5 Ways to Fake Sounding Like a Cali Wine Expert

These buzzwords are your key to enjoying the best vino around

We’re so done bluffing agreement when oenophiles bang on about the latest vintage. Truth is, we know what we like but can’t really tell you much more. 

That is, until now. Jill Bernheimer, the owner of le chic wine shop Domaine LA, has given us the lowdown on the latest developments and buzzwords. Just pepper your next cocktail hour with these phrases and factoids--and use them as a guide to discover the best wines today.

wine sparkling

1. The Buzzwords: Sparkling Wine Renaissance 
Whether it's a Pét-Nat from Donkey & Goat Winery or Onward, or a méthode traditionelle wine from Under the Wire, California is getting serious about bubbles. Your takeaway: The next time you're making a toast, instead of automatically choosing French Champagne or Italian Prosecco, opt for a Cali provenance and be pleasantly surprised.

2. The Buzzwords: Carbonic Maceration
Know that delicious Beaujolais Nouveau you love from France? This is the technique used to make it, in which grapes are fermented with carbon dioxide, resulting in lighter, more aromatic wines. Hip producers like Broc Cellars (it makes a great Carbonic Carignan) are experimenting with it.

wine ghetto

3. The Buzzwords: Lompoc Wine Ghetto
The new winemaking region to tour, with about a dozen tasting rooms along the Central Coast. Great producers like Piedrasassi have their tasting-room facilities here.

4. The Buzzwords: Unheralded Places
Get hip to the regions that might not have the cachet of Napa Valley or Sonoma. Whether it's the Sierra Foothills (Clos Saron vineyard and La Clarine Farm, for example), Mendocino (Berkeley's Donkey & Goat sources many of its grapes from this area) or the slightly better-known Santa Cruz Mountains (Arnot-Roberts or more old-school wineries like Mount Eden), great wines are being made from grapes grown in places you've never heard of.

5. The Buzzwords: Obscure Grapes
Cabernet, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir...those are so 1996. What's really trendy in California wine right now are less popular grape varieties like Trousseau (this bottle’s fruit was grown just north of Healdsburg), Valdiguié (like in this bottle of California red) and Cinsault (like in this blend). They make wines of great character, depth and extreme geek appeal.