Jon Bonné's new book, "The New California Wine: A guide to the producers and wines behind a revolution in taste," is a wonderful, engaging read with an actual narrative and a cast of characters who think outside the box, care about sustainability, and have a strong curiosity and work ethic.
The new generation of California winemakers aren't hedge fund directors or dot.com entrepreneurs. If they want to buy a piece of land to plant a vineyard, it takes years to save up. Some are children of winemakers, others grew up in wine country and always wanted to do something with wine, and still others are hardcore dreamers with an itch to make wine.
Most are cobbling a winery together however they can -- buying grapes, searching out forgotten vineyards, renting cellar space, selling directly to customers. Their wines can be classic or wildly experimental, definitely hands-on, and most often made in small quantities. They tend to be lower in alcohol, more subtle in style than the wines that have garnered top scores in recent years. More important, from my point of view, they tend to be food-friendly, too.
Bonné has been the wine writer at the San Francisco Chronicle since 2006. When he took the job, he wanted to find wines in the style he loved made in California, but found himself skeptical about a wine industry "stuck in a self-satisfied funk." Slowly, slowly he encountered winemakers who offered something he could embrace.
In his introduction, Bonné writes: "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 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."
Pssst: The book would make a great gift for any wine lover, especially those who favor Old World wines over California wines.