Book Review: “Matt Kramer’s New California Wine”

mattkramerA longtime contributor to Wine Spectator magazine, Matt Kramer represents the contingent of wine drinkers who eschews overly-alcoholic wines in favor of those with subtlety and nuance. Among wine critics, Kramer seems to be in the minority in this aspect, but those of us who share his tastes can take umbrage in the fact that Kramer is an outstanding, knowledgeable wine journalist. His book “Matt Kramer’s New California Wine” underscores this notion, and is an indispensible guide to the dizzying California wine landscape.

Kramer begins his book with a thoughtful introduction to California’s short history of serious wine production, including an insightful essay about the ever-changing approach of grape growing and winemaking. With origins rooted in the effort to maximize vineyard yield, California has slowly shed its farmer’s mentality and has begun to place quality ahead of quantity. Kramer touches upon the early contributions of UC Davis professors Amerine and Winkler and their rudimentary (yet revolutionary) degree-day theories, and takes the reader to the present-day rise of clones, rootstock variations, and canopy management.

The real value of “New California Wine,” however, is Kramer’s detailed chapters of California’s winemaking regions. The book offers an overview of several appellations beyond Napa and Sonoma, including Mendocino, Monterrey, Santa Barbara, the Sierra Foothills, and several others. Kramer has also compiled a unique vineyard registry at the end of the book, which helps bring the dozens upon dozens of label-named vineyards, such as Rocioli and Dutton Ranch (to name just two), into focus. “New California Wine” is the rare book that is both a fantastic reference for the advanced wine enthusiast, as well as the novice wine drinker.

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