California wine styles once upon a time could be summed up in a descriptive phrase or two, for instance, plush, concentrated cabernet sauvignon; lush, jammy pinot noir; buttery oak-bomb chardonnay; or extravagantly ripe, blockbuster zinfandel.
Those dominant styles gave the impression of a monochromatic wine culture, in which more was good and even more was better. Many people embraced these wines and still do. But a significant minority dismissed them and California wines in general, though there have always been producers who valued finesse and subtlety but were largely ignored by critics.
California today can be characterized by its stylistic diversity, in part because of a widening and maturing of consumer tastes. The public is less reliant on two or three dominant wine critics who essentially share the same perspective. More important, a new wave of energetic California winemakers has helped to push stylistic boundaries while bringing more attention to older producers who had been considered behind the times or out of fashion.
These newer producers have been shaped by the same worldwide diversity of wines as their audience. They have been inspired by the traditions of northeastern Italy and the Jura, of Galicia and Sicily, of the Rhône Valley, Slovenia and many other lesser-known regions that make this moment so exciting for wine lovers.
While some of these new-wave producers have been recognized as stars in their own right, others are on the rise, gradually gaining attention as their wines are tasted and their names passed around. New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov identified 10 unsung California wine producers worth seeking out, including Broc Cellars, Donkey & Goat and Matthiasson. For the full list, plus a few others, read the full article here.