Wines from California vineyards now account for two of every three bottles consumed in the US including both foreign and domestic sales.

No, you’re not dreamin’. It’s true. The news is good for California. Even in this volatile economy, sales of California wine within the US by volume for 2011 were up 5.6% compared to the prior year to 211.9 million cases. Abroad reports are equally positive. Global sales of California wines by volume (to all markets in the US and worldwide) were also up by 5.6% in 2011 to 256 million cases. That says we’re not the only ones who love California wines. The rest of the world agrees!

For the 18th consecutive year, we also saw total wine sales by volume in the U.S. from all production sources – California, other U.S. states and foreign countries – jump by 5.3 percent from 2010 to hit a new record of 347 million cases. Of the total, California held a whopping 61 percent share of the US market.

Sources: The Wine Institute; Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates; and AC Nielsen Marketing Research.

Just in time for your patriotic Fourth of July festivities, try a selection from this All-American review of three of our favorite California wines crafted by The Traveling Vineyard winemaker, Francis Sanders!

2009 zin-FAN-del, California (CAL923) $16.99 Zinfanatics will go wild for this gutsy red bursting with blackberry, raspberry, and cherry flavors made from California’s signature grape. Close to a year in the making, it’s a release that provides delicious accessibility with just the right amount of heft. Premium concentrated grapes from Amador County enhance the quality of the blend while a small percentage of Syrah gives it an irresistible boldness.

2010 Woodvale Estates, Merlot, California (CAL926) $16.99
Choice sites from across the state represent the array of sources used in this California staple red. From Napa Valley to the Central Coast, sustainable practices in the vineyard have resulted in higher quality fruit and a wine replete with plums, cherries and a faint hint of black tea.

2010 Bright Eyed Bird, Pinot Grigio, California (CAL922) $15.99
Pinot Grigio may be the country’s #2 white right behind Chardonnay, but there’s nothing second fiddle about this crisp, vibrant wine with ripe peach, pear and floral aromatics. A lively nature makes it the ultimate summer sipper and a delicious match with vegetarian dishes made from fresh California produce.

When Zinfandel is the Grape, Amador County is the Place

2009 zin-FAN-del, California (CAL923) $16.99

Tasting Notes:
Medium-bodied with a velvety texture and a beautiful translucent garnet color, this zesty Zinfandel bursts with generous aromas and flavors. Raspberry, black cherry, boysenberry and plum accented with perfumed hints of pepper, anise, mint and cedar exude on the nose. The mouth is filled with bright jammy flavors of cranberry, cherry and cassis followed by a sweet vanilla chaser. Ripe tannins and firm acidity focus the palate and provide a long peppery finish.

Did you know that almost 90% of the world’s Zinfandel wines originate from California? It is often called the “all-American grape” because no place in Europe produces a wine by that name. Nevertheless, Zinfandel does have an interesting Italian connection as well. Many of California’s early settlers were Italian-American immigrants who arrived with the Gold Rush of the 1800’s bringing the winemaking talents of their homeland. And, Italy’s Primitivo has been proven to be the genetic equivalent of Zinfandel. That technically makes Primitivo Zinfandel’s deeply colored, intensely flavored, albeit lesser-known cousin.

Zinfandel wines are some of California’s finest, most interesting and most widely planted. Many of the best high-end zinfandels produced in the US come from the oldest vineyards in the Lodi and Amador County regions. Zinfandel sourced from in and around Amador County drives this bottling with a small portion of Syrah to offer rich black cherry and raspberry fruit.

Francis SandersFrom tasting notes carefully jotted as far back as November 2010, our winemaker Francis Sanders worked tirelessly to craft the most concentrated grapes he could find into this Zinfandel with robust fruit and spice components. Bursting with ripe currant, cranberry, and cherry aromas and flavors, this fruit is set off a unique hint of Dr. Pepper. (It may sound odd, but it’s true! Taste it for yourself and let us know.) Its label, designed by one of our own wine consultants, is equally distinctive. In a crowded field of terrific California Zinfandels, we think this one is tops – full of personality and ready to drink.  Reach for this vibrant and versatile red when you pull out the grilling apron and BBQ tools. It’s the red of choice for outdoor chefs everywhere. Its tannins are enough to let you know they’re there, but not so intense that it’s not accessible or workable with robust BBQ sauces and spices.

Winemaking Begins in the Vineyard

2010 Woodvale Estates, Merlot, California (CAL926) $16.99

Tasting Notes:
The bright ruby color and inviting aromas of juicy ripe red cherry, dried herbs and vanilla spice in this release tell you that you have a genuine California Merlot on your hands. On the palate, good acidity and firm tannins with flavors of cherry lead to a long and lingering finish.

Drawing from a vast inventory of select grapes, our winemaker, Francis Sanders, crafted this blend of 90% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% other red varietals using juice from grapes sourced across Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Clarksburg/Woodbridge and the Central Coast. The lots have been treated a minimum of six months in oak making this the type of smooth, New World red with that hint of vanilla you’ve come to expect from a true California Merlot.

On this wine and so many of our wines, we work with California growers committed to sustainable practices which limit environmental impact, increase soil and plant health and vigor, and result in higher quality fruit. We also strive to use packaging materials, glass, closures and labels made from recycled, recyclable and biodegradable materials. And we are not alone. This is the case all across the state of California where sustainable winegrowing and winemaking practices have firmly taken root. Today, a full 40% of the annual wine case production and 25% of the state’s wine acreage now participate in California’s Code of Sustainable Wine Growing Practices program.

On our behalf, Francis works with growers like this around the world to create custom blends that meet the unique preferences of our guests. With over 30 years in the wine and spirits industry, he masterfully blends wines to create more than the sum of their parts. This means that you won’t find our exclusive wines anywhere else! And, because we have more direct contact with our customers than most wine companies at our tasting events, we are closely in sync with consumer tastes. This insight allows us to craft blends based directly on what customers like you want.

Your Sum-Sum-Summertime White

2010 Bright Eyed Bird, Pinot Grigio, California (CAL922) $14.99

Tasting Notes:
The fresh, easy going style of this Pinot Grigio will awaken your palate. Pale straw in color, its tantalizing aromas of ripe peach and pear combine with floral aromatics to draw you in. Bright flawless fruit flavors of tart green apple and lemon zest harmonize with a wild honey note and just the right balance of sprightly acidity. Bronze, Recommended, 2011 World Wine Championships

The spectacular beauty of California’s Central Coast is probably the best-known region in all of California. It is here that we sourced the grapes for this lively, medal-winning 100% Pinot Grigio. Our winemaker, Francis Sanders, assembled this release using base material from an award-winning Pinot Grigio producer. To Francis’ surprise, after they tasted his blend, they actually changed their bottle blend on the 2010 vintage to use his blend instead!

Pinot Grigio is the type of soft, aromatic wine that is grown best in cooler climates. Our partner has been growing grapes in the bucolic Central Coast area for more than three decades with over 1,000 acres in the Monterey County appellation, half in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Their vineyards above the fog line mean the grapevines benefit from full sun, yet maritime breezes moderate afternoon heat allowing the grapes to attain their maximum potential.

This wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks and crafted entirely without oak to let the true character of the Pinot Grigio varietal sing. Ripe peach, pear and floral aromatics as sweet as the songbird depicted on the label lead to flavors of tart green apple, lemon zest and wild honey in the mouth. Again, the label was designed by one of our own wine consultants. Whimsical and lighthearted, the critters on the label reflect the type of refreshing, easy-drinking wine from California you’ll find inside the bottle – just what you need for kicking back on a lazy, hazy summer day.

Bad wine is bad for business.

The Traveling Vineyard wouldn’t have more than 450 consultants operating their own home based business in 28 states today if we put forward cheap, poor quality wines for tasting events.

In fact, every month The Traveling Vineyard surveys everyone who hosted or attended one of our free home wine tasting events. Our guest satisfaction rate is consistently at 98 percent – and we want to keep it that way.

Our wines are exceptional – some are award winners – because we have a three-person team with hundreds of years of combined experience who are out and about searching for, sourcing, sniffing and tasting wines from around the world.

We work hard to find just the right components to produce, blend and bottle our own Traveling Vineyard exclusive brands. All the wines we present are reasonably priced and available for purchase from a licensed entity in the delivery state.

This is a home-tasting business. It would run into trouble pretty quickly is what folks tasted was poor quality.

Bottom line: No one buys Traveling Vineyard wines tongue unseen. Our guests and customers taste the product for themselves and decide.

Great wine is good for business, and our business is growing.

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