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According to attorney Michael Fate, the state of California requires its winemakers to adhere to strict guidelines where bottling and labeling is concerned. To be called California wine, the law states that all grapes be a California product. To be labeled by AVA, or American Viticultural Area (like Napa or Sonoma County), 85% of all used varietals need to be from that area. Finally, for a wine label to read that it is either from a certain vineyard or is estate grown requires 95% of its fruit to be from that vineyard. Broadly defined here, more requirements exist, too. An outline can be found at https://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/californias-wine-labeling-laws, should there be interest in learning more about these laws.

To be clear, estate bottling does have advantages. Even if 5% of any finished product can be composed of berries from any statewide vineyard, these wines express true estate terroir and vinification style. Also, many estates are quite old by American standards and can contain vines whose ages number decades, suggesting better fruit and wine. Still, disadvantages remain. Fewer cases of wine might be made during rougher vintages, and smaller estates create fewer offerings because land acreage is considerably restricted.

Meeting in the middle requires outsourcing grapes, or agreeing with outside cultivators to supply grapes to supplement any venture. Great benefits are found here. Grapes from different regions express terroir also. And, in such an enormous state, a plenitude of fruit offers superior taste, despite different soils, inclinations, and climate. Another benefit is that numerous vineyards practice either biodynamic or organic cultivation methods, greatly appealing to mindful consumers.

Lock and Key outsources fruit for its Meritage. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc are brought in from vineyards in North Coast AVAs like Sonoma and Lake Counties. On its nose are dusty cherry, blueberry, and vanilla, with taste characterized by a bright citric pop settling into blackberry jam-like qualities. Its contrast, Story Point Cabernet Sauvignon tells a different tale. Made of fruit from Lake County, San Joaquin, and San Luis Obispo Counties, its nose veers toward red cherry and blueberry jam, with immensely drinkable, fruit-forward flavor that reflects those qualities, too, but with surprising tannic grip.

 

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