Back in the 1980s a California writer for Wine Spectator, for which I was also writing at the time, accused me of having an “East Coast palate,” by which he meant I was so used to drinking French and Italian wines that I could not appreciate the wines of California for their regional distinctions. To say that I preferred European wines back then, as I do now, had nothing to do with bias but to a well-founded assessment that at the time, when California wines were in fast ascendency in the wine press, far too many of them were deliberately made to be what were called “blockbusters,” high in alcohol and terribly over-oaked.
Chardonnays lacking acid tasted more like vanilla caramel than wine, which is easy enough to accomplish with a grape that is fairly neutral on its own. The reds were usually made from a single varietal like Cabernet Sauvignon, which produced wines one wine steward in Colorado said would “blow your doors off”—not a quality I look for in a wine. Zinfandels tended to be heavy and dull, Pinot Noirs tasted like fruit bombs, Sauvignon Blancs like fruit punch and Rieslings were flabby.
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