A gift of wine is a lovely gift for any occasion and suitable for almost anyone. Although French wine is considered supreme, many can be out of reach for the average gift budget. California wines are a good alternative, both in price and quality.
European countries like France have been famous for fine wines for several hundreds of years so many people overlook the newer wine producers of California. Just because their wineries are less than a century old does not mean that they don't have some wonderful wines. In fact, California is now ranked fourth in the world for wine production with only France, Italy and Spain producing more.
California is actually one of the ideal grape growing regions of the world and close to a hundred different grape varietals grow well there. This state diverse micro-climates and varying soil conditions contribute to the great variety of grapes that can be grown. Close proximity to the Pacific Ocean as well as the many bodies of fresh water found in California also plays an important factor in the quality of the grapes that grow there.
California wine producing regions are separated into five major regions, with a number of smaller sub-regions (called appellations) within the five main areas. North Coast, Central Coast, Southern California, Central Valley and the Sierra Foothills are all excellent regions for wine grape growing and wine production. In order for a specific appellation to be listed on the wine's label, at least 75% of the grapes used in production must have originated in that sub-region.
Although California produces many varieties of wine, it's reputation has been earned with the high quality white wines that it creates. There are several fine red wines that originate in California but it they are really overshadowed by the exceptionally fine white wines like Chardonnay and Avignon Blanc.
Chardonnay has remained the most popular white wine in the United States for close to fifty years. Chardonnay grapes are extremely hardy and are resistant to most horticultural diseases. This makes them very easy to grow and therefore they are widely available for wine making. This ease of growing in large quantities keep the prices of the wines very reasonable so are suited to all budgets.
Chardonnay is a white wine which is appealing to many palates due to it's full-bodied fruitiness. It's a very versatile wine and is often used for blending to create many different vintages. Chardonnay is also a dry wine which is heavily influenced by the materials used in the barrels during the aging process. Oak is popular for aging Chardonnays as it lends a nutty, buttery note to the resulting wine.
Sauvignon Blanc grapes are growing on almost 14,000 acres of land in California's wine country. Since it is not as commonly known to wine drinkers, you will find very economical vintages of Sauvignon Blanc that make it very inexpensive to give as a gift. It makes a wonderful hostess gift option due to it's ease of pairing with many food combinations.
This white wine tends to be intensely flavorful with a tang often noted. While you can find Sauvignon Blanc with classic flavor notes such as melon and passion fruit, it takes exceptionally well to herbal notes like lemongrass and gooseberry. This wide range of flavors gives it mass appeal as well as lending itself well to blending.
Either of these lovely white wines will make a sophisticated gift option while living within your budget.