Jon Bonné does not have time for big, jammy, $200 Napa Cab oak bombs.
"I think they have nothing to say aside from telling me how important they are," says the longtime wine editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and author of The New California Wine ($35), a new guide to the producers behind what he dubs "a revolution in taste."
That revolution means moving away from the "Big Flavor Era" of California wine, as Bonné calls it in the book, and towards a more subtle, terroir-driven approach.
"When you harvest your Cabernet at 29 Brix [that is to say, sugary], then add water, acid and tannin powder, you can't legitimately claim that great wine is being made in the vineyard," Bonné says. "It's being made in the laboratory."
We met up with the author at San Francisco's Bi-Rite Market in the Mission to talk about some of the winemakers he visits in the book and some bottles he likes.
Matthiasson 2012 Linda Vista Chardonnay: "A saline, mouthwatering Napa chardonnay without adornment."
Hirsch 2010 "Bohan Dillon" Pinot Noir: "David Hirsch is one of the best grape growers in California. This is a perfect snapshot of the coastal balance of ethereal and intense."
Broc Cellars 2012 Carignan: "Refreshingly rooty, with sweet fruit from a warm region."
Donkey & Goat 2012 Grenache Blanc: From one of the Berkeley-based wineries working with less-familiar grapes from remote California counties, this is "a great example of the Foothills' minerally potential with white wines."
If these bottles share a common characteristic, it's that the winemakers let the grapes--and the land they're grown on--shine through. Bonné uses words like "minerality," "focus" and "savory" with respect--meaning cleaner, more delicate wines.
Looks like California is finally showing its softer side.