September is California Wine Month. The first sustained California vineyard was planted in 1779 by Franciscan missionaries, at Mission San Juan Capistrano (in southern California, halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego).
The first documented imported vines (from Europe) were planted in Los Angeles in 1833. About the same time, the first vineyard using indigenous grapes was planted in the Napa Valley, in northern California.
California wines were enjoyed locally, but were an afterthought on the world stage—if they were thought of at all.
The breakthrough came at the history-making Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, a competition in which French judges blind-tasted top Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon wines from France and from California.
French wines were considered the best in the world. No one thought that the California wines stood a chance.
Surprise: California wines ranked highest in each category (the details).
Americans, who had previously enjoyed cocktails before and with meals, began to drink lush California red and white wines.
DESSERT COCKTAILS WITH CHAMPAGNE OR OTHER SPARKLINE WINE
Most of us drink wine and use it in cooking, but it can also be turned into a dessert. Today’s tip: pair sparkling wine with sorbet as a cocktail or dessert.
(FOOD 101: Only wines made in the Champagne region of France can legally be called Champagne. All other bubblies are called sparkling wines.)
We use the sparkling wines from Domaine Chandon—established in the Napa Valley in 1973 by the great French house of Moët et Chandon—and the best sorbets from our local specialty food stores.
It couldn’t be easier—or more delicious.
Find more of our favorite desserts in our Gourmet Desserts Section and Gourmet Ice Cream Section, and pull down the search menu at the right.
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