Peter Eastlake got paid in wine as a 21 year old, and never looked back. He and his impeccable taste quickly made names for themselves. After traveling Europe, he managed and directed Best Cellars and was national buyer for Cost Plus World market. Then, he opened up dreamy west coast wine havens Vintage Berkeley and Solano Cellars. A lover of music, he jammed with Outside Lands to put together Wine Lands, the wine fest within the music fest. Oh, and Food and Wine named Peter “Sommelier of the Year” in 2013. This month, Peter and WA scoped out some of the coolest, tastiest wines in California to help you take the ultimate road trip. Without further ado, let Peter Eastlake tell you about his Cali Road trip…
My own California Road Trip began in a post-9/11 apocalyptic haze. I left New York where I’d been slinging wine as a merchant since the mid-1990s, and arrived in a place that made wine I didn’t like at all. The stuff was cloyingly fruity, over-oaked, and potent: pure headache juice.
Twelve years later, I believe that California is one of the most dynamic wine producing region’s on God’s green earth. But clearly it wasn’t always that way. Things have been changing rather dramatically every year, and always for the better.
During the flush dot-com years and the later housing bubble, California wineries developed a false sense of value because newly minted millionaires were dropping big bucks on whatever was considered hot shit by press, sommeliers, and wine shops who gladly sold it to them. Reality hit when the economy buckled (twice) and all of a sudden a $65 Syrah that tasted like Welch’s jelly, Everclear, and nutmeg hit the brick wall, really damn hard. Some wines made it and continue to soar today, but California had two major wake up calls.
The most significant change was that a generation of young, smart winemakers emerged from the cellars of super rich wineries not wanting to make those freakishly big, alcoholic, one dimensional wines. These guys and gals were like us, they wanted to drink something cool and tasty without breaking the bank. Today, these are the folks calling the shots in California vineyards and wineries.
They recognize that it’s more satisfying to make wine their friends would drink than to doctor something up for a thirty year old nerd driving a Ferrari around San Francisco. They’ve rediscovered forgotten vineyards and created a renaissance of excitement around California wine. I can even remember the turning point when winemakers started bringing me their stuff and just said “this is the kind of wine I like to drink, I hope you dig it.”
I sure do.
Folks, there’s more to dig about California wine right now than ever before. A golden age is afoot in the Golden State. This month’s WA selections capture the diversity of what is making it the region with the biggest buzz on earth.
Shake it, Cali!