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cal-italia wines
born in italy but grown in california

by Richard Mitchell of CAL-ITALIA.COM
(return to wine)

The history of winemaking by Italian Americans in California goes back to the late 1800's. That was when a wave of immigrants from Tuscany and Piedmont began arriving in Northern California. Some had a winemaking background and some did not. While some cultivated those grape they were familiar with in their homeland, most opted to follow the conventions of the day in the selection of which grape varieties to grow.

About a hundred years later, starting in the late 1980's and well on its way by the early 1990's, there was strong interest in Italian varietals by California producers looking to explore alternative varieties. This movement gave birth to the category known as Cal-Italia wines.

Today we are experiencing a return of popularity with Cal-Italia wines, especially with the varieties of Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese, Barbera, Nebbiolo and Dolcetto. These five varietals comprise 82% of all the Cal-Italia grapes grown in California.

Top Contender
For the past two years there has been a growing interest in Pinot Grigio (also know as Pinot Gris in France and California) is the most popular dry white wine in northern Italy. It is a mutation of Pinot Noir, which it resembles in the field.

Pinot Grigio boasts a bright straw color with very light copper in color with a bright and flowery fragrance. On the palate, it is fresh, smooth, and richly flavored with hints of peach and apricot. The wine finishes with a long, clean, crisp after taste. This delightful, distinctive Pinot Grigio beautifully accompanies all seafood and poultry dishes, as well as lighter pastas and mildly flavored cheeses. Avoid the acid clashes with citrus fruit and tomatoes.

The following is a list of Cal-Italia grape varieties currently growing in California that are commercially available at present.

Cal-Italia White Varieties
namedescriptionin italy...in california...
Arneis A full-bodied, flavorful dry white Piemonte Only a handful of acres are planted in California
Cortese A crisp, dry white Piemonte Only a handful of acres are planted in California.
Fiano A rich, dry white Campania Only a handful of acres are planted in California.
Greco A richly flavored white often blended with Fiano Campania Only a handful of acres are planted in California.
Malvasia Bianca An ancient white variety that produces both dry and sweet wines with perfumed, spicy aromas and full, assertive flavors. central Italy Approximately 2,400 acres are planted in California, primarily in the Central Valley and Central Coast regions.
Moscato A popular white in both Italy and California producing a variety of light-bodied, flowery dessert wines. Over 970 acres are planted in California, primarily in the Central Valley and Central Coast regions.
Pinot Bianco
aka Pinot Blanc
Italy's Pinot Blanc northeastern Italy Over 600 acres are planted in California, with the majority in Monterey County.
Pinot Grigio
aka Pinot Gris
Italy's version of the French Pinot Gris and among the most widely produced whites. northeastern Italy Approximately 5,900 acres are planted in California, primarily in Mendocino, Napa and San Luis Obispo Counties.
Tocai Friulano A medium-bodied, aromatic dry white Friuli-Venezia Giulia 125 acres are planted in California, primarily in Monterey County.
Trebbiano Italy's most widely planted white variety, which produces an assortment of light, dry wines Over 275 acres are planted in California

Cal-Italia Red Varieties
namedescriptionin italy...in california...
Aglianico A hearty, full-bodied red from the Campania Only a handful of acres are planted in California.
Aleatico A fragrant red Muscat producing everything from dry table wines to fortified dessert wines. central & southern Italy Only a handful of acres are planted in California.
Barbera Italy's second most widely planted red It's a high-acid, low-tannin variety with grapey black cherry aromas and flavors. Piemonte Over 8,850 acres planted in California with the best Barberas coming from the Sierra Foothills, Sonoma County, and Paso Robles on the Central Coast.
Charbono A full-bodied fruity Piemonte red. With age it develops a nobility of bouquet and flavor. Piemonte Over 80 acres are planted in California.
Dolcetto :A fruity Piemontese red meant to be drunk young. Piemonte Over 85 acres are planted in California.
Freisa :A light, fruity, tart red from the Piemonte region. Piemonte Only a handful of acres are planted in California.
Grignolino A light, fruity Piemontese red that also makes good ros´┐Ż wines. Piemonte Only a handful of acres are planted in California.
Nebbiolo The noble red of Piemonte, where it produces the rich, complex, long-lived wines of Barolo and Barbaresco. Piemonte Over 175 acres are planted in California.
Refosco A northeastern red with deep color, sturdy tannin and rich, plummy fruit. northeastern Italy Only a handful of acres are planted in California.
Sangiovese The noble red of Tuscany, which produces the great wines of Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Tuscany Over 2,600 acres are planted in California, with Napa, Monterey, Sonoma, San Luis Obispo, and Amador counties being the primary growing regions.
Teroldego A flavorful red. Trentino Alto Adige Only a handful of acres are planted in California.

Find out More
To find more information about Cal-Italia wines visit www.Cal-Italia.com, which has a listing of over 140 wineries by county and varietals. Cal-Italia.com is a website dedicated to informing the public about Cal-Italia wines, wineries, food producers and Cal-Italia lifestyle purveyors throughout California.

To taste Cal-Italia wines, you can attend the Cal-Italia Wine and Food Tasting at the 136th annual Italian Heritage Parade and Festivale in San Francisco, CA on October 9, 2004. Cal-Italia.com is a proud sponsor of this event, and you can get more information about the event and tickets by going to www.sfcolumbusday.org

about the author
Richard Mitchell is owner of Cal-Italia.com and a third generation Italian living in California's Napa Valley. His great grandparents were born and raised in Italy. Richard was rasied to remember his heritage while being a proud California Italian native. Cal-Italia.com was created on January 1, 2004, it's mission is to inform and educate people about the Cal-Italia culture.


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