When did Californian wine come to centre stage?

California started growing grapes way back in the 1850s but for over a century American wine was seen as laughably inferior to that of its European counterparts. It used to be that when quizzed on top wine tasting regions most would look to the French vineyards of Bordeaux or Burgundy, but not anymore.

Thanks to the now infamous 1976 Judgement of Paris, a blind tasting by the world’s best sommeliers in which Napa’s Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon scored top marks and beat the French equivalents, California has become THE destination for those looking to indulge in some high-quality vino, and the fine dining scene certainly isn’t bad either.

The world-renowned, Napa Valley

If you’re looking for a seriously up-market California wine tour experience with chic gourmet restaurants thrown in, Napa and the surrounding Napa Valley is the one for you.

Just an hour outside of San Francisco in Northern Cali, Napa knows how to impress with its farm-to-table cuisine and Michelin star restaurants, such as The French Laundry and Meadowood, just a stone’s throw from one another in St. Helena.

No doubt heavily influenced by their French and Italian competitors the Napa wineries boast grand château style buildings which provide the perfect backdrop for a romantic and totally luxurious getaway.

The bigger but lesser-known, Sonoma

Napa’s lesser-known, but certainly no less extraordinary, neighbour, Sonoma is home to vineyards that stretch for miles over the entire county. Although the Sonoma wine region is three times bigger than Napa Valley it has the benefit of still being off the beaten track, meaning that trips to its vineyards are more peaceful and intimate than those in Napa.

Our favourite winery is Kunde, and in true Black Tomato style, we can make your wine-tasting experience here that bit more exciting by starting your day with an early morning hot air balloon ride following by a delicious champagne breakfast.

Why does it taste so great?

California Cabernet’s renowned fruity taste is made up of three levels of flavour, the primary being a black fruit (usually blackberry, blackcurrant or black cherry) followed by vanilla, clove or cedar given to it by its oak-ageing process.

The final tertiary flavour you taste is often coffee or tobacco. It is generally seen as a friendlier wine than the terroir-driven French Cabernet and is therefore considered a better wine than the French to drink when you have no food accompaniment.