At first glance, the Californian wine world appears to consist of two extremes – cheap branded wines with no local definition at one end and highly priced, impossible to get hold of ‘cult’ wines at the other. There is, of course, a middle route and, finally, California is getting just recognition for its range of wines in the midfield, which encompasses a broad cross section of grape varieties and styles, in turn reflecting their individual locations. Whilst Napa remains the best known region within California, and indisputable home to the most serious Cabernet based reds such as Dominus and Insignia, growers like Joseph Phelps have cast their nets wider in search of different soils and microclimates. In Phelps’ case, the end result is their Sonoma Coast property, Freestone, where the temperatures are significantly cooler than in Napa and perfectly suited to Burgundy’s Pinot Noir and Chardonnay; here they produce wines with great poise and freshness.
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