For every three bottles of wine opened in America, two come from California. (Well, for statistic nitpickers, it's almost two.) That tells you how important the Golden State is to U.S. wine drinkers, especially when it comes to bottles that sell for $25 or less, which make up the lion's share of those sales.
That's one reason Wine Spectator takes values seriously. Consider my story "Golden State Values" in the April issue of the magazine, in which I combed through recent tastings and found more than 100 California wines that offer quality at a fair price. Each scored 85 points or higher on our 100-point scale, and none costs more than $25 a bottle.
It seems like I've driven all over Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties the past few weeks. We're busy this time of year researching stories for the summer issues, and there always seems to be a vineyard to visit or a winemaker worth knowing better.
I may be in a hurry to get where I'm going, but I try not to take the beauty of wine country for granted. It's like something you've seen in a movie, which of course you probably have. California's wine regions have been featured in a surprising number of Hollywood films and TV shows over the years.