Telluride Wine Festival: “The New California Wines”

Telluride Wine Festival: “The New California Wines”

“Each section addresses an aspect of what I’ve come to believe: this is the best time in a generation to drink California wine. More than that, today marks the arrival of a mature American wine culture, where producers are confident enough not to mimic the Old World or obscure the nuances of terroir with clever cellar work, but rather seek greatness in a uniquely American context. That is the wonderful reality of the New California.” (Jon Bonné on the subject of his new book, “The New California Wines.”)

Bonn_New CA Wine

He stirred the pot big time when he came down in favor of land-focused (terroir) versus hand-focused winemaking and the big wine producers in and around Napa whom he decided were “stuck in a self-satisfied funk.” But so far Jon Bonné has not gotten badly burned – though he has had a few heated confrontations with the nouveau guard, folks who came up in the industry in the 1990s – early 2000 versus the pioneers who arrived on the scene in the 1960s and 1970s. It was the relative newcomers who made industry much more corporate and the wines, much flashier, who accused Bonne of “hating California wine.”

Jon Bonné at Mead Ranch. Napa, California. November 17, 2012. Photo: Erik Castro

Jon Bonné at Mead Ranch. Napa, California. November 17, 2012. Photo: Erik Castro

Bonné is not your average David facing those Goliaths of the grape. He is wine editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, for oenophiles, six to ten pages of some of the country’s most influential wine journalism. He is also author of a new book that is now the definitive guide to the“producers and wines behind a revolution in taste, which the author dates back to the 1990s and a small set of mostly Cabernet specialists.

At the 33rd annual Telluride Wine Festival, (produced in conjunction with the Telluride Ski ResortJon Bonné is scheduled to spill the beans – uh, grapes – with some of his friends, telling the untold story of the California wine industry and the young producer-pioneers who are rewriting the rules of contemporary winemaking. His talk, scheduled for Friday, June 27, 2:30 – 3:30 p.m., should be a highlight of what promises to be an exciting weekend of eat, drink and be merry.

Photo by Eric Castro for “The New California Wines"

Photo by Eric Castro for “The New California Wines”

“New California’s winemakers share similar sensibilities: an enthusiasm for lessons learned from the Old World, but not the desire to replicate its wines; a mandate to seek out new grape varieties and regions; and, perhaps most important, an ardent the belief that place matters,” said Bonne in the introduction to “The New California Wine.” “They are true believers in terroir. This is crucial because California’s future ultimately depends upon wines that show nuance, restraint, and a deep evocation of place.”

Before covering wine, spirits and other libations throughout California and around the world for the San Francisco Chronicle, Bonné was lifestyle editor and wine columnist for and wine columnist for Seattle magazine. He has also written for such publications as Food & Wine and Budget Travel. For his work in food and wine journalism, Bonné garnered laurels from the Association of Food Journalists and the James Beard Foundation.


“The New California Wines” is Bonné’s Random House debut and an unblinking portrait of the current state of the industry: its strengths and shortcomings; its essential wines and those not worth pursuing; the people and places behind the labels. The book is destined to be an essential resource for finding and buying the very best the state has to offer.

Ditto Bonné’s Telluride Wine Fest talk.

To learn more about Jon Bonne and preview his talk, click the “play” button and listen to our chat.

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