were vibrant, the industry invigorated by its speedy rise to rival Europe in quality.
     Why, then, had California wine fallen into such a stupor years later? That was the question I set out to answer. I wanted to reconcile these two  Californias—the one I remembered that was so full of promise and life, and the one that was stuck in a self-satisfied funk.
My first couple of years in California were tough. I hunted desperately for local wines worth praising while I featured lots of imports in the newspaper’s wine section, arguing that the Bay Area in fact had a critical mass of great importers (like Berkeley’s Kermit Lynch). This argument did not sit well among partisans of California’s wines, but I couldn’t overlook the sad fact that Napa had become a bombastic shell of its earlier, humbler self. Its top names—Beaulieu and Beringer and even Mondavi—had grown into big corporate entities, while its smaller labels were locked in an arms race, each trying to create bigger, riper, and more outrageous wines.
     Still, I had come prepared with good leads. Just two weeks into the job I had to choose our winemaker of the year, and quickly enough I selected Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards. Draper’s work was beyond reproach: for nearly forty years he had been at the helm at Ridge, where he made not only the state’s benchmark Zinfandel-focused wines, Geyserville and Lytton Springs, but also one of the finest Cabernet-based wines in the world, Monte Bello.
     My choice of Draper came with a subtler message. In the midst of an industry that had blindly embraced technology and by-the-numbers winemaking, he was an outspoken traditionalist. He rejected commercial yeasts and fancy flavor-enhancing techniques and was a vocal critic of the science-minded efforts of the University of California at Davis, one of the top winemaking schools in the world.
     More than that, he believed that the making of wine was sacrosanct, a true expression of the land. Wine “was traditionally the central symbol for transformation, because the grape transforms itself simply by being broken by man, because it transforms itself with nothing else,” he told me at the time.
     By choosing Draper, I had set a theme for my work. I quietly kept searching for wines that I felt reflected what I knew California could offer. The following year, my winemaker of the year was Josh Jensen of Calera. Known as Mr. Limestone, Jensen in the 1970s had pioneered the quest for great Pinot Noir grown on calcareous soils that approximated those of Burgundy—and paid a critical price over the years for stubbornly refusing to give in to the whims of fashion.
     Slowly, I encountered other winemakers with similar beliefs. I found people who remained committed to restrained, compelling wines that spoke clearly of their origins—and who shared my frustration with California’s modern style.
     Some, like Draper and Jensen, had been toiling for decades; others were upstarts with the same energy and ambition as the pioneers from previous generations. Eventually, the brushstrokes began to turn into something recognizable: the seeds of a new movement, a new California wine in the making.
     This was more than just a blip. Wines from emerging producers like Lioco, Broc Cellars, and Matthiasson, which just a few years earlier would have been decidedly fringe for California, had by 2010 amassed a loyal audience. They were being sought out by the disillusioned fans of an earlier California generation who believed that modern winemaking had forsaken them. They also attracted sommeliers and wine buyers who had previously all but written off California as well as those who had shunned domestic wine in favor of imported until finally finding bottles that spoke their aesthetic language. That year, I wrote a piece for Saveur magazine making a case for the New California wine—and by that time, talk of a grand revival no longer seemed unrealistic.
New California’s winemakers share similar sensibilities: an enthusiasm for lessons learned from the Old World, but not the desire to replicate its wines; a mandate to seek out new grape varieties and regions; and, perhaps most important, an ardent the belief that place matters. They are true believers in terroir. This is crucial because California’s future ultimately depends upon wines that show nuance, restraint, and a deep evocation of place.
     But California is also somewhat obsessed with size. Although there are hundreds of small family wineries throughout the state, the industry is dominated by its Big Three: Gallo, Constellation Wines, and the Wine Group. In 2011, according to industry investor David Freed, the Big Three were responsible for more than 64 percent of the state’s wine shipments; they made two of every three bottles of California wine. If you don’t recognize their names (though certainly Gallo is ubiquitous), you know their brands. Gallo’s empire covers everything from Barefoot to Louis Martini to Apothic and Turning Leaf. After a blitzkrieg buying spree over the past decade, Constellation now owns Robert Mondavi, Ravenswood, Clos du Bois, and nearly two dozen other labels. And the Wine Group controls much of the rest of the supermarket shelves, including brands like Franzia, Cupcake, Glen Ellen, and Concannon.
     That doesn’t even factor in the massive influence of Fred Franzia’s Bronco Wine Company, maker of twenty million cases worth of Charles Shaw wines (better known as Two Buck Chuck) and dozens of other labels. It is estimated that Bronco and the four next largest labels—Trinchero (Sutter Home, Ménage à Trois), Kendall-Jackson, Delicato (Gnarly Head, Irony), and Treasury Wine Estates (a former division of Australian brewer Foster’s that encompasses Beringer, Meridian, and more)—account for another 20 percent of the California wine industry. In other words, sea change in the overall market  for California wine only happens when the Fred Franzias of the world get involved.
     Yet California’s state of the art has typically been judged on an elite roster of producers. When the state’s wine style shifted in the 1990s, it happened not among makers of table wine but among a small set of mostly Cabernet specialists.
     That’s why, when I sought signs of change in California winemaking, I knew I needed to hunt among the little guys. Change always comes first at a small scale—in part because, as vineyard owner David Hirsch might put it, you have to apply yourself to a specific place in order to begin to understand the thousand tiny things that allow you to make great wine.
The winemakers you’ll find in the following pages aren’t meant to represent all of the state’s ambitions. Rather, they are pioneers, setting the agenda for the New California wine.
     Not every young winery appears. Some are too wedded to the aesthetics of the previous generation; others may be too new. In this book you’ll also find some older wineries like Calera and Ridge, with reputations that stretch back for decades. They appear here because they have stayed the course through darker times.
     The book is divided into three sections. The first part, “Searching for the New California,” aims to take you along on my journey to discover the many changes taking place and meet the people behind them. The second part, “The New Terroir,” is a road trip through some of the regions that are helping to redefine California winemaking. The third, “Wines of the New California,” lays out essential producers and their wines and discusses the changes in winemaking and wine styles in recent years.
     Each section addresses an aspect of what I’ve come to believe: this is the best time in a generation to drink California wine. More than that, today marks the arrival of a mature American wine culture, where producers are confident enough not to mimic the Old World or obscure the nuances of terroir with clever cellar work, but rather seek greatness in a uniquely American context.
     That is the wonderful reality of the New California.

Revue de presse

"Bonné's intelligence and knowledge are on full display in this book. There is no better guide to delicious wines from California."
—Edward Behr, The Art of Eating

“A wonderful, engaging read…a great gift for any wine lover”
—S. Irene Virbila, Los Angeles Times

“The New California Wine delivers some of the most insightful wine writing you’ll read anywhere. This is the real skinny on cutting-edge California wine from somebody who’s on the ground, knows his stuff, and could care less about offending the Establishment.” 
—Matt Kramer, author and columnist for Wine Spectator

“Jon Bonné brings a clear-eyed perspective to California; this book offers a fresh look at a mature wine culture heading in surprising directions. Its new leaders are all here; its old scams get some brusque treatment, too. Essential, pithy, easy reading.” 
—Hugh Johnson, author of The World Atlas of Wine
“An impeccably timed, beautifully written book chronicling a profound generational shift in California winemaking. Required reading for any sommelier, retailer, or consumer who’s left California behind for other pastures—it’s time to come home!” 
—David Lynch, owner/wine director of St. Vincent Tavern and Wine Merchant and author of Vino Italiano
“An incisive assessment of the California wine industry: its current state, fascinating history, and future in the hands of a new generation of winemakers.” 
—Paul Draper, winemaker at Ridge Vineyards
“There are few greater authorities on California wine than Jon Bonné. Dispassionate but engaged, enthused but objective, Bonné brings a forensic rigor to his work. But The New California Wine is no textbook, in spite of its comprehensive scope. Instead, Bonné’s narrative moves at a rattling pace, delving into California’s colorful past and vividly describing its future. A must-read for anyone who is serious about the state’s wine.” 
—Guy Woodward, former editor at Decanter
“A gutsy, inspiring book driven by the same ideals as the movement it has so gracefully defined. Not only has Bonné delivered one of the most important and relevant books on California wine ever written, he’s also redefined our notions of the wine book. The New California Wine is at once a manifesto, a guidebook, and a narrative peek inside the motives and methods of California’s new avant-garde.” 
—Talia Baiocchi, editor-in-chief, Punch

"Big, jammy, oaky, buttery? Guess again. Bonné, the San Francisco Chronicle's wine editor, turns expectations of California wines on their head, profiling new producers, growing areas, and approaches to winemaking that are yielding all sorts of exciting bottles. Brisk, elegant, steely and most of all, nuanced—with this seminal account of a vinicultural revolution, these are the adjectives with which we will now be describing the Golden State's wines." 
Betsy Andrews, www.saveur.com

"As wine editor of The San Francisco Chronicle, Mr. Bonné has been positioned perfectly to observe the profound pendulum swing in style and attitude that has occurred among California winemakers over the last decade. While “revolution” may be too strong a term if simply tracking public tastes and sales figures, it nonetheless captures a sense of mental liberation among winemakers and consumers freed from a stultifying, dominant style that Mr. Bonné labels "Big Flavor.'"
Eric Asimov, www.nytimes.com

"Jon Bonné's new book is a wonderful, engaging read with a cast of characters who think outside the box, care about sustainability and have a strong curiosity and work ethic." 

 “A Favorite Cookbook of 2013”—KCRW

"Beyond its strong storytelling, Bonne's book offers an history lesson and a practical guide to the new stars, from Paso Robles syrah to a "neo-Friulian" white blend from Napa's Massican that "sums up all the changes from California." Not surprisingly, it contains no chardonnay."
The Philadelphia Inquirer

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Amazon.com: 43 commentaires
31 internautes sur 31 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Focused, Informative, and Engaging 11 novembre 2013
Par Amazon Customer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
Jon Bonne goes about explaining the current state of California wine by focusing on the move away from what he calls "Big Flavor" in this engaging and thought provoking read. Running through his engaging prose is a strong point of view, a point of view that Bonne pulls no punches in expressing. His favored producers (Ridge Vineyards, Calera, Littorai) are given great praise for their willingness to buck the Big Flavor band wagon, and Bonne pulls no punches in heaping scorn on wineries he feels lost their way in producing Big Flavor wines (resulting in some uncomfortable criticism of some of our cellar jewels like Sea Smoke, Aubert, Harlan, and Bond).

I strongly recommend reading The New California Wine, even if you are a collector who has some of the Big Flavor California wines in their cellar - Bonne's clear thesis keeps the writing focused, and whether you like his conclusions or not, you will be far more knowledgeable about California wine as a result of following Bonne's train of thought.
17 internautes sur 17 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A Welcome Perspective 16 novembre 2013
Par brandon s gillis - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
Over the past several years, Jon Bonne has emerged as one of the most insightful and compelling voices in the world of wine. His writing for the San Francisco Chronicle has often focused on finding and trumpeting undiscovered (or forgotten) gems, frequently from his home state of California. In The New California Wine he goes even deeper, exploring and introducing us to a wide variety of regions, vineyards, and producers who are continuing to show what is possible in California wine.

In refreshingly unpretentious prose, he weaves together the old and the new, and sheds a much deserved spotlight on folks like Steve Edmunds, Ted Lemon, and Rick Longoria who have been pursuing their own visions for decades (often against the grain of popular taste), while at the same time highlighting young upstarts.

We have been waiting a long time for a book like this. Much like Andrew Jeffords’ classic The New France, The New California Wine is both a terrific resource on California wine and a highly enjoyable read.
28 internautes sur 31 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A good story filled with romance, thin on some facts 1 mars 2014
Par NorCal Man - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
I realize this book is only the Author's and a few other's opinions. As an industry veteran both in the vineyards and winery I know and have worked with many wine professionals ranging from small and very large producers. There are many, well informed opinions in the industry contrary to the Author's.
The wine regions and some of the history does make for an interesting read. The concept that wine industry is separated between big wine (evil) and small wines (good) is a good story. Controversy sells books. However, the book focuses on the extremes completely ignoring a lot of the California wine industry and the dedicated craftspeople working in wineries of all sizes. It is either big wine and big flavor or small wine and thinner wines, no middle ground. This reminds me of blogs where two extreme groups argue. Most of us are somewhere in the middle.
The chapters on New Farming and the New Winemakers are flawed in several areas, too much to discuss point by point here. Just know some (if not most) of what you are reading is what a few people believe or want to be true, some are myths. Perpetuating the myths does a disservice to novice readers trying to learn more about the subject. Biodynamics is an one example. Look up the "Biodynamics is a hoax" blog for well spoken contrary opinion on that subject.
Bonne was raised on European style wines and thus he prefers that style. The more jumpy (acidic, tart), leaner (thin, low flavor) wines instead of big flavor, over the top wines, extreme high alcohol wines are lauded. What about the ocean of wines in between those extremes? Bonne downplays wine critiques that focus on "deliciousness". The wine drinking public deserves to drink wines that they prefer, even if they are just delicious. California has a wealth of soils, meso-climates and vineyards to grow a diversity of wines. I would like to think there is a style to meet most if not all tastes. Celebrate diversity, California wine is and has been loaded with it.
12 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Exceptional and comprehensive narrative on California wine industry's present and future, its producers, and how it got there 12 décembre 2013
Par Valerie P Masten - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
The New California Wine is an exceptional and comprehensive narrative on the California wine industry's past, present, and future, and includes a reference guide to a generation of winemakers interested in exploring CA's abundant history of farming vineyards and CA's terroir. It also includes many producers who may have been criticized by the press- such as Ridge or Corison, but emerged as an alternative to what Bonne calls "Big Flavor." The first 70 pages fly by- Bonne's style of writing is easily digestible even though it contains some serious technical information on farming, biodynamics, and winemaking philosophies. Bonne relies on the narratives of several 'leaders' of this 'New CA wine' to weave together a comprehensive picture of history, winemaking and farming practices, and terroirs of CA - both forgotten and new. The final section, a reference guide to producers organized by grape variety, highlights those farmers/winemakers/producers who are seeking out ancient vineyards and grape varieties or pioneering new places, and those who eschewed high alcohol, highly-manipulated styles to make more balanced wines. Many names are likely familiar. I'd recommend this book for anyone who loves CA wine now or has abandoned CA wine for Old World styles of wine, as well as for anyone who wants to learn about CA and wine in general.
11 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A truly great CURRENT California reference and guide chronicling the states best artisanal producers. 15 novembre 2013
Par J. Nelson - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
A truly great CURRENT California reference and guide chronicling the states most noteworthy artisanal producers. If you seek out wines of balance that express varietal and regional typicity Bonne outlines the very best producers for virtually every varietal grown in CA. And, although its thorough, it is approachable and not the length of War & Peace (like many wine books out there...).

If you are serious about wine or want to get there, this is a must read. If you are trying to find smaller, hands on producers to check out and support but, don't know where to start - start here. It would take one years of scouring online wine forums and traveling to the regions themselves to get the inside story on these producers, learn how and why they came to do what they do and know what they hit out of the park among their various offerings. If you have left domestic wines behind due to richer styles being front and center in the eyes of many "critics" and publications, the revolution has begun so bring your butts home.

PS: Will be buying several copies for holiday gifts - killer gift under $25 that anyone who drinks wine will love.
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