September 30, 2014 / 3:29 PM / 3 years ago

Authors cruise through California’s wine counties - one vineyard at a time

(Reuters) - Although authors Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen took two years to research their newest book “Wines of California, The Comprehensive Guide” it still was not enough time to visit all the 8,000-plus wineries that dot the state.

The door-stopper-sized book is written for consumers and wine lovers with a particular emphasis on people who are just learning about different winemaking regions.

“We feel we covered all the important wineries, but it would be impossible to cover every single winery,” Jenssen said. “So that’s why we call it a comprehensive guide – not a complete one.”

Known as the World Wine Guys, DeSimone and Jenssen are also editors at Wine Enthusiast magazine and appear regularly on U.S. television talk shows advising audiences about what wines to serve with particular dishes.

Their book is organized from north to south. The duo started sipping at wineries in Lake and Mendocino counties, which are north of San Francisco, and ended with San Diego County.

“There is so much more to California wines than just Napa and Sonoma. Everyone knows or has heard of those two places,” said Jenssen.

“We decided that if we started out first with those two and maybe went on to Monterrey and Paso Robles, well that might be the right order in terms of importance, but going from north to south was really the fair way to do it,” he added.

And whether it is an $850 bottle of a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon or a $5 bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon made from grapes grown in the state’s Central Valley and produced in bulk, there is a similar philosophy when it comes to the environment, the pair said.

“California makes some really good wine, but they didn’t do it alone,” said Jenssen, noting the influx of winemakers from France, Spain, Italy and Argentina. “It does come with foreign knowledge. Consequently, California wine, while very American, does appeal to an international audience.”

U.S. wine exports, 90 percent of which are from California, reached a record $1.5 billion in revenue in 2013, up 16.4 percent from the previous year, according to figures from the Wine Institute of California.

Of the top export markets for California wines, the European Union’s 28 member countries accounted for the $617 million in sales, while Canada bought $454 million of the wines, institute figures showed.

But even after visiting more than 500 California wineries, the authors had a difficult time deciding which wine they liked most.

“You know that old adage about children and not having a favorite,” Jenssen said, adding that he had a fondness for some of the Rhone varietals coming out of Paso Robles.

DeSimone preferred the Pinot Noir from Sonoma, the extreme Sonoma Coast area, ”the place they call the ‘west of the west’ around Fort Ross area. Those are standouts.”

Reporting by Leslie Gevirtz in New York; editing by Patricia Reaney and Matthew Lewis

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