Bonné‘s book gives insight into evolving wine industry

“The New California Wine: A Guide to the Producers and Wines Behind a Revolution in Taste,” by Jon Bonné, Ten Speed Press, $35; Kindle $16.14.



California long has been the crucible for much of American winemaking, and while there certainly are reasons why not every wine-making region in the United States (and elsewhere) can or should emulate that state’s wine industry, there still are lessons to learned from the Golden State.

That’s a roundabout way of saying that Jon Bonné, wine writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, covers more than an evolution occurring in California winemaking in his recently published book, “The New California Wine: A Guide to the Producers and Wines Behind a Revolution in Taste” (Ten Speed Press, $35, Kindle $16.14).

In one of the many accolades, Eric Asimov of the New York Times, himself no slouch when it comes to promoting nuanced, well-made wines, says Bonné writes about the current “mental liberation among winemakers and consumers freed from a stultifying, dominant style that Mr. Bonné labels ‘Big Flavor.’ “

Bonné asserts there is an “aesthetic” revolution happening in California wines made by “people who remained committed to restrained, compelling wines that spoke clearly of their origins — and who shared my frustration with California’s modern style.”

Still, he also asserts there is no danger of “steakhouse Cabernet going away tomorrow.”

As Asimov said in his New York Times review, “(T)he author’s real territory is a new generation of growers and winemakers who work on the borders with grapes, styles and places rarely associated with greatness in California.”

Writer David White (terroirist.com), whose columns occasionally appear on this page, has a fascinating and lengthy interview with Bonné on the Terroirist website.

I recommend you read the conversation, paying particular note to how the frequency you might substitute “Colorado” for “California” and then go buy the book.

The following quotes are from the interview on the Terroirist website.

When asked, Bonné mentions the roles played now and in the future by Colorado (and the rest of the so-called “other 47” winemaking states) in developing a true American wine palate.

“I think the prospect of having small, local wineries making a quality product — maybe not the great wines of the world, but a quality wine — makes wine a local business,” Bonné said. “It could be Virginia ... It could be Colorado ... And ultimately, it’s what the Europeans have grown accustomed to, which is that wine is an industry that surrounds you, rather than being something far off.”

It’s knowing that wine is a local business and not simply a shelf-talker in a liquor store, of knowing you can go out to a local winery and enjoy a bottle of locally made (and, in our case, of locally grown) wine.

It’s then you make the connection between wine as something amorphously “agriculture” and something that is “the next great step in the maturing of American wine culture.”

As Colorado’s wine industry matures, it will attract people who aren’t interested solely in the novelty of a Colorado wine but intrigued by the quality of it, as well.

“I think there will be more states that do mature in their wine industries — and I think that’s essential to actually getting more people to drink wine,” Bonné said.

It’s also obvious the drivers in that maturity are the young adults of today and tomorrow. They’re curious, inquisitive and eager to try something new.

Most important, they aren’t strangers to wine, as was my generation who had to work to learn about and find decent wines, but instead have grown up with wine on the table.

One hurdle to overcome is, as White points out, “Americans like to drink cheap.”

But Bonné said there’s “a virtue” in making people aware of the spending gap.

“There is a purpose in buying a wine made by a relatively small winery or a small business that’s interested in making a specific wine that doesn’t lean on industrial scale,” he said.

There already are people, Bonné said, “all over the country who ... want to drink American wine, who very much believe in it ... They simply haven’t found wines that speak to them.”

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